Dolph D. Overton

The Hunters by Troy White

The Hunters by Troy White – Ed Heller & DD crossing Yalu River

Eulogy & Other References To DD

Many know of Dolph Overton’s exploits as one of the Korean War’s few Sabre jet aces.  This West Point class of ’49 graduate held the hottest scoring streak in jet fighters, with five Mig victories in four consecutive missions over Korea.   With such a record following him, it may surprise many that Dolph was also the consummate “southern gentleman” in every sense of the word.  He was modest to a fault, which includes saying nothing flattering about himself.  He was much more at ease praising others and boasting of their achievements.  That said, Dolph racked up 5 victories in four missions between January 21st and 24th, 1953.  It has been mentioned that Dolph scored several other victories, which were unconfirmed due to various reasons (such as downing a plane over China).  To this Dolph laughed and allowed, “The official ones are the only ones that count, so the rest don’t matter.”  Dolph was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, four Silver Stars, six Distinguished Flying Crosses, and nine Air Medals.

A class mate of Dolph’s, Lt. Gen. Chick Cleveland, USAF(Ret) gave the following eulogy at Dolph’s funeral:

Dolph F-84 transatlantic

Dolph F-84 transatlantic

“I am proud and honored to represent the West Point Class of 1949 and the American Fighter Aces Association at this memorial service for a great man, DD Overton. DD was a member of both those organizations.

My own friendship with DD spanned some 68 years, from the time we entered the Military Academy as Plebes in 1945 until just a few days ago. He was an inch taller than I was, so he was in the next company up the line, but there was a lot of interplay between our companies.

I knew him as tall, handsome, athletic, smart, selfless to a fault (he used to help his roommates with their studies to the detriment of  his own academic success), and loved by his roommates and classmates. And he was always nuts about airplanes. He obviously had great potential – and in time he realized that potential, but perhaps not in the way he had envisioned.

After he got his wings in pilot training, his first assignment was flying F-84s at Turner AFB, GA. As the Korean War had started, he immediately volunteered for service as an 84 pilot. He was a huge success in combat, was made a brevet captain – the only one of his contemporaries to do so, as the rest of us served our tours as 1st Lts – and was made Operations Officer of his fighter squadron. He planned and led many dangerous missions in the 84, which was a straight-wing, single-engine fighter bomber that did the heavy lifting in the Korean War. When his combat tour was up, he wanted to get involved in the air-to-air business and volunteered for an additional tour in F-86s. Before his second tour was up, he set a record by shooting down five MiG-15s in the shortest time – four days – still a record in the history of jet-to-jet combat. He was a bona fide war hero.

Dolph Overton & Ed Heller

Dolph Overton & Ed Heller

But he encountered what I can only describe as “trouble.” (I told the story of his two victories north of the Yalu River over China, being reported to the United Nations by the Swiss Neutral Observer Team who were on the Trans-Siberian railroad on the way to Panmunjom, the ensuing investigation, and DD’s appearance before the investigating officer). While others in his squadron denied engaging in aerial combat north of the river, DD gave the finest two-word speech in the history of integrity in his answer to that question: “Yes, sir.” The Air Force felt they had to do something visible, and they sent DD home immediately, stripped him of all his medals, gave him a referral OER, and assigned him to a stateside unit with no airplanes. He was of course heart-broken, but like the thoroughbred he was, he waited until the war was over before he resigned.

Distinguished Service Cross Awarded to DD Overton

Distinguished Service Cross Awarded to DD Overton

The Air Force lost a great leader, but undaunted, he went on to fame and fortune in the business world. As best I can tell, he made a pile of money and spent it all on airplanes, a fleet of Cessnas, a rare vintage Ford Tri-Motor, etc. And he raised a wonderful family. Another thing we had in common was that we both had great wives (Sue smiled). And look at this fine family (all five children and many grandchildren had gathered).”

How Dolph Overton Spearheaded the Fifth Victory Credit for Chick Cleveland

See the Veteran Tribute to Lt. Gen. Cleveland

Also read Dolph D. Overton’s Memorial by Susan Dusenbury

Dolph’s nickname used by some close friends was “DD.” That’s the name used in the book, From the Hudson to the Yalu, a book about the West Point Class of 1949 which covers this event in Dolph’s life (View an excerpt from Hudson to the Yalu concerning Dolph D. Overton).

Please visit the Veteran Tribute to Dolph for a summary of his service.

Although Dolph never bragged about his aerial victories, he did tell Morton Lester that he shot down MIGS which were never credited because he had crossed the Yalu River to get them. His official credit is for five victories making him an ace, a feat he accomplished in record time in 1953. But it was not until 2008 that he was awarded the medals he earned in 1952-53, 55 years later. (Read the letter making the awards of the DSC and Silver Stars: Documents Awarding Medals to DD 55 Years Late). Dolph guided the PMF in their effort to have George Preddy’s DSC upgraded to the Medal of Honor. The effort was dropped when we were unable to get a specific letter thought necessary to justify the claim. As a brief memorial to Dolph, we have included a few Korean War photos and one recent (2008) photo of Dolph receiving his DSC! There are also  photos of Dolph with his wife, Sue, and one of him with his old CO, Ed Heller. Both of these photos were taken at a 352nd Fighter Group Reunion in San Diego, CA, circa 2000.

Please visit the Tribute to Ed Heller for a summary of his service.

Dolph & Sue

Dolph & Sue

Dolph Ford TriMotor 2

Dolph Ford TriMotor 2

Dolph's Devil by A Meyer

Dolph’s Devil by A Meyer

Dolph's F84E by A Meyer

Dolph’s F84E by A Meyer