January 20, 1927 - June 20, 2009
Veteran of WWII, Korea, Vietnam
Considered the most decorated Marine Aviator in history
Retired Marine Corps Col. Kenneth L. Reusser has passed away and been laid to rest in the Willamette National Cemetery in Portland, Oregon. The Patriot Guard Riders were there to honor him -
Reusser was called the most decorated Marine aviator in history and was shot down in three wars in the Pacific theater - World War II, Korea and Vietnam. Colonel Ken Reusser's distinguished combat record:
-flew 253 combat missions in World War II, Korea and Vietnam and was shot down in all three, five times in all.
-59 medals included two Navy Crosses, five Purple Hearts and two Legions of Merit.
Ken Reusser enlisted in the U.S. Naval Reserve as a seaman recruit on August 23, 1941, and entered flight training. In April 1942, he completed flight training, was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant, and in May 1942 left for the Southwest Pacific. Upon arrival at Guadalcanal, was assigned to VMF-122, flying the F4F-3. On his first combat mission, he was credited with a probable kill of a Mitsubishi "Betty." In October of that year, he was injured during a ditching and spent 6 months in a hospital.
Ken returned to the Pacific in 1944 flying F4U's from USS Hollandia, (CVE 97) off Okinawa. He led a flight of Corsairs intending to shoot down a Japanese KI-45 "Nick" high-altitude photo reconnaissance airplane gathering information for the day's Kamikaze flights. With altitude frozen guns, the only weapon left was the Corsair itself. Ken and his wingman severely damaged the tail of the KI-45 with their propellers. It entered a graveyard spiral, breaking up before hitting the water. Ken and his wingman shared the kill. Each was awarded the Navy Cross.
In 1950, Ken found himself again in combat, flying F4U's from USS Sicily, (CVE 118). He was awarded a second Navy Cross for making two very low-level passes down a street to identify, through a building's windows, what was hidden inside. He then led a flight back, destroying the target. Exiting the area, with only 20mm guns remaining, he made a firing pass on a ship moored to a camouflaged pier. Loaded with fuel, the ship exploded, flipping the Corsair inverted. After righting the airplane, Ken returned to USS Sicily where the severely crippled F4U was pushed over the side for being too damaged to repair.
During the Vietnam War, Reusser flew helicopters. He was leading a Marine Air Group in a rescue mission, when his own "Huey" was shot down. He needed skin grafts over 35 percent of his badly burned body. He retired from the Marine Corps in July 1968 due to his combat wounds.
Reusser raced motorcycles to help pay for college and earning a pilots license before World War II. After retiring from the Marine Corps, he worked for Lockheed Aircraft and the Piasecki Helicopter Corp. He remained active in veterans groups.
Reusser is survived by his wife, Trudy; and sons, Richard C. and Kenneth L. Jr.
To view the photos of his service at Willamette Cemetery go here:
Thank you, Q.
To read Q's story of how we don't remember our heroes and the service for this hero: