Monday, March 07, 2011

MGen. Francis R. Gerard 1924-2008

Born on July 11, 1924 in Belleville. After graduating from Lyndhurst High School in 1941, he enlisted in the United States Army Air Corps in October 1942, was commissioned as a second Lieutenant and rated as a pilot in August 1943. During combat service in World War II, General Gerard flew the P-51 Mustang while serving with the 503rd Fighter Squadron, 339th Fighter Group of the Eighth Air Force based in Fowlmere, England. During the war, he completed two combat tours consisting of 420 combat hours in 91 aerial missions. The General was an "Ace" having destroyed eight German fighters in aerial combat - four of which were shot down near Leipzig, Germany, on Sept. 11, 1944, during one furious 12-minute battle, with 14 US P-51 fighter pilots defending their B-17 bombers against an onslaught of over 150 German fighters. There is a museum in Kavorska, Czech Republic, dedicated to this aerial battle with a special showcase of General Gerard as the most successful fighter of the battle.

After the war, he attended Lafayette College and John Marshall Law College, became an Attorney at Law and joined the New Jersey Air National Guard, eventually rising to the rank of Major General in 1977. General Gerard was recalled for active duty for the Korean Conflict and again in response to the Berlin Crisis. During his illustrious career, he commanded the 108th Tactical Fighter Wing, was Special Assistant to the Commander in Chief, Strategic Air Command, Commander, New Jersey Air National Guard, and Special Assistant to the Chief of Staff (Adjutant General), New Jersey Department of Defense.
He served as the Adjutant General of New Jersey under Governor Thomas H. Kean from 1982 until his retirement from both military and state service in 1989. Among the General's major awards and medals are, The Air Force Distinguished Service Medal, the Silver Star, Defense Superior Service Medal, Distinguished Flying Cross, Air Medal with 11 Oak Leaf Clusters, American Campaign Medal with six Battle Stars, National Defense Service Medal, and Presidential Unit Citation. He was awarded the New Jersey Distinguished Service Medal in 1983 and an Oak Leaf Cluster in 1988. In 1983, he was inducted into the New Jersey Aviation Hall of Fame.