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This profile was last updated on 1/22/11  and contains information from public web pages.

Capt. Jack Milton Ilfrey

Wrong Capt. Jack Milton Ilfrey?

Commander Officer

20th Fighter Group/8th
 
Background

Employment History

  • Director
    8th Air Force Historical Society
  • Commander
    79th Fighter Squadron of the 20th Fighter Group
  • Operations Officer
    79th Fighter Squadron of the 20th Fighter Group
  • Troop Commander
    McChord Field , Washington
  • Captain

Board Memberships and Affiliations

  • Member
    20th Fighter Group/8th

Education

  • Mirabeau Lamar Senior High School
57 Total References
Web References
Happy Jack Ilfrey
www.p38assn.org, 22 Jan 2011 [cached]
Jack Ilfrey has been described this way:
"Jack Ilfrey is a real-life cross between Hans Solo and Indiana Jones. Of course, Jack pre-dates those fictional characters by more that 35 years. Flying P-38 Lightnings and the P-51 Mustang, Jack was involved in events that would leave Steve Canyon trembling like a mouse."
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Capt. Jack Ilfrey / P-38
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By Jack Ilfrey & Mark S. Copeland
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This autobiography was originally written in 1946 by eight-victory WWII Fighter Ace, Jack Ilfrey. This new edition has been expanded with many new photographs (many never before published), a special color photo section, and three detailed aircraft profile paintings. The reader will fly through the skies with Ilfrey in his P-38 as he and his unit, the famed 94th Fighter Squadron, become the first group of American aircraft to fly from the USA to England. Thrill to the stories of aerial combat over North Africa as Ilfrey becomes one of America's first WWII air aces. Marvel at the flying exploits of Ilfrey as a member of the 20th Fighter Group/8th Air Force and join him on his incredible evasion story through German occupied France.
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Signed by Capt. Jack Ilfrey, pilot of "Happy Jack's Go Buggy," this limited edition print features a wonderful depiction of the aircraft, and also documents the amazing wartime exploits of P-38 ace, Capt. Jack Ilfrey. Print measures 18"x 12" and is also signed by the artist.
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You'll read of such famous aces as Jack Ilfrey in his P-38 "Happy Jack's Go Buggy" and Jim Morris in his "'Til We Meet Again.
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Jack Milton Ilfrey was born July 31, 1920 in Houston, Texas, graduated from Mirabeau Lamar Senior High School there and went on to Texas A&M, where he learned to fly in the first Civilian Pilot Training Program (CPTP) in 1939. He had secondary Civilian Pilot Training Program at the University of Houston in 1940 while working for the Hughes Tool Company at night.
Jack entered the Army Air Corp as an Aviation Cadet in April,I941 and graduated at Luke Field, Arizona in the first wartime class (12 DEC 41). He was assigned to the 94th Pursuit Squadron, 1st Pursuit Group, flying the P-38Ds and Es in defense of the Southern California coastline.
In the spring of 1942, the 1st Fighter Group (as they were now designated,) were equipped with new P-38Fs and were ordered to Dow Field, Maine, to prepare for the "Bolero Mission" -- the first mass flight of fighter planes and bombers to England. "We called it the Guinea Pig Mission, cause that is what we were. Ilfrey said. On July 4, 1942, the 94th.
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On July 26th., most of the 94th FS (including Ilfrey,) landed at Kirton, in Lindsey, Lincolnshire, England.
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Shortly after take off, Ilfrey lost a belly tank, which meant he would not have enough fuel to complete the mission. He calculated that he had enough to make an emergency landing in Gibraltor, but his calculations proved incorrect and he was forced to make an emergency landing in a very German friendly Portugal. Immediately upon landing he was informed that, as the country was neutral, all pilots and aircraft from outside countries that landed there would be interned. Jack escaped internment by tricking the local military authorities into refueling his P-38F. Once that was accomplished, he offered to show them how to start the engines. With Portuguese officers still kneeling on the wings, Jack firewalled the throttles and pulled the canopy closed as his hapless captors were blown off like leaves. Without the time to taxi to a runway, Ilfrey takes off straight ahead. He then navigated to Gibraltar by compass alone. The diplomatic flap caused by Jack's bold escape results in the State Department demanding that he be sent back!
