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Deerwood Ace remembered on Veterans Day

This spring, a bill recognized the contribution of aerial warriors who defended the nation and freedom, saved lives by shortening wars and boosted morale at home.

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Col. Morton Magoffin of Deerwood. Magoffin was a West Point graduate who went into the Air Corps and fought at Pearl Harbor and in Europe. He flew a P-40 Warhawk and later the P-47 Thunderbolt. He shot down his fifth German plane in July of 1944 becoming a member of the fighter aces. In a 2008 article, the Dispatch noted Magoffin may be one of Deerwood's best kept secrets. Magoffin said he owed his success to his upbringing in Deerwood.

This spring, a bill recognized the contribution of aerial warriors who defended the nation and freedom, saved lives by shortening wars and boosted morale at home.

On May 23, 2014, President Obama signed the American Fighter Aces Congressional Gold Medal Bill. An American fighter ace is a pilot who served honorably in the U.S. military service and who destroyed five or more confirmed enemy aircraft in aerial combat during a war or conflict in which American armed forces participated.

"Fighter Aces possess unique skills that have made them successful in aerial combat. These include courage, judgment, keen marksmanship, concentration, drive, persistence, and split-second thinking that makes an Ace a war fighter with unique and valuable flight driven skills," as noted in the bill. "The Aces' training, bravery, skills, sacrifice, attention to duty, and innovative spirit illustrate the most celebrated traits of the United States military, including service to country and the protection of freedom and democracy."

Richard Bong was America's top Ace of all wars scoring a confirmed 40 enemy victories in WWII. He was from Poplar, Wis., and flew the P–38 Lightning in all his combat sorties flying for the 49th Fighter Group. He was killed in 1945 during a P-80 test flight in which the engine flamed out on takeoff.

Osborn Groethe of Alexandria, a World War II veteran and historian, said Crow Wing County shares one of the elite fighter aces and a considerable number of war heroes, with quite a few remaining virtually unknown. Groethe pointed to the example of Col. Morton Magoffin of Deerwood. Magoffin was a West Point graduate who went into the Air Corps and fought at Pearl Harbor and in Europe. He flew a P-40 Warhawk and later the P-47 Thunderbolt. He shot down his fifth German plane in July of 1944 becoming a member of the fighter aces. In a 2008 article, the Dispatch noted Magoffin may be one of Deerwood's best kept secrets. Magoffin said he owed his success to his upbringing in Deerwood. His father was an avid small game hunter. Groethe put together information on Magoffin based on research with his family.

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On his 85th mission, Magoffin sustained ground fire and bailed out of his flaming airplane. He was captured by Germans but so severely wounded, Groethe said, they took him to a hospital in Etain, France. Soon after, Americans liberated the area and Magoffin returned to the States.

"He recovered, stayed in the Air Force, fought again in Korea and was then assigned to the Pentagon," Groethe stated.

Magoffin was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross with oak leaf cluster, the Air Medal with 16 oak leaf clusters, the Belgian Croix de Guerre and the French Croix de Guerre and the Purple Heart. He had three brothers who served in World War II. One was killed in action.

"They also had ancestors who served in the Civil War," Groethe stated. "In honor of all these Magoffins, a warship was named after them, the USS Magoffin."

The ship served in the Pacific during World War II.

The bill notes beginning with World War I, more than 60,000 U.S. military fighter pilots have taken to the air and less than 1,500 became fighter aces. They hail from every state in the nation.

"The gold medal is a collective award, as are a considerable number of them," Groethe stated. "The original will be placed permanently in the Smithsonian. Duplicate bronze medals will eventually be cast and be made available to surviving aces or their families."

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