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Tigers: Tracking a Legend
Maj. Gen. Richard Bodycombe was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 1922 and raised in Grosse Pointe, Michigan. He earned a Bachelor of Science and a Master of Science from the University of Michigan in 1948 and 1952, respectively.
In May 1944, he was commissioned as a 2nd lieutenant after completing flying training at Turner Field, Georgia. After he completed training in B-24 Liberators, he reported to the 782nd Bombardment Squadron, 465th Bombardment Group, 15th Air Force in Italy.
Bodycombe earned the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Air Medal and the Purple Heart as a Liberator pilot during World War II. After hostilities ceased in Europe, he separated from the Army Air Corps and returned to the U.S. However, he was recalled to active duty in 1949 and assigned to the 60th Troop Carrier Group at Wiesbaden Air Base in Germany to participate in the Berlin Airlift where he flew C-47s and C-54s. When Operation Vittles concluded, he was assigned to the 7167th Special Air Missions Squadron at Wiesbaden for the remainder of his three-year tour of duty.
Bodycombe served for one year as aide to Maj. Gen. Harry A. Johnson, commander, 10th Air Force at Selfridge Air Force Base in Michigan. His next assignment was the 63rd Troop Carrier Wing, which was being organized at Altus Air Force Base in Oklahoma. He served as a C-124 aircraft commander in the 52nd Troop Carrier Squadron and later, when the 63rd Troop Carrier Wing transferred to Donaldson Air Force Base in South Carolina, he became assistant operations officer for the 63rd Troop Carrier Group.
In 1955, he was selected as a founding faculty member of the U.S. Air Force Academy. Following that key assignment, Bodycombe began a career in the U.S. Air Force Reserves that resulted in his selection as a major general, and eventually in his appointment as commander of all U.S. Air Force Reserve federal forces. He retired from the Reserves in 1982 and pursued a civilian flying career that ultimately resulted in his selection as Ford Motor Co.'s chief pilot.
In 1983, Bodycombe joined a small group of dedicated Detroit-area residents who formed the Yankee Air Museum. One of their primary goals was to obtain a flyable B-24 bomber that was built by the Ford Motor Co. in its World War II factory at Willow Run Airport in Ypsilanti, Michigan. In the following years, the Yankee Air Museum prospered and began collecting flyable vintage military aircraft including a B-17, B-25 and C-47. Bodycombe became director of flight operations as the organization began to fly its aircraft in air shows throughout the Eastern and Southeastern regions of the country.
Bodycombe's flying hours total more than 21,500 with qualification in more than 50 types of military and civilian aircraft. He currently resides in Ann Arbor, Michigan. He and his wife, Karin, have three children: Brian, Peter and Christopher.