August 7, 2022

Air Force Veteran Richard E. Ellsworth is today’s Veteran of the Day.
Today’s #VeteranOfTheDay is Richard E. Ellsworth, an Air Force wing commander who served in World War II and achieved the rank of brigadier general.

Richard E. Ellsworth was born in July 1911 in Erie, Pennsylvania. He joined the Pennsylvania National Guard in 1929. Two years later, he received a sought-after appointment to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. He graduated in June 1935 and was commissioned a second lieutenant.

Following graduation, Ellsworth began pilot training at Randolph Air Force Base and Kelly Fields, Texas. After pilot training, he was assigned to squadron duties at Mitchel Field, New York, in October 1936. He was promoted to first lieutenant in June 1938 and transferred back to Kelly Field, and later to the Sacramento Air Depot in California. During his time in Sacramento, he attended the California Institute of Technology, studied meteorology and graduated with a master’s degree. He was promoted to captain in October 1940, major in December 1941 and lieutenant colonel by February 1942.

In spring of 1942, Ellsworth was reassigned to transport pilot duty in Alaska. In October that year, he was sent to the South Pacific to study weather-related phenomena, and was promoted to colonel in December. Next, he served as a commander for the Tenth Weather Region in the China-Burma-India theater, flying in 400 combat missions and logging a total of 780 flight hours for the 10th and 14th Air Forces. For his service in World War II, Ellsworth was awarded a Legion of Merit, two Distinguished Flying Crosses, an Air Medal, a Campaign Battle Star and the China Air Force Wings.

Ellsworth returned to the U.S. and was assigned to the Air Weather Service in Washington as chief of the Operations and Training Division. From August 1946 to 1949, he was the commanding officer for the 308th Reconnaissance Group at Morrison Field, Florida, and Fairfield-Suisun Air Force Base, California. In July 1950, he graduated from the Air War College at Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama, and was assigned the role of chief of plans for 2nd Air Force at Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana.

Later, Ellsworth was assigned the position of wing commander of the 28th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing at Rapid City Air Force Base, South Dakota, and promoted to brigadier general in September 1952. On March 18, 1953, he co-piloted a RB-36H bomber that was simulating a combat flight mission from the Azores to South Dakota. The crew used celestial navigation, switching off radar to observe radio silence. Late at night, and during poor weather conditions, the bomber went off course and crashed into a low peak on Newfoundland. Ellsworth and the 22 other crew members did not survive.

Ellsworth is buried at Black Hills National Cemetery, South Dakota. After his death, President Dwight Eisenhower renamed Rapid City Air Force Base to Ellsworth Air Force Base in his honor.

We honor his service.


Nominate a Veteran for #VeteranOfTheDay

Do you want to light up the face of a special Veteran? Have you been wondering how to tell your Veteran they are special to you? VA’s #VeteranOfTheDay social media feature is an opportunity to highlight your Veteran and his/her service.

It’s easy to nominate a Veteran. Visit our blog post about nominating to learn how to create the best submission.


Writers: Alex Reid, Kim McAdams

Editors: Nicholas Nunnaly, Theresa Lyon

Researchers: Kennady Hertz, Carl Wesseln

Graphic Designer: Kiki Kelley

By DME Interns

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Published on Aug. 7, 2022

Estimated reading time is 2.5 min.

Views to date: 396

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