Ed Rector was born on September 28, 1916, in Marshall, North Carolina. He entered the Naval Aviation Cadet Program on August 3, 1939, and was commissioned an Ensign in the U.S. Navy and designated a Naval Aviator on May 15, 1940. Ens Rector served as a TBD-1 Devastator and SBC-3 Helldiver pilot aboard the aircraft carrier USS Ranger (CV-4) until resigning his commission in order to join the American Volunteer Group (the Flying Tigers) in China on July 6, 1941. He served with the Flying Tigers from August 15, 1941, until the group was disbanded, and he was then commissioned a Maj in the U.S. Army Air Forces on July 19, 1942, and during this time he was credited with the destruction of 4.75 enemy aircraft in aerial combat, plus 1 probable. His next assignment was as Commander of the 76th Fighter Squadron of the 23rd Fighter Group in China from July to December 1942, and during this time he was credited with an additional 2 aerial victories. Lt Col Rector returned to the United States in January 1943, and then served as a Test Pilot and as Commanding Officer of the Light Bomb Section with the 1st Proving Ground Group at Eglin Field, Florida, from June 1943 to October 1944. His next assignment was as Assistant A-3 with the 68th Composite Wing, 14th Air Force, in China from October to December 1944, followed by service as Commander of the 23rd Fighter Group in China from December 1944 to December 1945. During this time he was credited with the destruction of 1 final aerial victory, giving him a total of 7.75 destroyed in air combat, plus 1 probable during World War II. Col Rector served as Officer in Charge of the Chinese Liaison with Headquarters China Theater Army Air Forces from December 1945 to April 1946, and then as Operations and Training Officer and as Assistant Chief of Staff, A-3 with the Air Division Headquarters in Nanking, China, from April 1946 to June 1947. His next assignment was as Assistant Chief of Staff, A-5 with Headquarters Air Defense Command (ADC) at Mitchel Field, New York, from July 1947 to May 1948, followed by service as Chief of the Air Defense Plans Division with ADC at Mitchel AFB from June to November 1948. Col Rector served as Chief of the Defense Plans and Operations Division of ADC from December 1948 to June 1949, and then as Deputy for Operations with ADC from July to August 1949. He was Director of Operations for the Eastern Air Defense Force at Mitchel AFB from September 1949 to February 1950, followed by Armed Forces Staff College at Norfolk, Virginia, from February to July 1950. Col Rector next served as Chief of the Air Defense Division with Headquarters U.S. Air Force in the Pentagon from July 1950 to June 1951, and then as Chief of the Air Section with the Military Assistance and Advisory Group on Taiwan from June 1951 to December 1953. He served as Commander of the 3615th Flying Training Wing at Craig AFB, Alabama, from December 1953 to January 1955, followed by service as Inspector General, Assistant Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations, and then as Vice Commander of Headquarters Flying Training Air Force at Waco, Texas, from January 1955 to August 1957. Col Rector attended National War College in Washington, D.C., from August 1957 to July 1958, and then served as Chief of the Organizational Division and then Chief of the Policy and Procedures Division in the Office of Manpower and Organization with Headquarters U.S. Air Force in the Pentagon from July 1958 to September 1959. His final assignment was as Deputy Director of the Office Manpower and Organization with Headquarters U.S. Air Force from October 1959 until his retirement from the Air Force on November 1, 1962. Ed Rector died on April 26, 2001, and was buried at Arlington National Cemetery.
His 1st (of 2) Distinguished Flying Cross Citation reads:
On September 25, 1942, Major Rector took off from the airdrome at Kunming, China, leading a flight of nine fighters as escort for a bomber formation which was to attack the airdrome at Hanoi, Indo-China. Upon arrival at Hanoi, interception was made by twelve I-45 twin engine, and four single seater fighters. Major Rector led his flight immediately to the attack as the enemy dove in to close on our bombers. In the first minute of fighting, Major Rector personally destroyed one of the enemy planes, and later alone attacked three separate enemy flights of two fighters each. He either destroyed or damaged two of these enemy aircraft. Major Rector was then far behind the enemy lines and near the extreme operating range of his fighter plane. He then directed the other members of his flight, by means of his radio, to guard closely the bombers as they flew back to Kunming, while he remained over the target and continued the engagement. Thus fighting a single handed rear guard action in which he twice fought off two flights of enemy fighters, he gave his less experienced pilots a chance to break combat with enough remaining gas to reach the home airdrome, and they landed safely at Kunming without serious damage. His extraordinary heroism and leadership in this air action were an inspiration to the members of his squadron and worthy of the highest traditions of the service.