Record-Breaking WWII Fighter Pilot Dean Laird Dies At Age 101, According To Family

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Alyssa Blakemore Contributor
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The only known World War II Navy pilot to shoot down both German and Japanese enemy aircraft died Aug. 10, according to the veteran’s family.

Retired Navy Commander Dean “Diz” Laird died in Walnut Creek, California, with family by his side just weeks after embarking on his final flight, CNN reported. The 101-year-old former pilot was joined on a Dream Flights flight by another fighter pilot, Clarence “Bud” Anderson.

Laird’s storied career as a Navy aviator includes 5.75 confirmed planes shot down, according to his obituary on He was also the only Navy ace to down both German and Japanese planes, which earned him the title of “Quintessential Fighter Pilot,” according to a news release from the San Diego Air and Space Museum.

A young Laird joined the Navy in January, 1942, just after Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor, the San Diego Air And Space Museum noted. In his 29 years of service, the Navy ace logged more than 8,000 hours of flight time “in 3,662 jets, 4,623 propeller aircraft, and 520 carrier landings,” according to the museum’s website. Laird also flew in the Korean War and Vietnam War, making 32 trans-Pacific flights, Laird’s daughter told CNN. Laird was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for his achievements, according to the museum’s press release. (RELATED: Legendary Pilot Chuck Yeager Dies At The Age Of 97)

“He truly embodied the spirt of aviation and space exploration which earned him an honored place in the prestigious International Air & Space Hall of Fame,” said President & CEO of the San Diego Air & Space Museum Jim Kidrick. “He proudly served our country in a time of its greatest need, and continued his service for nearly three decades, flying every type of aircraft in the Navy’s ever-evolving arsenal.”