Retired Air Force Colonel and fighter pilot Walter B. (Walt) Forbes, of Kalamazoo, MI took his final flight to the heavens on Saturday, February 3, 2018, dying of natural causes. One of six children, Walt was born to Walter Francis Forbes and Carrie Bernice Guyott, in Niles, MI on February 6, 1924. Soft spoken and unassuming, Col. Forbes easily made friends on his daily walks, most recently at Bronson Hospital, where he loved to flirt with the nurses on his rounds. He also loved sailing at Gull Lake, golfing, playing bridge, a good Scotch, family dinners and reading. Walt was born in Kalamazoo, MI, February 6, 1924 and was a 1942 graduate of State High School in Kalamazoo. After graduation Walt promptly enlisted in the Army Air Corp Aviation Cadet Program at 17 years old, where he quickly demonstrated an ability to fly difficult missions and was sent to the "Top Gun" school. He joined the 48th Army Air Force Fighter Bomber Group in 1943. He went on to graduate from Armed Services Staff College and was an honor graduate of the Air War College. At times Walt's flying skills got him into trouble in the civilian world, like when he flew under the bridge located on the Chicago River in Chicago, Illinois, or when he buzzed a control tower, twenty feet from the controller - upside down. Walt also had the somewhat dubious distinction of receiving the first "reckless flying" ticket in the United States after buzzing Woods Lake in Kalamazoo, flying well under 500 feet. When he landed his plane, a Kalamazoo police officer was there waiting after receiving a complaint from a local resident. This incident followed him in his career, with Walt even being questioned about it during his interview for a staff position for the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the Pentagon. After shipping out to England when he was 19 years old, Walt provided close ground-air support for the Normandy invasion, June 6, 1944, in his P-47 Thunderbolt aircraft named "Gal from Kalamazoo." He went on to complete 72 combat missions over France, Belgium, Holland and Germany prior to the end of World War II. During one mission, while strafing a Nazi troop train, aircraft guns mounted on flatbed cars shot off a portion of his plane's wing and pierced the oil pan, rendering the plane nearly impossible to fly. Using all his skills, Walt managed to hobble back to Allied lines, where bulldozers were starting construction of an airfield. His wing man waved them off and they cleared the field, just as the engine lost all power, forcing Walt to make a dead-stick crash landing. The plane hit hard, causing it to spin out of control, until it finally came to rest. A sergeant rushed to the aircraft, threw open the cockpit cover, and promptly handed Walt an opened bottle of Jack Daniels bourbon. Walt Forbes also tangled with a Luftwaffe Messerschmitt ME-109 and shot it down later that year. In 1948, Col. Forbes was sent to the C-54 school and participated in the Berlin Airlift, after Stalin moved to isolate the city by shutting the border from Allied truck supplies in East Germany. Afterwards, Col. Forbes was based at Randolph Air Force Base as an instructor in T-6 aircraft. He was subsequently assigned to the 1053rd air transport wing and flew frequently to Taiwan, Hawaii, Okinawa, Philippines, Vietnam, Thailand, Saudi Arabia and India, logging over 2600 hours of flight time. He went on to fly combat missions after WWII, in Korea and Vietnam, flying airplanes during his career that included his favorites: the, P-47 "Thunderbolt" he called a"Jug", P-51 "Mustang", F-4 "Phantom", F-86 and the F-100 "Super Sabre." While in Vietnam, Col. Forbes was put in operational control at Nakhon Phanom, Thailand, where he formed the Steel Tiger Task Force, which grew into Task Force Alpha, which was primarily charged with Special Operations infiltration and surveillance. Col. Forbes went on to manage wing operations for the Seventh Air Force. In one engagement, Col. Forbes was cited for his bravery by a Marine captain, whose unit was trying to escape a large force of NVA by crossing a river. Flying a "highly vulnerable" propeller plane, Forbes aggressively attacked the enemy by bombing, then firing rockets in ore runs against them, and finally strafing them with machine guns. Seeing that there were still more Marines that needed to cross the river, Col. Forbes continued 12 times to attack the enemy, without ammunition, flying at extremely low altitude and pursuing the enemy with the propeller of his plane, allowing the American forces to escape and causing the enemy to flee. For that action he was awarded one of his Distinguished Flying Crosses. Walt led the first interdiction against the North Vietnam army along the Ho Chi Minh trail in Laos, which was a top secret mission at that time because it was outside of the country of Vietnam. He flew 67 combat missions in Vietnam. In his final Air Force position, he served on the Air Staff at the Pentagon, working for United States Deputy Secretary of Defense Cyrus Vance and the Joint Chiefs of Staff, before retiring in 1969 and moving back to Kalamazoo. During his career, Col. Forbes was awarded the Legion of Merit, the Distinguished Flying Cross, with Bronze Oak Leaf Cluster, the Legion of Merit, the Air Medal (with 15 Oak Leaf Clusters), the Bronze Star, the Meritorious Service medal and numerous other medals for valor and service. Over his career, he logged 5,100 hours of combat flying time and 9,300 hours of civilian flying time. Walt Forbes was inducted into the Michigan Aviation Hall of Fame in 2009 at the Air Zoo in Kalamazoo, where he also served as a docent from 2004-2009. Walt Forbes married Phyllis Smith with whom he had a daughter, Karen. They divorced in 1974. His second marriage was to Jeanne M. Goodrich, of Richland, MI in 1975, with whom he moved to Niceville, Florida. After 28 years of marriage, Jeanne died in 2003 and Walt returned home to Kalamazoo. In 2004, Walter married Marthe O'Keefe , who survives him. Also surviving him is his sister, Sally (David) Warner of Richland, daughter, Karen (John) Elmore, of Galesburg, stepson William C. Goodrich of Richland, stepdaughters Anne Goodrich of Portage, Susan (Henry) Goodrich Schelter of Fishers, IN, and stepdaughter Sylvia O'Keefe of Troy, as well as several grandchildren and great-grandchildren. He is also survived by nephews Bob and Randy Smith and niece Suzanne. Walt was preceded in death by his parents, second wife Jeanne, and sister Sandra Terry. Burial with full military honors will be held at Ft. Custer National Cemetery at 2:30 pm on April 20, 2018. Further details and memorial contributions in Walt's honor will be announced at a later date.