Colonel Steve N. Pisanos
November 10, 1919 - June 6, 2016 San Diego
I was born in Athens, Spiros Nicholas "Steve" Pisanos. Coming to America in 1938, as a crew member on a Greek merchant ship and unable to speak English, I got a job in New York and earned money to start flying lessons to fulfill my boyhood dream to become an aviator.
Still a Greek national, in October 1941 I joined the British Royal Air Force's 71 Eagle Squadron, one of three Eagle squadrons in the RAF, comprised of American volunteers. The USAAF 4th Fighter Group absorbed the American members of the Eagle Squadrons in September 1942. On 3 May 1943, I was naturalized as an American citizen in London, England, becoming the first individual in American history to be naturalized outside the Continental United States.
On 5 March 1944, I obtained my 10th aerial victory and while returning from a B-17 escort mission, crash-landed south of Le Havre. For six months, I evaded the enemy and worked with the French Resistance. Returning to the United States, I was assigned to the Flight Test Division at Wright Field, Ohio and subsequently served as a test pilot testing the YP-80 jet aircraft.
During my career in the USAF, I graduated from the University of Maryland, attended the Air Command and Staff College and the Air War College. In December 1973, after a distinguished thirty years of service in the United States Air Force, I retired with the rank of Colonel. [457th 1967]
On September 26, 2003 I was inducted into the Commemorative Air Force's American Combat Airman Hall of Fame and on October 25, 2008 into the San Diego Air & Space Museum's International Aerospace Hall of Fame, and made a Chevalier of the French Legion of Honor in September of 2009.
On June 30, 1946 I married the love of my life Sophie. As a result of 66 years of marriage, we leave our two children son Jeffrey (Carol) and daughter Diane (Richard) and grandchildren Brandon Pisanos and Nicole Wells, and great-grandchildren Baron and MacKenzie Wells.
I am incredibly grateful to America beyond imagination, and always will be. I thank the Army Air Force that ruled the sky over Europe in WWII and the USAF that gave me the most satisfying years of my life.
And from the bottom of my heart, I can sincerely say that I am proud to be an American, and even though I have taken my uniform off, I am always ready to wear it again and march forward to defend the United States of America against all enemies. I love you, America, and always will.
The church service took place at Saints Constantine and Helen Greek Orthodox Church, 3459 Manchester Ave., Cardiff, CA 92007, at 10:00 am, June 30, 2016.
Burial was at the Miramar National Cemetery at 12:30 with full military honors. A reception will follow at the San Diego Air & Space Museum, 2001 Pan American Plz, San Diego, CA.
In lieu of flowers, donations are suggested to Saints Constantine and Helen Greek Orthodox Church, 3459 Manchester Ave., Cardiff, CA 92007, or the San Diego Air & Space Museum, 2001 Pan American Plz., San Diego.
Published in The San Diego Union Tribune on June 19,2016