Gerald Gustafson was born on September 14, 1928, in St. Peter Minnesota. He enlisted in the U.S. Air Force on November 6, 1950, and after completing basic training, he attended Electronic Fundamentals training, B-45 Tornado and B-47 Stratojet Gun Laying Radar training, and B-36 Peacemaker Turret Systems Mechanic training. His first assignment was as a B-36 Turret Systems Mechanic from June to September 1952, followed by Aviation Cadet training as an Aircraft Observer/Navigator from September 1952 to September 1953, having received his commission as a 2d Lt on July 27, 1953. After attending additional Aircraft Observer Technical training, he was assigned to flight testing at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio, from April 1954 to April 1955, followed by pilot training from April 1955 to April 1956, receiving his pilot wings at Laredo AFB, Texas. Lt Gustafson next completed F-86 Sabre Combat Crew Training in September 1956, and then served as an F-86 and F-102 Delta Dagger pilot with the 325th Fighter Interceptor Squadron at Truax Field, Wisconsin, from October 1956 to May 1959. His next assignment was as an F-102 pilot with the 327th Fighter Interceptor Squadron at Thule AB, Greenland, from May 1959 to March 1960, followed by service as an instructor pilot with the 3558th Flying Training Squadron at Perrin AFB, Texas, from April 1960 to June 1962. Capt Gustafson then served as an instructor pilot with the 4782nd Combat Crew Training Squadron at Perrin AFB from July 1962 to March 1963, and on the staff of the 4780th Air Defense Wing at Perrin AFB from March 1963 to March 1964. His next assignment was as an F-106 Delta Dart pilot with the 438th Fighter Interceptor Squadron at Kincheloe AFB, Michigan, from March 1964 to December 1966. After completing F-105 Thunderchief Combat Crew Training, Maj Gustafson served as an F-105 pilot with the 333rd Tactical Fighter Squadron at Takhli Royal Thai AFB, Thailand, from July 1967 to January 1968, and then on the staff of the 355th Tactical Fighter Wing at Takhli from January to May 1968. His next assignment was as an operations officer with the 313th Air Division at Kadena AB, Okinawa, from May 1968 to May 1969, followed by service on the staff of Headquarters 5th Air Force at Fuchu AS, Japan, from May 1969 to July 1971. He attended National War College at Fort McNair, Washington, D.C., from August 1971 to July 1972, and then served on the staff of Headquarters U.S. Air Force in the Pentagon from July 1972 to July 1974. Col Gustafson's final assignment was as Commander of the Air Force ROTC detachment at the University of Maryland in College Park, Maryland, from July 1974 until his retirement from the Air Force on July 1, 1978.
His Air Force Cross Citation reads:
The President of the United States of America, authorized by Title 10, Section 8742, United States Code, awards the Air Force Cross to Major Gerald C. Gustafson for extraordinary heroism in military operations against an opposing armed force as an F-105 Aircraft Commander over North Vietnam on 19 November 1967. On that date, Major Gustafson's aircraft was severely damaged by a surface-to-air missile while he was assisting another pilot who had received battle damage and had been wounded. Major Gustafson refused to leave his comrade until other escort aircraft could be vectored in to give the wounded pilot assistance in reaching his home base safely. Only then did Major Gustafson egress to a safer area where he was forced to eject from his own stricken aircraft. Through his extraordinary heroism, superb airmanship, and aggressiveness, Major Gustafson reflected the highest credit upon himself and the United States Air Force.