Col. James B. Morehead, an expert fighter pilot, veteran of World War II and experienced outdoorsman, has passed away. He died March 11th in a California hospital of complications caused by a recent stroke.

He was highly decorated and earned the nickname “Wildman” for his daring and sometimes reckless air attacks. While he achieved his fame behind the controls of a P-40 Warhawk, Col. Morehead, who until he flew, “was never higher above the ground than the seat of farm cultivator,” credited his success hunting enemies in the air to the training he received hunting animals on the ground.

Col. Morehead’s most famous battled came on April, 25, 1942. He led a squadron of eight planes against 30 Japanese bombers and 8 Japanese fighter planes.  “America is fortunate it had an ex-hunter in that lead airplane cause I knocked the hell out of that lead bomber and set him on fire,” Col. Morehead said. “And then I pulled around and set two more of ‘em ablaze. Take that for Pearl Harbor.”

Col. Morehead received the Distinguished Service Cross for “unquestionable valor in aerial combat” for his service to his country during that battle.

After leaving the military Col. Morehead continued to hunt. He took down Cape Buffalo, baboon, African lion, hyeana, and even had a hippopotamus skull displayed in his front yard.

Even though age slowed his hunting, he never have up the passion. Last year, at 94 years old, he took down a buck using a rifle with iron sights and without the aid of a scope.

This video shows Morehead talking about how hunting helped make him into a great fighter pilot.

photo: US Army Air Forces

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