Editor’s Note: This is a very interesting story about the man considered to be the “Father of the A-10.” Colonel Avery Kay led the effort back in the 1960s to develop an aircraft designed specifically to support troops on the ground. Not surprisingly, like all thinkers and innovators ahead of their time, he faced a tremendous amount of opposition and put his career in peril simply by his desire to do the right thing.

Many people in and around Washington were recently treated to a rare sight. On a beautiful early spring afternoon, four A-10 Warthogs flew low over Arlington National Cemetery. The pilots flying them were honoring retired Air Force Col. Avery Kay, the officer who did more to create the plane than any other.

Kay led the effort in the 1960s to create a plane specifically designed to support troops on the ground, at enormous risk to his own career and over the strident objections of many of his superiors. In doing so, he demonstrated the kind of moral courage that is unfortunately a rarity in modern military culture.

Avery Kay, front row, far left, and his entire aircrew in 1943. (Photo courtesy of POGO)
Avery Kay, front row, far left, and his entire aircrew in 1943. (Photo courtesy of POGO)

Kay had already earned a reputation for courage and innovation before taking charge of the A-X program, the name for the program that started the A-10. He served as the lead navigator of some of the most dangerous bombing raids of World War II, including the famous 1943 Schweinfurt Attack into the heart of Germany’s industrial Ruhr Valley.

This was one of the largest bombing raids of the war in which nearly 300 B-17 bombers destroyed a significant portion of the German aviation industry by attacking a ball-bearing factory.

In the early jet era after World War II, he developed a new approach to training navigators for the incredibly difficult task of guiding large transports and bombers, flying below the enemy’s radar without any electronic aids to find their targets deep in Soviet territory.

“Not just a brilliant trainer of master navigators, he personally led clandestine missions to drop paratroopers over Eastern Europe in the early 1950s. These were unquestionably some of the most hazardous missions of the early Cold War,” said his friend Pierre Sprey.

But his toughest battle took place inside the Pentagon.

We encourage you to get check out the story in its entirety right here.

(Featured photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)