Legends & Heroes Autograph Tent
Meet aviation, military legends and heroes at our Autograph Tent. Throughout the day, flying aces, decorated war-heroes, veterans and special guests will be present to sign autographs. Many of these living legends will also offer for sale copies of their autobiographies and other memorabilia. Don’t miss this opportunity to meet these heroes and hear their stories!
Thanks To Our Sponsors who help us present these Heroes
A french horn player in the U.S. Navy band, Frank was aboard the battleship USS Pennsylvania on December 7, 1941, witnessing the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. As the band played morning colors, Frank saw the first bomb drop and explode at a hangar on Ford Island. After seven years of playing horn, he became a Navy bandleader, retiring in 1968.
“I’m about the last one (Pearl Harbor survivor) left around here,” Emond said during a drive-by birthday party last year at the Gonzalez United Methodist Church.
He remained a music man; sometimes leading the music at Gonzalez Methodist and performing with the Pensacola Civic Band. The Guinness Book of World Records named him the “Oldest Musical Conductor” in the world after he participated in a 2019 Memorial Day concert.
After receiving his B.S. degree in aeronautical engineering from Parks College of St. Louis University in 1954, Kranz was commissioned in the U.S. Air Force, and flew high performance jet fighter aircraft, including the F-80, F-86, and F-100. In 1958, he worked as a flight-test engineer for McDonnell Aircraft, developing the Quail Decoy Missile for B-52 and B-47 aircraft. Kranz joined the NASA Space Task Group at Langley, Virginia, in 1960, and was assigned the position of assistant flight director for Project Mercury. He assumed flight director duties for all Project Gemini Missions, and was branch chief for Flight Control Operations. He was selected as division chief for Flight Control in 1968, and continued his duties as a flight director for the Apollo 11 Lunar Landing before taking over the leadership of the Apollo 13 “Tiger Team.” He was discharged from the Air Force Reserve as a Captain in 1972. He contributed his expertise to a number of other NASA missions during his career, including the Skylab Program. After the Skylab Program concluded, he was named deputy director of Flight Operations for NASA, which gave him the responsibility for space flight planning, training and mission operations, aircraft operations, and flight crew operations. In 1983, he was assigned the post of director of Mission Operations, and given the responsibility for all aspects of mission design, development, maintenance, and operations of all related mission facilities, as well as the preparation of the Space Shuttle flight software. Kranz has received many awards and honors, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom, which he received from President Nixon for the Apollo 13 mission, and his designation as a Distinguished Member of the Senior Executive Service by President Reagan. After retirement Kranz served as a flight engineer on a B-17 “Flying Fortress”, constructed an aerobatic bi-plane and in April 2000 published a memoir about his experiences in the space program, Failure is Not an Option: Mission Control from Mercury to Apollo 13 and Beyond. His book, a New York Times Bestseller, has been selected by the History Channel as the basis for a documentary on Mission Control. He and his wife are the parents of six children, and reside in Texas.
Jerry L. Ross
Ross is a retired United States Air Force officer, engineer and a former NASA astronaut. He is a veteran of seven Space Shuttle missions, making him the joint record holder for most spaceflights (a record he shares with Franklin Chang-Diaz). His papers, photographs and many personal items are in the Barron Hilton Flight and Space Exploration Archives at Purdue University. He was inducted into the Astronaut Hall of Fame during ceremonies in May 2014.
Ross is the author of Spacewalker: My Journey in Space and Faith as NASA’s Record-Setting Frequent Flyer (Purdue University Press, 2013) with John Norberg. In March 2014 it was announced Spacewalker would be available in a French translation through the specialist aerospace publisher Altipresse.
Ralph Coleman Graham
Author of “12 Minutes: The Untold Story of the Ghost Plane at the Battle of the Bulge”, Ralph Coleman tells the true, and riveting, story of divine intervention in one of WWII’s most historic battles. Coleman, at the age of eighteen, volunteered fourteen months before the beginning of the attack at Pearl Harbor and the Declaration of War. Graham’s book conveys the horror and turmoil of the Battle with both striking honesty and commendable stoicism and objectivity. Above all else, however, the book excels as an examination of God’s guiding hand in the affairs of man and an account of one celestial intervention in particular that brought a crew of young Americans safely home from Europe while thousands perished all around them.
William "Buzz" Barron
“Buzz” Barron’s book, Crew Chief, be he ne’er so vile, provides more than a glimpse into what it took to maintain, service, launch, and recover the workhorse of the air war up North. His story is more than just what it was like to be a crew chief; it is about growing up, it is about life. He presents his story with great detail in the vernacular of his native language – Texan! His writing is full of earnest passion, humility, and empathy, sprinkled with subtle humor and some out right passages of out loud laughter.
During World War II, Graves was a dispatcher for the Civilian Pilot Training Program (CPT) for Aviation Enterprises at Municipal Airport, now named Hobby Airport, in Houston, TX. A contract was awarded to the company to train women pilots to free up men for combat. At first she was apprehensive, but then she came to have much respect for these wonderful ladies who left their homes to serve their country in this manner. Graves stayed on as a dispatcher. Later in life, Graves wrote “A View From The Doghouse” to preserve the stories of these heroines of World War II. The Women Air Force Service Pilots (WASP) program began in Houston as the Army Air Force Women Flight Training Detachment (AAFWFTD). Later, the combined Army Air Force programs were officially named Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP).
