Retired Col. Steve Pisanos, a World War II ace who was decorated by four nations, has died, his family confirmed through the San Diego Air and Space Museum on June 9. Pisanos was 96. Born in Athens, Greece, Pisanos [sometimes spelled Pissanos] came to the United States in 1938. He joined the British Royal Air Force in 1941 and served with an Eagle Squadron until American members were absorbed by the US Army Air Forces 4th Fighter Group. Pisanos was then commissioned a USAAF lieutenant. On May 3, 1942, Pisanos became an American citizen during a ceremony in London, England, making him the first American to be naturalized outside the Continental United States. Dubbed “The Flying Greek,” Pisanos downed a German FW-190 over Ghent, Belgium, on May 21, 1943. It was his first victory and his first P-47 mission, according to a National Museum of the US Air Force release. Pisanos became an ace on Jan. 1, 1944, with five confirmed kills. On March 5, 1944, his P-51 experienced engine failure and crash-landed south of Le Havre, France, while returning from a B-17 escort mission. Pisanos escaped German capture for six months by working with the French Resistance. He returned to England in 1944 after the liberation of Paris. After returning to the US, Pisanos was assigned to the Flight Test Division at Wright Field, Ohio. He later served as a test pilot for the YP-80 jet. He retired from the Air Force in December 1973 after more than 30 years in uniform. Pisanos is the recipient of three Legions of Merit, five Distinguished Flying Crosses, the Purple Heart, as well as awards from Britain and the Republic of Vietnam, according to the San Diego museum.
U.S. Air Force F-35s and F-22s regularly deploy deep into the Pacific region from Alaska, Utah, and Hawaii. In the future, though, the head of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command would like to see the Air Force permanently station fifth-generation aircraft west of the international date line—closer to China.