Today’s #VeteranOfTheDay is decorated Fighter Pilot Rear Adm. Eugene “Gene” George Fairfax, who served in World War II and Vietnam.
Born in Vernal, Utah, Eugene George Fairfax attended West High School in Salt Lake City. During his years in high school, he became president of the debate club and captain of the football team. After graduating, he enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 1934 and completed training at Naval Training Station, San Diego. By May of that year, he reported for service aboard USS Nevada.
Fairfax served aboard Nevada for a year before he was honorably discharged, upon his appointment to the U.S. Naval Academy in July 1935. While he was at the Naval Academy, he became captain of the boxing team. Graduating in 1939, he was commissioned an ensign and reported to duty aboard USS Mississippi. He spent two years aboard Mississippi before detaching from the battleship in 1941 to receive flight training at Naval Air Station Pensacola in Florida. In Pensacola, he met his future wife, Juliana, and married her in November 1941.
Completing his training within a year, Fairfax was designated as a naval aviator and eventually reported as a senior aviator aboard USS Tennessee. A distinguished aviator, his time aboard Tennessee saw his promotion to the executive officer of Squadron Eleven by 1943, assuming command of the squadron. He served in the Pacific Theater of World War II during this time and became a decorated pilot, earning a Distinguished Flying Cross with two Gold Stars and an Air Medal. Fairfax’s service took him to numerous locations, including Okinawa and the Philippines. After detaching from Fighter Squadron Eleven, he joined Fighter Squadron Ninety-Eight, where he trained replacement fighter pilots for service aboard carriers in the Pacific.
After the war, Fairfax detached from Fighting Squadrons altogether in 1946 and served as an aviation analyst until 1948. During these post-war years, he attended the Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island, and served at home and abroad in several positions. Notably, he headed the Air Programs Branch between 1957 and 1960. He rose to the rank of rear admiral in August 1966. During his service in Vietnam, he became commander of Antisubmarine Warfare Group Five.
Relieved from active duty, Fairfax became deputy naval inspector general in August 1971, before his retirement in 1972. He moved to Albuquerque, New Mexico, where he spent his retirement with his wife.
For his service, Fairfax was awarded a Legion of Merit with Gold Star, a Distinguished Flying Cross with three Gold Stars, an Air Medal with five Gold Stars, a Joint Service Commendation Medal and a Presidential Unit Citation Ribbon. He also received an American Defense Service Medal with Bronze “A,” American Campaign Medal, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal, World War II Victory Medal, National Defense Service Medal with bronze star, Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal (Laos), Vietnam Service Medal and a Philippine Liberation Ribbon with two bronze stars.
Fairfax died on April 5, 2013.
We honor his service.
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Veterans History Project
This #VeteranOfTheDay profile was created with interviews submitted to the Veterans History Project. The project collects, preserves, and makes accessible the personal accounts of American war Veterans so that future generations may hear directly from Veterans and better understand the realities of war. Find out more at http://www.loc.gov/vets/.
Writer: Milosh Mihajlovic-Klaric
Editors: Annabelle Colton, Nathaniel Scott
Researchers: Patrick E. Woods
Graphic artist: Kiki Kelley