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After a total of 5-1/2 air to air victories, 2 confirmed damaged enemy aircraft, 208 combat hours and 72 missions, Jack was relieved of combat duty and reassigned to the states as a flight instructor in P-38s and P-47 Thunderbolts.
In April 1944 Jack went back to the ETO and became Squadron Commander of the 79th Ftr. Sq. 20th Ftr. Grp. flying P-38's at King's Cliffe. On May 24 he was credited with 2 ME 109's'in a hairy dog fight near Berlin. One of the 109's collided with his P-38 and ripped off 4 1/2 -5 feet of his right wing, but he was able to return to England.
On June 13 after successfully dive bombing a railway bridge over the Loire River near Angers, Jack was shot down while strafing a train near there -- some 200 miles below the front lines. He evaded capture and was back in England in 4 days.
It was along this time that Maj. Ilfrey was busted to 2nd Lt. for infractions of the rules, but was left in command of the 79th Sq. His claim to fame (or infamy) is that he was probably the only 2nd Lt. CO of a Combat Fighter Squadron during the war -- at least for a few days -- until he started his promotional climb back. He was again saved by Gen. Doolittle C.O. 8th A.F. at the persuasion of Col.
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After 70 missions and 320 hours of combat flying Jack was reassigned to the States, where he became a Troop Commander at McChord AFB.
In two tours, he completed a total of 142 missions with 528 combat hours.
Jack Ilfrey passed away October 15, 2004.
Visit this nice tribute to Jack Ilfrey
Jack Ilfrey, P-38 Ace
www.aviationartstore.com, 10 Feb 2007 [cached]
Jack IlfreyP-38 "Lightning" "Happy Jacks Go Buggy"
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Captain Jack M. Ilfrey
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Jack Milton Ilfrey joined the Army Air Corps and graduated from flying school at Luke Field Arizona on December 12, 1941.Jack was then assigned to the 94th "Hat in the Ring", Fighter Squadron, 1st Fighter Group.
Jack was sent to England with his group in the spring of 1942.After the Allies invaded North Africa, Jack and his squadron were sent to Tafaroui were they began missions of both ground support and bomber escorts.
Flying the P-38 "Lighting", Jack saw combat for the first time on November 29th with an aerial victory by shooting down a Messerschmitt 110 while returning from an attack on the German Airdrome at Gabes.
On December 2nd, Jack shot down two Bf 109's, over Gabes, and became an ace on December 26th while leading a flight to Bizerte Tunis by shooting down two Focke Wulf 190s.
On March 3, 1943, Jack shot down another Bf 109 which would make a total of six he would get credit for in Africa.These victories made Jack the first ace in the 94th Fighter Squadron and the second pilot to be an ace in the P-38.
Their squadron was used for dangerous ground strafing missions supporting the allied advances.On one mission Jack and his fellow pilots strafed German gun positions that were located in a mountain passage on the road to Sfax.Their success in attacking the German gun batteries led to an allied victory.
Jack flew 72 Combat missions while in North Africa and returned to the States becoming an instructor for new pilots in the P-38 and P-47.
Jack was promoted to Captain and returned to England to join the 79th Fighter Squadron, 20th Fighter Group in March 1944 as the commander officer.
Jack scored two more aerial victories over Bf 109's on May 24th while escorting heavy bombers over Berlin.Jack and his squadron of sixteen P-38's were jumped by thirty plus Germans.The ensuing aerial battle became frantic, filling the sky with twisting, turning and looping aircraft.
While in a head on attack with one of the 109's, the German plane hit Jacks P-38, tearing off the end of his right wing.Jack was able to keep his Lighting from going into a spin, the German was not so lucky.
