The Air Force doesn’t have as long of a history as the other branches, so we’re going to keep it kinda short with the top five United States airmen. Despite their short history and the jokes that the other services throw their way, the Air Force/U.S. Army Air Corps has had an illustrious and decorated history with many brave and daring airmen accomplishing incredible feats in the air and on the ground as well. Here is our list of the top five, along with some well-deserved honorable mentions.

1. James Doolittle

Lt. Gen. James H. Doolittle, center, commander of the Army Air Forces Eighth Air Force, is surrounded by a group of U.S. flyers. (Air Force)
Lt. Gen. James H. Doolittle, center, commander of the Army Air Forces Eighth Air Force, is surrounded by a group of U.S. flyers. (Air Force)

As far as flyboys go, James Doolittle takes the cake. There isn’t much that he wouldn’t try and do with an aircraft. From an early age, he was fascinated with flight and fearless in the sky. As an accomplished pilot and holding a doctorate in aeronautical engineering, James Doolittle belonged in the sky. Aside from his many other accomplishments, the most notable one is his raid on Tokyo. The bombing run, in retaliation for Pearl Harbor, earned Doolittle the Medal of Honor, which he felt he’d spend the rest of his life earning.

2. Charles Yeager

Brig. Gen. Charles E.
Brig. Gen. Charles E. "Chuck" Yeager, retired, prepares to board an F-15D Eagle from the 65th Aggressor Squadron Oct. 14, 2012, at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev. (Master Sgt. Jason Edwards/Air Force)

Despite not having a college degree, Chuck Yeager was selected for flight training in the early days of World War 2. He had keen senses and showed an aptitude for flying, despite having air sickness. After beating up air sickness, Chuck went on to beat the ever living shit out of the Luftwaffe. Despite being shot down once, Chuck got back to flying and earned the “ace in day” achievement on his Xbox One P-51, smoking five Luftwaffe planes in one day. Chuck went on to casually break the sound barrier a few times and also train astronauts. Good job, Chuck!

3. Eddie Rickenbacker

Capt. Edward Vernon
Capt. Edward Vernon "Eddie" Rickenbacker wears the Medal of Honor. (Air Force via Wikipedia)

If you want to talk about someone who had balls wings of steel, Eddie is your guy. His tactic, hey diddle diddle right down the middle of enemy formations. Eddie quickly showed his prowess as a hunter in the air and ripped planes out of the sky in World War 1. He earned the Ace moniker, but, then he decided, that wasn’t good enough for him, so he racked up a total of 26 aerial victories. All those victories earned him the Distinguished Flying Cross with six oak leaf clusters and the Medal of Honor. Also, he was awarded foreign awards as well. Eddie was one hell of a pilot!

4. Billy Mitchell

Gen. William Lendrum
Gen. William Lendrum "Billy" Mitchell. (Library of Congress)

Billy Mitchell was a firebrand of a man who paid for his own flying lessons and fought in the skies over Europe in World War 1. He was an ardent supporter of a separate Air Force and the efficacy of aircraft versus naval targets. Nobody listened to Billy, so Billy told them just what he thought of that, which earned him a court-martial. He resigned rather than go through the “kangaroo court” and be humiliated.

5. Daniel “Chappie” James

Gen. Daniel “Chappie” James Jr. (U.S. Air Force photo)
Gen. Daniel “Chappie” James Jr. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Well now, what a badass we have here. An original Tuskegee airman, who made playthings out of MiGs, Daniel “Chappie” James was the first African-American to hold the rank of four-star general. A well-earned feat after smoking the most MiGs anyone ever has in Operation Bolo (seven). James was the recipient of the Distinguished Flying Cross with two bronze oak leaf clusters and the Air Force Distinguished Service Medal with one bronze oak leaf cluster.

Honorable Mentions:

» Bill “Turf” Murphy & J.D. Martin: Intercepted an abandoned/pilotless MiG-23 on July 4, 1989, in F-15s (Once in a lifetime event)

» Robin Olds: Triple Ace fighter pilot in WW2 who married Ella Raines (she was a hotty) and had a badass mustache

» George Everett “Bud” Day: For being belligerent when captured by the North Vietnamese (He was a Marine first…wonder where he got the belligerence from)

» Airman 1st Class William Pitsenbarger: Probably the most badass ground fighter the Air Force ever produced. Medal of Honor recipient.

» Spencer Stone: Helped stop a terror attack while on vacation in Europe

Originally published by American Grit. Read more from American Grit here: