LT. Colonel Farris Dean Fortner
LT. Colonel Fortner, deceased, of Benton flew 100 combat missions during the Korean War as a member of the Arkansas Air National Guard’s 154th Fighter Bomber Squadron where he earned the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Air Medal.
Lieutenant Colonel Fortner entered the US Army Air Corps flight training in May of 1943, he graduated from the program in November of 1944. After which, he served stateside as a fighter pilot until being discharged in October of 1945. He served in reserve status until October 1950, at which time he was recalled to active duty as a member of the Arkansas Air National Guard, 154th Fighter Bomber Squadron. He and his unit were sent to Langley Air Force Base for initial training and then to South Korea as part of the police action there.
While in South Korea, Lieutenant Colonel Fortner flew 100 combat sorties, accumulating 214 combat flying hours, and distinguished himself flying the F-84E aircraft. Of particular significance was his downing of an enemy MIG-15 aircraft, the only confirmed to downing of any pilot in the Arkansas Air National Guard during this action. For this he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. He was also credited with damaging another MIG-15 aircraft. Also during his combat tour in South Korea, Lieutenant Colonel Fortner was awarded the Air Medal for his meritorious service in flying low-level missions against enemy troops and installations.
After his release from active duty and November of 1952, Lieutenant Colonel Fortner became a full-time employee of Arkansas Air National Guard at Adams Field, Little Rock, Arkansas. The 154th had been converted to a Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron. He remained in this capacity until his departure in 1966. During this time, he served as a photo pilot, safety flight officer, communications officer, and operations officer. As a pilot he achieved the rating of Command Pilot with over 2,000 flying hours to his credit. On his retirement from the Arkansas Air National Guard, he became the chief pilot for T. J. Rainey Investments and later Stephens Investments in Little Rock. He also piloted, as a volunteer, Angel One, Arkansas Children's Hospital's first air transport system for critically ill infants and children.
Lieutenant Colonel Fortner earned the distinguished flying cross on 26th December 1951 the citation for that medal reads as follows:
On October 1951, Lieutenant Farris D Fortner displayed extraordinary achievement while performing an aerial flight. Fortner, while returning from a night reconnaissance mission as a member of a three ship flight of F-84E type aircraft, observed a number of enemy supply trucks and 7 tanks in a deep valley near Wonsan, North Korea. In marginal weather and poor visibility, Lieutenant Fortner made repeated attacks through a barrage of intense flak on the tanks and vehicles while the remainder of his flight orbited the area since their ammunition had been expended. The nature of the terrain and the position in which the tanks placed themselves necessitated superior pilotage on the part of Lieutenant Fortner in order to press home an effective attack. Through his flying ability, Lieutenant Fortner was credited with destroying one heavy tank, damaging another, and inflicting heavy damage on vehicles and gun emplacements in the area. Through his efforts, Lieutenant Fortner deprived the enemy of critically needed equipment supplies.
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