In honor of National Aviation Week, which celebrates the achievements of aviators, today’s Veteran of the Day is Ralph Albertazzie.
Albertazzie received a scholarship to play football at the University of West Virginia. However, he also was an airplane enthusiast and decided to give up his scholarship to enlist in the Army Air Corps, which later become the Air Force.
During World War II, Albertazzie became a flight instructor for B-17 pilots in Columbus, Ohio, and B-29’s in Montgomery, Alabama. Between both locations, Albertazzie taught over 100 novice pilots. Once the war winded down, Ralph decided to leave military service and run a private flight school.
Albertazzie rejoined the Air Force in 1950 during Korea. As an experienced pilot, the Air Force assigned Albertazzie to fly critical missions for the Korea Airlift. He was stationed in Hawaii and flew missions around the Pacific to deliver supplies and move troops. He was recruited to fly for the Special Air Missions unit in Washington, D.C.
During the Vietnam War, Albertazzie was stationed in Saigon to perform administrative duties for the Air Force as well as fly VIPs around the country. Between the war in Korea and Vietnam, Ralph flew 74 support missions and 17 combat missions.
After a year overseas, he was asked to return to fly Air Force One full time in 1968 for the new Richard Nixon administration. Albertazzie flew many significant missions for Nixon: the retrieval of Apollo 11, an 11-country visit to Europe, the advance team mission to China in 1971, as well as flying National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger on secret diplomatic missions. Ralph would also end up flying Nixon to China in the first meeting between the United States and China in over 25 years. When Nixon resigned in 1974, he was the pilot who returned the former president home in California.
Albertazzie retired in 1974 as a colonel in the Air Force with a Legion of Merit, Distinguished Flying Cross Bronze Star and two Air Medals. Throughout his career, Ralph flew presidents ranging from Dwight D. Eisenhower, Lyndon Johnson, Harry Truman, Herbert Hoover, all the way to Gerald Ford at the beginning of his presidency.
After his military career, he served as the West Virginia Commissioner of Commerce. During the following years, he opened a truck stop on Interstate 81, owned a radio station and wrote two books based on his Air Force career. Ralph passed away in August 2011 at the age of 88 in his home state of West Virginia.
We honor his service.
Nominate a Veteran for #VeteranOfTheDay
Do you want to light up the face of a special Veteran? Have you been wondering how to tell your Veteran they are special to you? VA’s #VeteranOfTheDay social media feature is an opportunity to highlight your Veteran and his/her service.
It’s easy to nominate a Veteran. All it takes is an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with as much information as you can put together, along with some good photos. Visit our blog post about nominating to learn how to create the best submission.
Editor: Ifeoma Ikedeonwu
Fact Checker: Olivia Greif
Graphic artist: Kimber Garland