Col. Joe McPhail
McPhail flew with the most successful Marine Fighting Squadron of 1945 was VMF-323, the “Death Rattlers”. In just a few weeks, they shot down 124½ Japanese and counted a dozen Aces. Col. McPhail downed a Zeke and, on April 12, 1945, while on patrol flying a F4U Corsair, shot day Ki-27 Nate. He is also a decorated combat pilot veteran of the Korean War.
Col. Dean Caswell
Caswell is a WWII veteran who joined the U.S. Marine Corps in 1942. He is the oldest surviving WWII Marine Corps ace. He was assigned to Marine Fighter Squadron 221 aboard the USS Bunker Hill for combat in the Pacific, Japanese homeland islands, Iwo Jima, Honshu and Kyushu with major action against Kamikazes. Col. Caswell was credited with 7 kills and three probable while flying the F4U Corsair. He also served two tours in the Korean War as an All-Weather Fighter Pilot.
MSgt Wes Fields
Master Sergeant Fields is a 24-year service and a combat veteran. He earned 62 decorations and awards while serving in the United States Air Force as an Aerial Gunner on the AC-130H Spectre Gunship assigned to the United States Air Force Special Operations Command. He participated in numerous special operation missions throughout the world.
CW 4 Daniel Flores
Flores is a native Houstonian and flew the AH-64 Apache helicopter. Flores was activated in 2005 to be deployed to Afghanistan for Operation Enduring Freedom and, during his one year tour, was witness to the resurgence of the Taliban. Flores participated on some of the fiercest fighting in the Hindu Kush Mountains.
Dr. Du Hua
Dr. Du Hua, a Navy veteran, was born in Vietnam during the war and lived under communist rule until escaping in 1981 and coming to the United States a year later. After learning English and earning a GED and an associate’s degree, Dr. Hua joined the United States Navy in 1987. He served multiple deployments, including Operation Desert Storm. After his military career, he became a pharmacist.
George W.S. Abbey
George Abbey is a former director of the Johnson Space Center (JSC) and Fellow in Space Policy at the Baker Institute of Rice University. He had more influence on human spaceflight than almost anyone in history. Abbey oversaw the selection of every astronaut class from 1978 to 1987, deciding who got to fly and when. He was with the Apollo 1 astronauts the night before the fatal fire in January 1967. He was in mission control the night of the Apollo 13 accident and organized the recovery effort. Abbey also led NASA’s recruitment of women and minorities as space shuttle astronauts and was responsible for hiring Sally Ride.
Maj. Terry Pappas
Terry Pappas spent 41 years flying for the USAF and NASA, including service during the Vietnam era. He has flown a wide array of aircraft from the T-38, Learjets, Gulfstreams, the Super Guppy, DC-9s, and the SR-71 Blackbird. With more than 10,000 hours, Terry retired from NASA in 2011.
Captain Mike Trahan
Mike Trahan was a pilot in Vietnam flying the AC-47 “Spooky” gunship. After graduation from Air Force Undergraduate Pilot Training, he spent two years in the Military Airlift Command, flying the C-141 Starlifter jet transport aircraft. In 1969, he was re-assigned to the AC-47 “Spooky” Gunship and later to the EC-47 Electric Countermeasures aircraft. He served a year of combat in Vietnam in those two aircraft.
Cdr. Randall Harold "Duke" Cunningham
Cdr. Randall Harold “Duke” Cunningham was an officer in the U.S. Navy for 20 years. Together with his Radar Intercept Officer, William P. “Irish” Driscoll, Cunningham became the only navy flying ace from the Vietnam War to obtain five confirmed aerial victories during that conflict, and one of only five U.S. aviators to become an ace during that conflict. To date, Cunningham and Driscoll are the two last aircrew of the United States Navy to achieve “ace” status. Following the war, Cunningham was later an instructor at the U.S. Navy’s Fighter Weapons School, better known as TOPGUN, and commanding officer of Fighter Squadron 126 (VF-126), a shore-based adversary squadron at NAS Miramar, California.
Col. (Ret.) Victor "Vic" Vizacarra, Cdr. Mark Vizcarra and Capt. Michael Vizcarra
A family tradition comes to the Legends and Heroes tent this year. Vic Vzcarra, Col. (Ret.) will be accompanied by his sons, Cdr. Mark Vizcarra, USN and Capt Michael Vizcarra, USN. Mark and Michael have provided 51 years of combined Navy military service to the United States, flying the F-14 Tomcat, F/A-18 Hornet and Super Hornet. Graduates of the Navy Fighter Weapons Schools (Top Gun), they served on 14 different aircraft carriers and participated in “Southern Watch”, “Desert Storm”, and “Enduring Freedom”. The two brothers followed the family military aviation tradition and are the sons of Col. (Ret.) Victor Vizcarra, F-105 Vietnam Veteran and nephews of Maj. (deceased) Gilbert Vizcarra who flew P-47s in World War II.
Sadly, we have more to add to this display and will be updating this list.