On June 12th Jack and his squadron successfully dive bombed a bridge that crossed the Loire River.While reassembling with his squadron they came upon an enemy train.Jack attacked the train and destroyed the locomotive.As he was pulling up his right engine exploded and caught on fire.Jack bailed out of "Happy Jack's Go Buggy" just before it exploded.
Jack parachuted behind enemy lines and avoided capture by befriending the French people who helped him escape.Jack was disguised as a deaf mute named Jacques Robert.
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Jack Ilfrey earned the Silver Star, Distinguished Flying Cross with 5 Oak Leaf Clusters, and the Air Metal with 13 Oak Leaf Clusters.
Capt. Jack M. Ilfrey - Commanding Officer
www.fightin79th.com, 12 Mar 2011 [cached]
Jack Milton Ilfrey was born 31 July, 1920 in Houston, Texas. His father was a fighter pilot during World War I and later became the cashier of the First National Bank. Ilfrey graduated from High School and went on to Texas A&M College for two years. While in college he learned to fly in the first Civilian Pilot Training Program (CPTP) in 1939. He continued with the CPTP at the University of Houston during the day while employed by The Hughes Tool Co. during the evenings.
Ilfrey entered the US Army Air Corps as an Aviation Cadet in April of 1941. He graduated with the first wartime class of pilots at Luke Field, Arizona, on 12 December, 1941, (Class 41-I) and was assigned to the famed 94th Pursuit "Hat In The Ring " Squadron, 1st Pursuit Group. His first assignment found him flying P-38D and E's in defense of the California coastline.
In the spring of 1942, the 1st Fighter Group (as they were now designated,) were equipped with new P-38Fs and were ordered to Dow Field, Maine to prepare for the "Bolero Mission," the first mass flight of fighter planes and bombers to England. "We called it the 'Guinea Pig Mission', cause that is what we were," Ilfrey once stated.
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Shortly after take off, Ilfrey lost a belly tank, which meant he would not have enough fuel to complete the mission. He calculated that he had enough to make an emergency landing in Gibraltar, but his calculations proved incorrect and he was forced to land in Lisbon, Portugal.
Immediately upon landing he was informed that, as the country was officially neutral, all pilots and aircraft from outside countries that landed there would be interned. Ilfrey agreed with the Portuguese authorities when they asked him to show a pilot the controls of his P-38 and, as the pilot sat on the wing, he started up the engines. As a second P-38 came in for an emergency landing he saw his chance, shoved the throttles forward and the propwash blew the Portuguese pilot off of the plane. An international incident flared before he had even taxied the Lightning down the runway. He finally made it to Gibraltar, where he later was informed that the US State Department was demanding for him to return to Lisbon, but the Commander of American Operations at Gibraltar cabled Washington that Ilfrey had already left for North Africa before the cable had arrived.
Jack soon put all of his training into action over North Africa. On 29 November he shared credit for downing a Messerschmitt Me-110 near Gabes Airdrome, in Tunisia. On 2 December he downed two Messerschmitt Me-109s over Gabes Airdrome, Tunisia, and on 26 December he shot down two Focke Wulf Fw 190s five miles west of Bizerte. On 11 January, 1943 he damaged a Me-109 five miles north of Gabes Airdrome and on 3 March he downed another Me-109 near El Aounia, Tunisia, making him one of the first aces (many believe he was the first) who flew P-38s. The action continued when, on the following day, he damaged another Me-109 over Bizerte Harbor.
He received a commendation for his actions from the Chief of Staff, US Army, on 3 February, 1943. After a total of five and a half air to air victories and two confirmed damaged enemy aircraft, 208 combat hours and 72 missions, Jack was relieved of combat duty and reassigned to the states as a flight instructor in P-38s and P-47 Thunderbolts at the replacement training unit at Santa Ana, California.
