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Cuthbert A. Pattillo


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Date published: 2/25/2014

Cuthbert A. Pattillo

Retired Air Force Maj. Cuthbert A. Pattillo, known to all as "Bill," passed from this world on Thursday, Feb. 20, 2014, at his home in Harrisonburg. He was 89.

He was well-known in the aviation community as a pioneer in jet aerobatic demonstration teams and was highly decorated as a fighter pilot.

He and his identical twin brother, Charles C. "Buck," were born on June 3, 1924, the youngest of six siblings, to Joseph W. and Pearl Stubbs Pattillo in East Atlanta, Ga. In 1942, the twins enlisted in the Army Air Corps and served together in the 352nd Fighter Group in the European Theater, flying fighter escort for B-17 bombing raids in Germany. They were separated for a six-week period near the end of the war when Bill was shot down while strafing a German airfield and taken prisoner of war. Bill and Buck led parallel careers in the Air Force for more than 35 years and were often stationed together at the same base or in the same region.

From 1949 to 1952, the twins were founding members of the impromptu "Skyblazers" aerobatic team, which gained official recognition and toured post-war Europe to demonstrate the capabilities of newly developed fighter jets. In 1953 and 1954, they flew left- and right-wing positions in the first USAF "Thunderbird" precision flying team. They helped develop many of the maneuvers still performed today, including the famous "Bomb Burst," which remains the finale at Thunderbird air shows. In the course of his career, he had the privilege of flying many aircraft, including the P-40, P-47, F-80, F-84, F-86, T-33, F-100 and F-4 Phantom. But his favorite was the plane he flew in World War II, the iconic P-51 Mustang that he named and was inscribed "Sweet and Lovely."

He earned a bachelor's degree in mathematics from the University of Colorado at Boulder in 1962, attended the Army War College in 1965 and received a master's degree in international affairs from George Washington University.


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