CLACKAMAS (AP) — Retired Marine Corps Col. Kenneth L. Reusser, called the most decorated Marine aviator in history and was shot down in three wars, has died at age 89.
Reusser flew 253 combat missions in World War II, Korea and Vietnam and was shot down in all three, five times in all.
His 59 medals included two Navy Crosses, four Purple Hearts and two Legions of Merit.
In 1945, while based in Okinawa, he stripped down his F4U-4 Corsair fighter and intercepted a Japanese observation plane at a high altidude. When his guns froze, he flew his fighter into the observation plane, hacking off its tail with his propeller.
In 1950 in Korea led an attack on a North Korean tank-repair facility at Inchon, then destroyed an oil tanker almost blowing himself out of the sky.
In Vietnam he flew helicopters and was leading a rescue mission when his Huey was shot down. He needed skin grafts over 35 percent of his badly burned body.
Reusser, who lived in the Portland suburb of Milwaukie, was born Jan. 27, 1920, the son of a minister.
Reusser raced motorcycles to help pay for college and earning a pilots license before WWII.
After retiring from the Marine Corps he worked for Lockheed Aircraft and the Piasecki Helicopter Corp. He remained active in veterans groups.
Reusser died June 20 of natural causes. He is survived by his wife, Trudy; and sons, Richard C. and Kenneth L. Jr. Interment was Friday in Willamette National Cemetery.