Fred Cherry was born on March 24, 1928, in Suffolk, Virginia. He enlisted in the Aviation Cadet Program of the U.S. Air Force on June 29, 1951, and was commissioned a 2d Lt and awarded his pilot wings at Webb AFB, Texas, on October 25, 1952. After completing F-84 Thunderjet Combat Crew Training, Lt Cherry served with the 310th Fighter-Bomber Squadron of the 58th Fighter-Bomber Wing at Teagu AB, South Korea, from January to December 1953, followed by service with the 407th Strategic Fighter Squadron from January 1954 to August 1955. Capt Cherry served with the 515th Strategic Fighter Squadron at Malmstrom AFB, Montana, from September 1955 to June 1957, and then served as a ferry pilot with the 1737th Ferry Squadron at Dover AFB, Delaware, from June 1957 to February 1958. His next assignment was with the 458th Fighter-Bomber Squadron (later redesignated the 458th Tactical Fighter Squadron) at Tinker AFB, Oklahoma, from February 1958 to April 1959. During this time he deployed with the unit to Ramstein AB, West Germany, from August 1958 to February 1959. Capt Cherry served as a gunnery instructor pilot with the 4515th Combat Crew Training Squadron at Luke AFB, Arizona, from April 1959 to February 1961, followed by service as an F-100 Super Sabre and F-105 Thunderchief pilot with the 35th Tactical Fighter Squadron at Itazuke AB and Yokota AB, Japan, from February 1961 until he was forced to eject over North Vietnam while deployed on temporary duty to Southeast Asia on October 22, 1965. After spending 2,671 days in captivity, Col Cherry was released during Operation Homecoming on February 12, 1973. He attended the National War College in Washington, D.C., from February 1973 to June 1974, and then attended the Defense Intelligence School from June 1974 to June 1975. His final assignment was as a joint staff officer with the Defense Intelligence Agency from June 1975 until his retirement from the Air Force on September 1, 1981. Fred Cherry died on February 16, 2016, and was buried at Arlington National Cemetery.
His Air Force Cross Citation reads:
he President of the United States of America, authorized by Title 10, Section 8742, United States Code, takes pleasure in presenting the Air Force Cross to Colonel Fred Vann Cherry, United States Air Force, for extraordinary heroism in military operations against an opposing armed force as a Prisoner of War in North Vietnam from 15 August 1967 to 15 November 1967. During this period, Colonel Cherry demonstrated his extremely strong personal fortitude and maximum persistence in the face of severe enemy harassment and torture, suffering critical injuries and wounds. Through his extraordinary heroism and willpower, in the face of the enemy, Colonel Cherry reflected the highest credit upon himself and the United States Air Force.