Pararescueman Traces Father's Footsteps
(January 19, 2011)
ROYAL AIR FORCE LAKENHEATH, England (1/14/2011 - AFNS) --
Five-year-old Louis Distelzwieg was looking forward to his
father coming home from work -- maybe playing on the swing
set in the yard -- when he heard something. Something wrong.|
"My sisters and I were upstairs, and I heard my
mom crying," said the now-grown master sergeant.
"I came down and asked her why. Of course, at
that age, I didn't really understand. It didn't
really hit me that we were never going to see
him again until his funeral."
would be for Sergeant Distelsweig's father,
Capt. Louis V. Distelzweig Jr. A decorated F-100
Super Sabre pilot, Captain Distelsweig was
stationed at Royal Air Force Wittering as part
of an exchange program with the Royal Air Force.
The assignment to No. 1 Squadron flying Harrier
jets was a welcome change after two back-to-back
tours in Vietnam.
However, one day in
1970, shortly after takeoff, Captain
Distelzwieg's plane experienced a mechanical
Master Sgt. Louis Distelsweig looks in the cockpit of a Harrier jet Jan. 11, 2011, at Royal Air Force Cottesmore, England. The aircraft was similar to ones his father, Capt. Louis Distelsweig Jr., flew during his time as an exchange pilot with the RAF in 1970.
attempted to eject, but in doing so the plane
inverted and crashed.
Captain Distelzwieg died on impact.|
In the years
following his father's death, Sergeant Distelzweig followed
in his father's footsteps and chose the military as a
career. Rather than become a fighter pilot though; his
interest was in special operations. After speaking to Army,
Navy and Marine Corps recruiters, his Air Force recruiter
put him in contact with a pararescue instructor.
following day I signed on the dotted line. My class started
with 27 guys and three of us graduated," Sergeant
Today, he is the 48th Operations
Group chief of pararescue standards and evaluations.
Sergeant Distelsweig's wife, Eve, said she considers it no
accident that her husband went into the pararescue field.
"It's not a coincidence he dedicated his life to saving
others," she said.
When he found out he would return
to the United Kingdom after more than 35 years, Sergeant
Distelzweig knew what he wanted to do.
"I was going
to go (to No. 1 Squadron) or at least make contact with them
to check out my dad's old squadron and have them show me the
Harriers," he said.
However, when he first arrived,
Sergeant Distelzweig immediately found himself preparing to
deploy to Afghanistan. Soon after his return, he found out
No. 1 Squadron would be shut down as part of U.K. defense
"It pushed me to act on this right
away," he said.
While No. 1 Squadron was based at RAF
Wittering in Captain Distelsweig's time, today they are
based at nearby RAF Cottesmore. When Sergeant Distelsweig
arrived for his visit Jan. 11, he and his wife were given a
tour of the Harrier jets by Capt. Andrew Tenenbaum, an
American exchange pilot just as Sergeant Distelsweig's
"It's something we've been doing for
30-plus years that builds up good ties between the two
nations," said Captain Tenenbaum of the exchange program,
noting Sergeant Distelsweig's father would have been one of
the program's first participants.
For the first time,
Sergeant Distelsweig was able to climb in the cockpit of the
plane his father flew.
"I saw them as a kid, but at
that time you're more into playing,"he said. "All planes are
pretty much the same to a 5-year old."
tour of the hangar, an even bigger surprise awaited Sergeant
Distelsweig. No. 1 Squadron had existed in one form or
another since the turn of the last century and in that time
amassed a copious amount of records and memorabilia.
"People can come back and read the diaries and find out what
happened to their loved ones," said Royal Air Force Pilot
Officer Cameron Macleod, who also accompanied the
Distelsweig's during their visit. Several Britons have come
to No. 1 Squadron to view the records, Pilot Officer Macleod
said, but Sergeant Distelsweig was one of the few Americans
In an album documenting the early 1970s,
among yellowed news clippings and sketches were several
pictures of Captain Distelsweig and even one of him and his
wife at an official dinner.
"There were photos of him
that even I don't have," Sergeant Distelsweig said. Since
the album was too large and fragile to photocopy, Mrs.
Distelsweig snapped photos of several of the pages.
"My mother will be real appreciative of that," Sergeant
Even more intriguing was a
declassified flight log, recording every activity the
squadron undertook, including Captain Distelsweig's
accident. Sergeant Distelsweig read the account of the
accident out loud as Captain Tenenbaum explained some of the
technical details of why the accident was fatal.
"What they told my mother and what actually happened were
probably two different things," Sergeant Distelsweig said.
"It would have been done for the benefit of the family."
Sergeant Distelsweig came to No. 1 Squadron to take a
personal tour of a Harrier unit and maybe find a bit of
closure for his father's death. However, he said seeing
long-lost photos of him and reading the hitherto unknown
account of his final flight gave more closure than he could
have hoped to find when he first contacted the squadron.
"It was way more than I expected, especially this," he
said, pointing to the log book.
Article and photo by USAF Sr. Airman David Dobrydney|
48 Fighter Wing Public Affairs
Air Force News
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