Ilfrey returned to the E.T.O. in April of 1944, as the Operations Officer of the 79th Fighter Squadron, 20th Fighter Group, based out of King's Cliffe, Northamptonshire, England. This group was also equipped with P-38's. On 27 September he became the Squadron's Commander.
Soon after his arrival he was back in action. On 24 May, during a mission to Berlin, he was credited with downing two Messerschmitt Me-109s, one of which had actually collided with Ilfrey's Lightning and had sheared off nearly four and a half to five feet of Ilfrey's right wing. The enemy pilot did not recover from the subsequent spin, but Ilfrey's skill kept him from joining in the fate of his foe. Jack managed to bring the P-38 back home only to discover many of his squadronmates had given up on him making it back.
As D-Day approached, and Invasion stripes were added to their aircraft, the 79th Fighter Squadron readied itself for some intense action. Ilfrey flew three patrols over Normandy on 6 June (D-Day), as the largest invasion force to ever cross the English Channel fought below him on the beaches of Normandy. The Luftwaffe did not make an appearance in the skies over Normandy that day so the men of the 20th Fighter Group had the chance to watch the invasion unfold beneath them.
On 12 June, after successfully dive bombing a railway bridge over the Loire River, near Angers, France, Jack was shot down while strafing a nearby train. He was over 200 miles behind the front lines, but with the help of the French civilians he managed to evade capture dressed as a French farmer Jacques Robert' and was back in England within six days. Despite the official doctrine which sent all pilots who evaded back to the United States he somehow managed to side-step the rules and continued flying in combat.
In late July, the 20th Fighter Group converted to the P-51D Mustang and within months were involved in "Operation Frantic VI", a shuttle mission to Russia, Italy and back to England. It was around this time that Ilfrey was promoted to Major, however the celebration that followed said promotion led to his being busted back to 2nd. Lt. for multiple infractions. He remained in command of the squadron, however, and his claim to fame...or infamy... (as he was fond of saying) is he was the only 2nd. Lt. to ever lead a Combat Squadron during the war. He soon returned to the rank of Capt. however, as Gen.
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Ilfrey and his wingman squeezed into the cockpit of the P-51 (designed for only one person,) and flew a short trip to Brussels where they landed safely.
On 9 December, 1944, after a total of 70 missions, 320 hours of combat flying and 2 enemy aircraft downed, Ilfrey was reassigned to the US, where he became a Troop Commander at McChord Air Force Base. He left the USAAF with the final rank of Major in December of 1945. In two tours of duty Ilfrey completed a total of 142 missions, flew 528 combat hours, downed an officially confirmed seven and a half enemy aircraft (all air victories), damaged two more and destroyed two enemy trains on the ground. In December, 1945 he left the service, purchased a Beechcraft Model 18 commercial light transport and became a pilot for a Dallas, Texas-based construction firm. From 1949 through 1951 Ilfrey also trained foreign pilots in Hondo, Texas but, as his eyesight began fading, he began to seek out work that would keep him closer to the ground.
Ilfrey retired after 30 years as a bank officer at Alamo National Bank, in San Antonio, Texas. In addition to being the Historian, and a past President, of The 20th Fighter Group Association he was the Editor of the group's newsletter, Kings Cliffe Remembered, throughout it's entire run of over fifty issues. He was active in the 8th Air Force Historical Society, The 1st Fighter Group Association, The American Fighter Aces Association, The Commemorative Air Force and the P-38 National Association. On 6 October, 1998 he was inducted into the Commemorative Air Force's American Combat Airman Hall of Fame. He was also an invaluable resource to aviation enthusiasts, researchers, historians and model-builders alike and was widely known for his generosity to those interested in preserving aviation history.
In 1946, he penned his acclaimed autobiography, Happy Jack's Go Buggy . The foreward to this book was written by none other than aviation legend Gen.
