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CAF Wings Over Houston | Ellington Airport, Houston

October 14 - 15, 2023

Featuring the USAF Thunderbirds

Legends & Heroes Autograph Tent

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!

This page was last updated on 10/2/23 at 10:59 AM CT. Stay tuned for more confirmed legends in the very near future!

Gene Kranz

GENE KRANZ WILL BE AT THE LEGENDS AND HEROES AUTOGRAPH TENT ON SATURDAY ONLY AT WINGS OVER HOUSTON 2023!

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.

Fred Haise

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fred_Haise

FRED HAISE WILL BE AT THE LEGENDS AND HEROES AUTOGRAPH TENT ON SATURDAY ONLY AT WINGS OVER HOUSTON 2023!

Fred Wallace Haise Jr. (/hz/ HAYZ) is an American former NASA astronaut, engineer, fighter pilot with the U.S. Marine Corps and U.S. Air Force, and a test pilot. He is one of 24 people to have flown to the Moon, having flown as Lunar Module Pilot on Apollo 13. He was slated to become the 6th person to walk on the Moon, but the Apollo 13 landing mission was aborted en route.

Haise went on to fly five Space Shuttle Approach and Landing Tests in 1977, and retired from NASA in 1979.

Maybelle Blair

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maybelle_Blair

Maybelle Blair is a former pitcher who played for the All-American Girls Professional
Baseball League made famous by the movie “A League of Their Own”. She then worked for
Northrop Aircraft Corporation for 37 years where she became the first female manager in
transportation (third female manager in all of Northrop). Maybelle has been honored at the
American Veterans Conference in Washington DC for her contribution to the United States
Military. She has been featured on CBS Sunday Morning, Good Morning America, MLB Network,
Rachel Ray, and in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and LA Times. Has been honored at
Fenway Park in Boston, Wrigley Field in Chicago, both Angel Stadium and Dodger Stadium in Los
Angeles, the Arizona Diamondbacks, featured as a Yahoo Maker by the Yahoo Makers
Conference and most recently was recognized as one of AdWeek’s 2022 Most Powerful Women
in Sports. She is an ambassador for Boston Red Sox Women’s Fantasy Camp, Baseball For All,
Inc., a founding member of the International Women’s Baseball Center, Inc. and the inspiration
behind the new Amazon Prime Video television series A League of Their Own.

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.

Col. Joe McPhail

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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.

Capt. Don Smith

Finishing at the top of his class with the USAF Undergraduate Pilot Training in 1968, Don was able to choose his first assignment piloting the F-106 at Langley AFB, VA with the 48th Fighter-Interceptor Sq. But first to Perrin AFB, TX for F-102 school then on to Tyndall AFB, FL for F-106s. He served with the 57th FIS at Keflavik, Iceland flying F-102s to protect P-3s from Soviet bombers violating NATO airspace. Back to Tyndall AFB piloting F-101s, he oversaw test projects like the PQM-102(drone). Don then left active duty and joined the Texas Air National Guard at Ellington. After his military service he flew for Delta Airlines, becoming a senior check airman on the Boeing 777.

Michael Lynn Graham

Michael Lynn Graham graduated from Athens High School in Athens, Texas in 1965 as a proud and eager Hornet. He attended Henderson County Jr College through 1967. At the height of the Vietnam War he volunteered to serve his country in the U.S. Navy. His boot camp was in Great Lakes, Illinois where he became a seaman apprentice. His first orders were to report aboard the U.S.S. John W Weeks, a Fletcher Class destroyer. His next promotion was to boatswain mate in the first division. His shakedown cruise was to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba prior to sailing to Vietnam in 1969. His ships’ duty was to protect the aircraft carriers which were conducting air strikes on the Vietcong. They also stationed on the gun line to fire spot shots ashore for the troops in country. His duty in Vietnam was completed in 9 months upon returning to Norfolk, Virginia. His next deployment was aboard the U.S.S. Gearing destroyer DD710 out of Groton, Connecticut. He sailed to the Mediterranean area to cruise ports in Italy and Spain where he trained reserves until honorably discharged in 1971. After his service he had a career in plant operations and insurance sales while raising his family in Palestine, Texas. Upon retirement he spends his time with family and playing golf with his 99 yr old father, a veteran of WWII.

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.

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.

In Memorium…

Sadly, we have more to add to this display and will be updating this list.

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