Richard Candelaria was born on July 14, 1922, in Pasadena, California. He enlisted in the Aviation Cadet Program of the U.S. Army Air Forces on January 22, 1943, and was commissioned a 2d Lt and awarded his pilot wings at Williams Field, Arizona, on February 8, 1944. After completing P-51 Mustang transition training, Lt Candelaria served with the 435th Fighter Squadron of the 479th Fighter Group in England from September 1944 until he was shot down by flak on April 13, 1945. He evaded capture for 10 days before being taken as a Prisoner of War by the Germans on April 23, 1945. Lt Candelaria was repatriated a few weeks later when the war in Europe ended. During World War II he was credited with the destruction of 6 enemy aircraft in aerial combat, plus one probable (an Me-262 jet fighter). He left active duty on May 1, 1946, and served in the Air Force Reserve until joining the California Air National Guard
(ANY) on April 27, 1950. Major Candelaria served as an F-51 Mustang pilot with the 195th Fighter Squadron of the California ANG at Van Nuys ANG Base from April 1950 to December 1952, and then with the 115th Fighter Squadron at Van Nuys from January to June 1953. Lt Col Candelaria's next assignment was as Assistant Air Operations Officer for the 146th Fighter-Bomber Wing at Van Nuys from July 1953 to January 1955, and then as Commander of the 8195th Replacement Training Squadron at Van Nuys from February 1955 to June 1957. He served as an F-86 Sabre pilot and Assistant Air Operations Officer for the 195th Fighter Interceptor Squadron at Van Nuys from July 1957 to April 1958, followed by service as Flying Safety Officer for the 146th Fighter Interceptor Wing (later redesignated the 146th Air Transport Wing) at Van Nuys from April 1958 to July 1960. His final assignment with the California ANG was as Plans and Programs Officer for the 146th Air Transport Wing at Van Nuys from July 1960 until he transferred to the Air Force Reserve on October 20, 1960. Colonel Candelaria retired from the Air Force Reserve on June 15, 1964.
His Silver Star Citation reads
For gallantry in action while escorting heavy bombers over Germany, 7 April 1945. When adverse weather caused Captain Candelaria to become separated from his Squadron, he continued on alone to rendezvous with the bombers. Observing two (2) ME-262 jets attacking the formation, he intercepted and dispersed them, probably destroying one (1) of the fighters. Still alone, and completely ignoring the odds and personal danger, Captain Candelaria attacked approximately fifteen (15) hostile fighters. Selecting the lead plane for his initial target, he shot it down in flames and then gallantly engaged the remaining aircraft until assistance arrived. Captain Candelaria's courage, tenacity of purpose, and determination to destroy the enemy at any cost are borne out by the fact that during this action he shot down four (4) ME-109's, thus preventing serious damage being inflicted on the bombers.