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Abner M. Aust, Jr.
P-51D Mustang Pilot and Ace, Vietnam Wing Commander
Background
Abner M. Aust, Jr. was born October 7, 1921 in Scooba, Mississippi. The family moved to Oklahoma when he was 5 or 6 years old near Fort Sill and he first saw military aircraft. He graduated high school in 1940 then enrolled at Sunflower Junior College in Moorhead, Mississippi. As a college student he joined the Civilian Pilot Training Program (CPTP) and completed pilot training on June 15, 1942. As a civilian pilot he logged 80 hours of flight time.

Wartime History
On June 23, 1942 he enlisted in the U. S. Army Air Force (USAAF) as a private with serial number 14076427. Aust was sent to Santa Ana Army Air Field in California and completed flight training and earned his wings. On April 12, 1943 he was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant with serial number O-742822. Next, he was assigned to Fort Myers, FL for combat training in the P-40 Warhawk. During November 1943 promoted to the rank of 1st Lieutenant. Afterwards, he became a flight instructor at Drane Field, Florida. Aust was promoted to the rank of 1st Lieutenant and then to Captain.

Assigned to the 53rd Fighter Group, 13th Fighter Squadron at Venice Army Air Field (Venice AAF) in Florida. On December 10, 1943 took off piloting P-47D Thunderbolt 42-74949 and suffered a take off mid air collision and crashed but was unhurt.

Assigned to the 506th Fighter Group (506th FG), 457th Fighter Squadron (457th FS) as a fighter pilot flying the P-51D Mustang. During March 1945 arrived at North Field on Iwo Jima. Assigned P-51D Mustang 44-72599 that had no nickname but later his crew cheif painted a picture of actress Betty Grable on the right side and the tail was painted green and the left side had the squadron motif and squadron number 505. In total, Aust flew thirteen Very Long Range (VLR) missions against Japan and only encountered enemy aircraft on two missions: July 16, 1945 and August 10, 1945.

On July 16, 1945 entered a dog fight near Tsu to the south of Nagoya between Japanese aircraft and P-51D Mustangs from the 21st Fighter Group (21st FG). During the air combat, he engaged six Ki-84 Franks. During a head on pass he claimed two shot down, flaming one and damaging the other so badly that the pilot bailed out. Next, two Japanese fighters jumped Aust from above and scored hits on his Mustang's wings and fuselage and knocked out his radio and directional unit and he barely was able to return to Iwo Jima.

On August 10, 1945 northeast of Tokyo, Aust claimed two A6M Zeros shot down and a third A6M Zero as damaged. These were his last combat mission of World War II. At the time, only one of the two victories he claimed was officially credited.

In the early 1960s, Aust asked his cousin who also served in the USAF to visit the location where he shot down his last aerial victory. With the help of his Japanese wife, his cousin was able to collect evidence from local officials that his second Zero claimed had indeed crashed and at that location was a grave with the pilot's date of death listed as August 10, 1945. After submitting this additional evidence to the records correction board, the USAF officially credited Aust with his fifth aerial victory and retroactively became an ace, the "last" ace of World War II.

Aerial Victory Claims
Aust was officially credited with five aerial victories. On July 16, 1945 he claimed three victories and August 10, 1945 he claimed two victories. All of his victory claims were against Japanese aircraft in the air. At the end of the Pacific War, he was the lead ace in the 506th Fighter Group (506th FG).

Victory Date Location Aircraft Notes on claim
1 07/16/45 Tsu-Nagoya Ki-84 Frank First aerial victory claim.
2 07/16/45 Tsu-Nagoya Ki-84 Frank Second aerial victory claim.
3 07/16/45 Tsu-Nagoya Ki-84 Frank Third aerial victory claim.
4 08/10/45 Tokyo A6M Zero Fourth aerial victory claim and highest scorer in the 506th FG.
5 08/10/45 Tokyo A6M Zero Fifth aerial victory claim, became an "ace" in 1961 making him the last ace of WWII.

