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Lt. Col. John M. Slattery, USAF, Retired

John Slattery


Lt. Col. John M. Slattery was born and raised in Bay City, Michigan. He was accepted into Aviation Cadets towards the end of World War II. With the need for pilots declining, he was offered training as a gunner, a ground crewman in the Air Force or he could join another branch of service. Since he wanted to be a pilot, he decided to begin his military service as a Marine. He served in the Pacific Theater, China and was being trained for an invasion of the Japanese mainland when the war was ending. After the war, he returned to Bay City and began college.

In 1951 when the Korean War erupted, Slattery was recalled as a Marine and sent to Korea. As an infantryman suffering from frostbite, he was medevaced in a Bell H-13, which was the beginning of his interest in helicopters.

After he was discharged from active service again, he applied to Air Force Flight School, was accepted and graduated, qualifying in both fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters. He served as a pilot on assignments throughout the USA, Libya and two tours in Vietnam. As a flight instructor in Vietnam, he was instrumental in training a number of Vietnamese pilots to fly operational missions in the Sikorsky H-34 Choctaw and the UH-1 Iroquois. He also flew the Kaman H-43 Husky as a crash-rescue pilot and standardization pilot.

As a helicopter pilot in Vietnam, Slattery flew more than 100 life-saving missions and received 30 citations including the Legion of Merit, the Distinguished Flying Cross with one Oak Leaf Cluster, the Bronze Star, an Air Medal with 15 Clusters, the Vietnam Cross of Gallantry with two Silver Stars and the Vietnam Air Cross of Gallantry with Bronze Wings. He had more than 6,000 hours of flying time in rotorcraft. He also won an award for meritorious service as deputy chief of staff for operations (helicopter) with Air Force Advisory Team Two, headquartered at Nha Trang Air Base, from 1971-1972. He won credit for a major role in making that section on the Vietnamese Air Force self-sufficient.

On August 1, 1974, Slattery retired after 29 years of service with the Marines and the Air Force. Because of his enthusiasm and passion for helicopters, he began working with Helicopter Association International (HAI) and Helicopter Foundation International (HFI). As their archive curator, he dedicated many hours to the preservation and documentation of HFI's historical collection.

Slattery passed away in March, 2008. His wife, Jane, resides in Fort Washington, Maryland. They have two sons, Mike and Matt.

John Slattery was enshrined into the Michigan Aviation Hall of Fame on April 17, 2010.

Smithsonian Institution Affiliations Program