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Thu, Apr 09, 2020

Gone West: Rear Admiral Edward L. 'Whitey' Feightner USN, (Ret)

American fighter ace Rear Admiral Edward L. "Whitey" Feightner USN, (Ret) has Gone West. He passed away April 1 at 100 years old.

Feightner was born October 14, 1919. He was raised on a farm near Elida, Ohio and graduated from Elida High School as Class Valedictorian. He then attended Findlay College, also in Ohio, on a full-ride scholarship, graduating in 1942.

Immediately following his college graduation, Whitey enlisted in the Navy V-5 Aviation Cadet Program. He graduated from flight training on 3 April 1942 with orders to VF-5 aboard the USS Yorktown (CV-5), flying F4F Wildcats. Unfortunately, the Yorktown was sunk at the Battle of Midway in June 1942, before he reached it. He was temporarily placed in a squadron in Hawaii where Edward Henry “Butch” O’Hare (Chicago’sO’Hare Airportis named in his honor) was the skipper. Butch started calling him“Whitey” because he never suntanned; he just burned. Seventy five years later, he was still referred as “Whitey”.

Feightner was then deployed aboard theUSS Enterprise (CV-6)with VF-10, flying F4F-4s with Lieutenant Commander Jimmy Flatley as the commander. They deployed to the South Pacific where Whitey got his start as a great fighter pilot.

He became a WWII “Fighter Ace” on 30 March 1944, when he shot down a Japanese Zero over Peleliu while flying a VF-8F6F Hellcat from the USS Bunker Hill (CV-17), eventually tallying 9 confirmed kills and 4 probables.

In 1943 Whiteymade the initial landings and catapult launches off the USS Intrepid (CV-11) during its Navy acceptance trials. In 1946, he was checked out in his first jet aircraft, a Lockheed P-80.

Whitey graduated in Class Two of the U.S. Navy’s Test Pilot School at NAS Patuxent River, Maryland, and during the ensuing tour as a test pilot, he flew a variety of aircraft, from helicopters to the R6O Constitution heavy transport aircraft.

As Navy project pilot for the F7U-1 Cutlass, he was the only pilot to qualify aboard ship in that specific model before the project was abandoned in favor of the F7U-3. As the F7F Tigercat project pilot, Whitey checked out Charles A. Lindberg before Lindberg’s evaluation flight in the aircraft. In 1952 Whitey flew “lead solo” in the Blue Angels flying the F7U-1 Cutlass, and from January 1955- February 1957 he was the Commanding officer of VF-11. From February 1957-October 1958, he was O-in-C (Officer-in-Charge) of the Jet Transitional Training Unit at NASOl at he, Kansas.

From March 1959-April 1960, Whitey was CAG10 (Commander Air Group) aboard the USS Forrestal (CVA-59) and USS Essex(CVA-9).

His next assignment was at the Naval War College, followed by a tour at BUWEPS, where he was the project officer on the F4 H-1, later becoming Head of Fighter Design. He would be instrumental in rejecting the F-111 for the Navy, and instead getting the F-14 Tomcat, a much more superior aircraft for the Navy.

Next was a tour as Operations Officer with COMCARDIV Two aboard the USS Enterprise (CVN-65), being one of the senior officers in charge of making “Operation Sea Orbit” (April-October 1964) the first around the world unrefueled cruise with the first nuclear fleet.

Whitey was the CO of USS Chikaskia (AO-54) from November 1963-February 1966, and then commanded theUSS Okinawa (LPH-3) from February1966-February1967. He then had several tours at the Pentagon, including Naval Air Systems Command. He was promoted to Rear Admiral on February 1,1971.

After retirement on July 1, 1974, Whitey and several other flag officers formed FMS (Federal Management Systems) consulting for the Navy. He also was a company representative for United Technologies.

In 1948, he married Violet Volz, and was happily married for 67 years. She preceded him in death in 2015. In 2016, he moved to Coeur d’Alene, Idaho with his nephew and family.

Whitey Feightner was born during the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918, and died during theCovid-19 virus pandemic of 2020. During his lifetime, there were approximately 25 wars and conflicts around the world. He was truly a member of the Greatest Generation.

Final interment will be at Arlington National Cemetery.

(Image provided with American Fighter Aces Association news release)

FMI: www.americanfighteraces.org

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