Four-star General Seth McKee passed away on Monday in Scottsdale, Arizona. He was 100 years old.
The highest ranked man that survived the D-Day attacks on Dec. 6th, 1944, McKee led a group of fighter pilots that provided air support to advancing troops in Normandy, France. In an interview with USA Today, he described the view of the ships from high in the sky:
“I could have walked across those ship decks and kept my feet dry all across the English Channel,” McKee said.
McKee flew 69 missions in his P-38 Lightning “My Gal Sal II.” For the time period, this plane was ahead of its time; fast, powerful, and stealthy. With its nose-mounted machine guns blasting 409 rounds per minute at the German Condors, they weren’t quite sure what to make of these twin-tailed monsters at first, giving them the nickname “der Gableschwanz Teufl,” the fork-tailed devil. In fact, the first successful takedown of a German Condor during WWII was by a P-38.
As the fighting moved further inland, the Germans began to use anti-aircraft weaponry and the dogfights in the sky grew even more fierce. McKee said that his plane would take at least one hit in every mission; he even remembered at least 9 missions when his engine was shot out.
McKee, for all of the dangers of being a fighter pilot, said that the threats didn’t phase him much. “I knew I was the best fighter pilot in the war and I was pretty lucky,” he said.
His passion for flying started as a kid in Missouri, while he was marching with the National Guard troops and saw the planes flying high above him. He joined the Army Air Corps initially so that he could afford to get a medical degree, but ended up making the Air Force his career instead.
For all of his accomplishments in the military, McKee had strong feelings on war. He was quoted two years ago, saying:
“I don’t like war. When man has to resort to war to resolve his affairs, he’s reached about his lowest level. We’re back to the caveman days where you grab a club.”
McKee also was not fond of accepting awards – one of the few he did receive was being made a Chevalier in the National Order of the Legion of Honor on his 100th birthday. This is France’s highest honor.
McKee is survived by his wife of 75 years, Sally, three sons, Seth Jr., William, and Thomas, their eight children, and nine great-grandchildren.