With the Korean war came a new breed of American heroes: the jet aces. There were 38 U.S. aces (pilots who had downed five or more enemy planes) in Korea, and the figures showed that they were very special men: among them they accounted for more than a third of the 823 enemy jets downed in combat.

Top ace of aces was Captain Joseph C. McConnell Jr. of Apple Valley, Calif., who posted the unequaled high score for Korea: 16 Russian MIGs. McConnell believed in aggressiveness and good eyesight. "Everything," he once said, "I owe to my...

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