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Ilfrey resided in San Antonio, Texas during the final years of his life. He passed away on 15 October, 2004, at Nix Hospital, after several months of declining health. He was buried next to his parents in Forest Park Lawndale Cemetery, Houston, Texas on 19 October. He was, sadly, the last surviving ace of both the 79th Fighter Squadron and 20th Fighter Group.
(Photograph courtesy of Jack Ilfrey)
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Capt. Ilfrey's Known Assigned Aircraft: P-38J #43-28431 (MC-O) "Happy Jack's Go Buggy " (Lost 12 June, 1944 - Ilfrey evaded) · P-51D # 44-13761 (MC-I) " Happy Jack's Go Buggy"
C.S. Bailey Studios > Jack Ilfrey - WWII Air Ace
www.airartcsbailey.com, 6 July 2007 [cached]
Jack IlfreyC.S. Bailey Studios > Jack Ilfrey - WWII Air Ace
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Shortly out Ilfrey lost a belly tank but calculated he could make Gibraltar.Calculations proved wrong and he had to land in Lisbon, Portugal where he was immediately told that he and the P38 would be interned.However, he conned the Portuguese out of some gas, fired up and made an unauthorized take off.By the time he got to Gibraltar and International incident had flared up.
At the urging of the State Department, Gen.Eisenhower was to send him back to Lisbon but Gen.Doolittle stepped in and saved the day for Jack.
Jack was awarded a commendation letter from Chief of Staff, U. S. Army, dated 3rd Feb. 1943 for being one of the first aces in the 12th Air Force Mediterranean Theater, for shooting down his 5th plane the day after Christmas 1942.Historians now say he was the First Ace in a P38, but did not prove it with official records.He is also considered to be Houston's first ace.
After 208 combat hours, 72 missions, he was relieved from combat duty and returned to the states and instructed in P38's and P47's.
In April of 1944 Jack went back to the E. T. O. and became Squadron Commander of the 79th Fighter Group, flying P38's.On May 24th he was credited with 2 ME 109's in a hairy dog fight near Berlin.One of the 109's collided with his P38 and ripped off 4 % to 5 feet of his right wing.He was still able to return to England.
On June 6, 1944 - D-Day - he flew 3 patrols over the Normandy Landings (10 hours in a P38).
On June the 20th converted to P51 D's and went on Frantic VI, Shuttle Mission to Russia, Italy and back to England.
It was about this time the Maj.Ilfrey was busted to 2nd Lt.For infractions of the rules, but was left in command of the 79th Squadron.His claim to fame ... or infamy.... Is that he was probably the only 2"d Lt.
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Jack is presently a Director of the 8th Air Force Historical Society and the P38 National Association.
Jack  M.  Ilfrey  Lieutenant Colonel ...
www.veterantributes.org, 24 Oct 2012 [cached]
Jack  M.  Ilfrey  Lieutenant Colonel O-5,  U.S. Army Air Forces Veteran Tributes
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Jack M. Ilfrey
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Jack Ilfrey was born on July 31, 1920, in Houston, Texas. He enlisted in the Aviation Cadet Program of the U.S. Army Air Corps on April 26, 1941, and was commissioned a 2Lt and awarded his pilot wings on December 12, 1941. He was then assigned to the 94th Fighter Squadron of the 1st Fighter Group, and deployed to England in July 1942. Ilfrey saw combat with the group in North Africa from November 1942 until he returned to the United States in April 1943. He then served as a flight instructor training replacement pilots in Santa Ana, California, before being assigned to England as commander of the 79th Fighter Squadron of the 20th Fighter Group in March 1944. Ilfrey was shot down over France on June 13, 1944, but managed to evade capture and made it back to Allied territory. On November 20, 1944, Ilfrey landed behind enemy lines and picked up his downed wingman and flew him back to friendly territory. He returned to the United States in December 1944 and was assigned as a Troop Commander at McChord Field, Washington, where he served until he left active duty in September 1945. Ilfrey was discharged from the Army Air Forces on December 28, 1945. During World War II, Col Ilfrey was credited with the destruction of 8 enemy aircraft in aerial combat while flying P-38 Lightnings and P-51 Mustangs. He died on October 15, 2004.
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