13 BS upholds legacy: I wanted to fly

  • Published
  • By Jennifer Greene
  • 509th Bomb Wing Public Affairs
Retired Col. Alvin R. Fortney commanded the 13th Bomb Squadron (BS) during the Korean War from December 1951-July 1952. Since he held the rank of major at the time he was selected, Fortney also received a spot promotion to lieutenant colonel as the position was slated. During his command, he was instrumental in bringing about the conversion of the 13th BS to a “hardnosed” squadron.

“I wanted to fly,” said Fortney when asked why he joined the then U.S. Army Air Corps in October 1941. "I came in because I wanted to fly in the Air Force.”

45 years following his retirement, Fortney and his family visited Whiteman Air Force Base (AFB) July 26, 2016. During the visit they met with the wing commander, Brig. Gen. Paul Tibbets IV and the current 13th Bomb Squadron commander, Lt. Col. Matthew Newell, a unit Fortney once commanded.

"Here at Whiteman AFB we hear all the time that we stand on the shoulders of giants; today, I was able to meet one,” Newell said. "It is an honor knowing that as the current 13th Bomb Squadron commander, I am able to uphold the legacy of those who have come before me. It was truly an honor to meet and get to know Lt. Col. Fortney and his family.”

As a former 13th BS pilot with more than 7,000 flight hours, Fortney was active in combat during World War II, Korea and Vietnam. During his career he was awarded the Legion of Merit and the Distinguished Flying Cross.

On January 28, 1952, his vision became a reality as the 13th BS began flying only hardnosed aircraft, increasing the safety and effectiveness of the missions. He felt it was more effective than the then current tactic of bombing with the Norden bombsight by a Bombardier in the nose of the aircraft as it was glass covered.

Some of Fortney’s other assignments included chief of the control division at Barksdale, Louisiana, during the Cuban Missile Crisis, vice commander of Andersen AFB in Guam from June 1966 through July 1968, and his final as commander of Blytheville AFB, Arkansas, until his retirement on June 30, 1971. His career as a U.S. Air Force pilot spanned 30 years.

Fortney’s legacy has shifted over the years from Air Force pilot to family man. He and his wife Dorothy reside in Arkansas. Fortney, being an only child, now prides himself as the patriarch of a combined family of nearly 30.

His advice to our Airmen of today, "You've got to set a goal, and you may have to adjust that goal as you go along,” Forney stated. “You have to do what you want to do. If you enjoy what you do, it isn't work. You have a job, but it's not work. You're doing what you want to do. That's the way I look at the Air Force. I've had some bad times in the Air Force, some disappointments, but it all worked out. I'm proud of my service, proud of my family. I just love the Air Force."