Brigadier General Emmett John Whalen, 92, passed away August 19, 2017 in Great Falls, Montana.
Emmett (E.J.) was a humble man of great accomplishment who left a lasting mark on a wide spectrum of people. His was a life well lived.
Born Dec. 1, 1924 in Helena, Montana, E.J. was raised in the Deer Lodge Valley east of Anaconda, Montana from 1926–1942.
He attended the one-room Lost Creek County School and elementary and high school in Anaconda.
In 1942, E.J. began a 41-year career as a military pilot.
After WWII he joined the Montana Air National Guard (MANG) in ‘49 and became a fighter pilot. E.J. started in a P51 (his favorite plane) and flew the F86, F89, F102, and F106 (400 mph to 1,400 mph).
E.J. loved the 120th and served as Group Commander from 1965-79. He had deep respect for the unit and took great pride in the members of the MANG and what they accomplished, including: the Distinguished Flying Unit Award ’70, ’77, ’79, ’80; the Air Force Outstanding Unit Award ‘75, ’81; the Spatz Trophy ’75; first place in the William Tell Competition ’74, ‘76 and second place* in ‘78.
E.J.went full time with the MANG in ’72 and completed his career serving as Assistant Adjutant General from 1979-84, making him one of the last WWII pilots who was still flying in the military. E.J. received the Legion of Merit, authorized by an act of U.S. Congress, in ’84.
In E.J.’s final days he was honored with the Distinguished Service Medal at MANG’s 70th Anniversary in July 2017. He was happy.