John Alpers was born on September 7, 1939, in Richmond, Virginia. He enlisted in the U.S. Coast Guard Reserve on April 19, 1961, and served on active duty for training from May 2 to October 26, 1961. He received an honorable discharge from the Coast Guard on June 20, 1963, enlisted in the U.S. Air Force Reserve on June 21, 1963, and received a commission as a 2d Lt through the Air Force ROTC program at the University of Colorado on January 29, 1964. Lt Alpers went on active duty in the Air Force beginning February 28, 1964, and served as a Weapons System Security Officer with the 451st Strategic Missile Wing at Lowry AFB, Colorado, from February 1964 to May 1965. He then attended Undergraduate Navigator Training, receiving his Navigator Wings at James Connally AFB, Texas, in April 1966, followed by B-52 Stratofortress Navigator Bombardier Training at Mather AFB, California, from April 1966 to March 1967. His next assignment was as a B-52 radar-navigator with the 60th Bomb Squadron at Ramey AFB, Puerto Rico, from March 1967 to May 1970, and then F-4 Phantom II Combat Crew Training from May to November 1970. Capt Alpers deployed to Southeast Asia as an F-4 Weapon Systems Officer (WSO) with the 435th Tactical Fighter Squadron at Ubon Royal Thai AFB, Thailand, from January to April 1971, and then was hospitalized at Fitzsimons General Hospital in Denver, Colorado, from April to September 1971. His next assignment was as an F-4 WSO with the 335th Tactical Fighter Squadron at Seymour Johnson AFB, North Carolina, from September 1971 until he was forced to eject over North Vietnam and was taken as a Prisoner of War while on temporary duty to Vietnam on October 5, 1972. After spending 176 days in captivity, Capt Alpers was released during Operation Homecoming on March 29, 1973, and then was briefly hospitalized to recover from his injuries at Andrews AFB, Maryland. He served as an Air Operations Controller with the 4th Tactical Fighter Wing at Seymour Johnson AFB from October 1973 to March 1974, followed by service as Assistant Professor of Aerospace Studies with the Air Force ROTC program at the University of Arizona, from March 1974 to June 1978. Col Alpers' final assignment was with the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado, where he served as Deputy Commander of the Navigation Department from June 1978 to June 1979, with the Commandant's Training Shop from June 1979 to June 1980, with the Psychology Department from June 1980 to June 1981, as Deputy Commander of the Plans & Policy Shop from June 1981 to June 1982, and finally as Commander of the Plans & Policy Shop from June 1982 until his retirement from the Air Force on October 1, 1983. After retiring from the Air Force, John founded Gateway Financial Strategies, LLC, a $35 Million financial planning and asset management company, now run by his son, John H. Alpers, III. He raced vintage Porsche race cars from 2003 until 2015. John Alpers died on August 6, 2015.
His 2nd Distinguished Flying Cross Citation reads:
Captain John H. Alpers Jr. distinguished himself by extraordinary achievement while participating in aerial flight as an F4D Weapon Systems Operator in Southeast Asia on 19 March 1971. On that date, Captain Alpers flew a critical mission in support of friendly forces. With complete disregard for his own personal safety, Captain Alpers made multiple ordnance deliveries at perilously low altitudes to destroy a heavy armored tank and its crew, thereby preventing great loss of life to allied personnel facing this hostile threat. The professional competence, aerial skill, and devotion to duty displayed by Captain Alpers reflect great credit upon himself and the United States Air Force.