Major General Michael J. Ingelido, who died on April 28 after suffering a stroke, was the veteran of 195 combat missions during the Second World War flying fighter aircraft, and commanded the 2nd and 412th Fighter Squadrons between June 1942 and June 1945. He personally destroyed four German planes, with a share in another, in aerial combat, and 16 more on the ground. He was 98.
During his distinguished wartime service, Ingelido gained a swathe of decorations, including the Distinguished Service Cross, the Distinguished Service Medal, the Silver Star with oak leaf cluster, the Distinguished Flying Cross with oak leaf cluster, the Bronze Star and the Legion of Merit. His Air Medal had 20 oak leaf clusters. His British allies appointed him an Officer of the Order of the British Empire, and the French and Belgian governments both presented him with the Croix de Guerre.
Ingelido described one early encounter with a Junkers 88 in the skies over France. He was above Creil, in the Oise, Picardy, at 7:05 p.m. on April 20, 1944 while on a dive-bombing raid with the 367th Fighter Squadron of 358th Fighter Group. He had just released his payload when he noticed his group leader, Charcoal, “diving on a light colored twin-engine ship at about 800 feet.”
He quickly followed, but realized he was closing too rapidly. “I chopped my throttle and closed in while the rear gunner of the enemy aircraft (JU-88) began firing. At about 500 yards I opened fire and continued fire to about 200 yards at which time the return fire had ceased and the right engine apparently exploded as a great deal of black oil and debris came back and covered the leading edges of my plane from wing-tip to wing-tip with dirty oil.”
Blinded by the oil now covering the front of his canopy, Major Ingelido broke sharply up and to the right. “I climbed to about 4,000 feet as I kicked rudder violently and searched for enemy aircraft to the rear or above,” he wrote in his encounter report. “I leveled off and circled and observed the enemy aircraft in a shallow dive toward the ground and ready to crash.” He then observed two P-47s diving on the aircraft, though neither struck it before it “hit the ground and burst into flames”. He laconically concluded: “I claim one JU-88 destroyed.”
He had already claimed a share of an enemy aircraft in aerial combat while stationed in Iceland between June 1942 and June 1943, where he flew the P-40 Warhawk and the P-39 Airacobra; his missions over northern France brought him four (and one damaged) in the skies. His primary responsibility, strafing enemy airfields, notched him up another 16 enemy craft on the ground.
These raids were exhausting and exceptionally dangerous. The citation for his Distinguished Service Cross, for “extreme heroism against the enemy over the Brest peninsula, 31 August 1944” noted that Lieutenant Colonel Ingelido had “led his squadron through extremely severe weather and terrific hostile ground fire on three separate bomb raids in an attempt to destroy his target.”
His own plane had been hit by enemy fire “numerous times,” but Ingelido decided to make one further run, in order to mark out the heavily defended field for another squadron’s attack. The citation concluded that his “determination, coolness and courage” reflected “the highest credit upon himself and the Armed Forces of the United States.”
Michael Joseph Ingelido was born on Nov. 20, 1916, in Meriden, Conn., the eldest child of Daniel and Maria Ingelido, and grew up in Southington with his four younger sisters. He graduated from Central Connecticut State College in 1937 and went to work as a high school teacher. In 1941 he joined the U.S. Army Air Corp as an Aviation Cadet, then graduated as a 2nd Lieutenant, gaining his wings at Maxwell Field, Ala., on Sept. 27, 1941. Two weeks before the attack on Pearl Harbor, he married his wife, Elinor Affinito.
Ingelido was already in the midst of fighter training, and was posted to Iceland before a brief return to the U.S. But he was soon deployed in England, flying the P-47 Thunderbolt and, on occasion, British Spitfires. From March 1944 to June 1945, he commanded the 412th Fighter Squadron of the 373rd Fighter Group.
After the end of the war in Europe, Colonel Ingelido stayed on in Germany, commanding the 86th Fighter Group and the 70th Fighter Wing. For two years from June 1949, he served with the Weapons Systems Evaluation Group in Washington, DC. He then supervised test flights at the Air Force Cambridge Research Center, of which he was vice-commander from 1951 to 1954. After a spell back at Maxwell Field at Air War College, he became director of operations for Far East Air Forces, first in Tokyo, and from 1957-59 was stationed in Hawaii.
The following year he joined the Joint Chiefs of Staff, serving as secretary until 1964, when he became inspector general of the Air Defense Command in Colorado. From 1966-67 he was vice-commander of Thirteenth Air Force (PACAF) at Clark Air Base in the Philippines before a stint as deputy chief of staff for Aerospace Defense Command at Ent Air Base, back in Colorado. His final post was also there, as commander of Fourteenth Aerospace Force from 1969 until his retirement, in the rank of Major-General, in September 1972.
Ingelido stayed in the area after retiring and involved himself with a number of local charities around Colorado Springs, including the Red Cross, the Air Force Association and St Paul’s Catholic Church. He was a keen golfer, playing at the Broadmoor and local military bases.
He is survived by his wife of 73 years and their three sons.