Postwar
Aust remains in the U. S. Air Force (USAF) and during the 1950s was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel and in 1963 promoted to the rank of Colonel. In January 1968 during the Vietnam War stationed at Da Nang Airfield and flew more than 300 combat missions over Vietnam flying the F-4 Phantom primarily radar bombing missions over south Vietnam also missions flying the F-100. On March 15, 1971 became the Commanding Officer (C. O.) of the 3rd Tactical Fighter Wing (3rd TFW) based at Kunsan AFB (K-8) in South Korea. In 1972 with thirty years of service, he retired at Homestead AFB.

Awards
Aust earned the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) with four oak leaf clusters during World War II and the Legion of Merit for his Vietnam service.

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References
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Abner M. Aust, Jr.
USAF Historical Study No. 85 USAF Credits For The Destruction of Enemy Aircraft, World War II Alphabetical: O'Neill, John G. page 15 (PDF page 20), Alphabetical list by theater of operation (SWP), Chronological: July 16, 1945 page 516 (PDF page 521), Victory Credits by Unit: 457th FS page 659-660 (PDF pages 664-665)
December 1943 USAAF Stateside Accident Reports P-47D 42-74949 pilot Abner M. Aust take off mid air collision at Venice AAF crashed
The Pineapple Air Force (1990) pages 19, 180 (July 16, 1945 air combat), 195 (August 10, 1945 air combat), 211 (index)
Mustang and Thunderbolt Aces of the Pacific and CBI (1999) pages 85
The Hall of Valor Project - Abner Maurice Aust Legion of Merit Citation, Distinguished Flying Cross citations
506th Fighter Group - Mustangs of Iwo
"Despite this low group score, the 506th produced the fifth and last ace of 7th F.C. Captain Abner M. Aust of the 457th squadron had a rough day on July 16 when he engaged six Franks. He damaged three and shot down three, but his 51 was badly damaged and he barely got back to Iwo. On one of the last VLR missions, August 10, he fought two Zekes and definitely got one. But he didn't see the second one crash, though he knew he hit it, so only claimed it as a probable.
Eighteen years later Aust's cousin, serving in the Air Force, found a grave marker at almost the exact location the P-51 pilot had last seen the second Zeke. The date on the marker was August 10, 1945. This was proof enough, and Abner Aust officially joined the ranks of the fighter aces."
USAF A Brief History of the 3rd Wing page 15 [PDF]
Life Story of Eugene Haynes Butler Fighter Pilot: Combat Assignment to Vietnam page 237
"The time arrived to start home from Vietnam. It was already dark, and I was standing around talking with my friends when the young man who was responsible for getting all of us on Northwest Airlines in a Boeing 707, I do believe, asked me if I were ready to leave, and of course, I was. He had me board the aircraft first, then all the remainder of the Returnees. When the aircraft became airborne, there was a terribly loud cheer from most of the folks who were returning home. This is the only time I ever heard this on all the flights I have been on, both in the military and on civilian aircraft. Just before they started the engines on the ramp, Colonel Abner M. Aust, Jr, the Wing Commander came on board to thank all of us for the important jobs we did while at Tuy Hua. As the VC (Viet Cong) had blown up our fuel lines coming into our Base, they gave very little fuel to Northwest, so we had to stop on Guam for fuel. Then we flew to Japan, arriving very late at night. While there I was able to buy a new Minolta camera for just over a hundred bucks, including lots of film. This was on the American Air Base where we took on fuel for the long flight to McChord AFB in Washington."
Air Force Magazine May 2013 page 136 [PDF] Army Air Forces Aces of World War II - Abner N. Aust
Air Force Magazine May 2016 page 121 [PDF] Army Air Forces Aces of World War II - Abner N. Aust
The Ledger "One of last living World War II flying aces reflects on his career during Sun ’n Fun event in Lakeland" by Kathy L. Berkowitz April 7, 2019
Thanks to Abner M. Aust, Jr. for additional information


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