General Levi Chase lived an extraordinary life as one of the great combat pilots of the United States Air Force. He flew and fought in four combat tours, which included WWII, Korea, and Viet Nam, racked up a total of 512 air combat missions and scored an official record of 12 aerial victories. This places him at number 91 on the all-time list of USAF aces. His life also followed the rapid technological advances in aviation and air combat. He went from training in biplanes as an air cadet to commanding an F-4c wing in Vietnam.
Born in New York, USA in 1917. General Levi Chase's long Air Force career began when he entered the United States Army in 1940, and was accepted as an aviation cadet. As a member of Class 41-G, he received his pilot wings and commission as a second lieutenant in 1941. Assigned to the 58th Fighter Squadron, 33rd Fighter Group, flying Warhawk P-40's, Chase had his first taste of combat during the invasion of North Africa in November 1942. Newly promoted to captain, he scored two kills flying with the 58th - his first a Messerschmitt 109 on 18 December and a Junkers-88 four days later for which he was awarded the Croix de Guerre by France.
Later, as commander of the 60th Fighter Squadron, then-Major Chase continued to run up his score, downing seven BF-109's and a Macchi 202 between 31 January and 5 April, 1943 Flying P-40's he downed 10 Axis planes in the Mediterranean theatre operations(MTO). The 33rd Fighter Group, also known as the "The Fighting Nomads". However, because of the tactics they were forced adopt to deal with superior Luftwaffe forces, parts of the unit became known as the "Red Scarf Guerillas". The group gained notoriety also for being led for a time by Phil Cochran, who served as the prototype hero for the "Terry and the Pirates" comic strip. Cochran dubbed Chase his "One-Man Wave of Terror" for his aggressive and relentless pursuit and attack of enemy targets.
The following excerpt is taken from Damned to Glory by Col. Robert L. Scott, Jr., published in 1944 by Charles Scribner's Sons, New York: "Soon after Cochran's arrival, the reputation of the Red Scarf Guerrillas began to grow. As Phil Cochran explained it: The French began to call us up and tell us about tanks and trucks they saw on different roads. We'd go out and look for them--sometimes we didn't find them. Gradually we became big operators. I remember one of these operation in particular. One day Captain Levi Chase, my operations officer, went out by himself and destroyed eighty-four guns and a few trucks. Altogether we must have destroyed about three hundred trucks--we became so damn efficient in this type of work that the Jerries and Eyeties weren't able to move a truck anywhere in Tunisia by daylight. After we had done that for a while, we got to know the country pretty well ourselves and began to cook up other things to do. For instance, we knew that the enemy had only about a dozen locomotives on all their little lines down there, so we got to blasting them--for sheer diversion, we went after their oil and munitions dumps. Chase, my "One-Man Wave of Terror," was the best man I've ever seen in spotting those things from the air. One time he strafed a lot of haystacks and they all exploded, proving that he was right--the enemy had hidden ammunition under them. We used to hunt light tanks all over southern Tunisia, and when we found them we would strafe them with our fifty-calibers. They would play dead, and then at night the crews would run them into Arab courtyards or dry gullies and camouflage them. So we'd track them down and shoot more holes into them before they could be repaired. We didn't have armament to blast them, but our "fifties" kept them out of action. Often we would observe troop movements, report them to the French and then go back and strafe them, and the French would occupy one or more towns. Finally, the people back at headquarters saw what a job we were doing and sent us a squadron of bombers to fool around with--we had plenty of fun thinking up bombing missions and then escorting the jokers."
Major Chase returned to the States in July 1943, where he spent a year before deploying to Burma with the 2nd Air Commando Group. He later became commander of the First Provisional Fighter Group and was credited with two Japanese Oscars. He planned and led the longest raids of WWII by fighter aircraft. Flying P-51 Mustangs from their base at Cox's Bazaar in India, the two squadrons of the 2nd Air Commando struck at Don Muang Airfield north of Bangkok for the first time on March 15, 1945.
The raid covered over 1,500 miles(2413 km) round trip. The mission called for precise navigation and fuel management, but accomplished the task of deep penetration to strike at what were supposed to be secure rear staging areas for the remnants of the Japanese Air Force in the China-Burma-India theatre. The fighter squadrons of the 2nd Air Commandos received a Distinguished Unit Citation for the raids on Don Muang Field and Major Chase was awarded the Silver Star for his role in planning and leading the mission.
Following World War II, Chase entered civilian life, but was recalled to active duty in April 1951, and served in Korea, Vietnam, Okinawa and Taiwan in various capacities. Major General Chase retired in November 1973, after 33 years of military service. He passed away in 1994.