Ruiz, Eugene L. (P2, C4, L3)
First Lieutenant Eugene Louis Ruiz, 28, of Louisville, Jefferson County, died on 2 July 1951 when his aircraft was shot down in Korea while on federal active duty. Ruiz was the first combat casualty of the Kentucky Air National Guard.
First Lieutenant Eugene Louis Ruiz was called to federal active duty while serving in the Kentucky Air National Guard. He entered the U.S. Air Force from Kentucky and served with the 45th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron, 67th Tactical Reconnaissance Group.
On July 2, 1951, Ruiz piloted an F-51D Mustang (tail number 44-73842) that took off from Taegu (K-2) Air Base, South Korea, as the lead plane on a two-aircraft combat mission to an enemy target in what was known as the "I Corps Area.” While en route to the target, the flight was diverted to assist in the rescue of a downed pilot. Once the pilot was rescued, 1Lt Ruiz and his wingman turned north along the Imjin River. After following the river for about ten minutes, 1Lt Ruiz's wingman saw large flames erupt from 1LT Ruiz's cockpit. The wingman radioed for 1Lt Ruiz to bail out, but there was no reply, and 1st Lt Ruiz's F-51D went into a dive and exploded on impact near Kwihyo Dong, North Korea. The wingman saw no indication that 1LT Ruiz attempted to bail out prior to the crash, and his observation of the crash site found no sign of 1LT Ruiz moving away from the site on the ground. All indications were that 1st Lt Ruiz did not survive the crash. No returning POWs mentioned having contact with 1st Lt Ruiz, nor was he seen at any known holding point, interrogation center, hospital, or permanent POW camp. He remains unaccounted-for.
He is honored among the Courts of the Missing at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, known as the “Punchbowl” located in Honolulu, Hawaii. He is also honored on the National Korean War Veterans Memorial in Washington, D. C.
Ruiz's award and decorations include the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Air Medal, the Purple Heart, the Korean Service Medal, the United Nations Service Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, the Korean Presidential Unit Citation and the Republic of Korea War Service Medal.
Louisville Fighter Pilot
Downed Behind Lines
The Courier-Journal Louisville, Kentucky 17 Jul 1951, Tue · Page 8
Firs Lt. Eugene L. Ruiz husband of Mrs. Willie M. Ruiz 6414 Southside Drive was shot down behind enemy lines in Korea July 2. A fighter pilot he was as a member of the Kentucky Air National Guard that was called in to federal service three months ago.
Mrs. Ruiz, who is expecting a baby within two weeks, was notified her husband went down his burning plane. There still was hope he might have survived. A companion pilot, however reported he was unable to see any sigh of life near the wreckage.
Piloted Glider In (World) War II
Ruiz, a native of Santa Barbra. Cal., had been here since World War II. He was a glider pilot in th China-Burma- India
Theatre during the war. He won the Air Medal in that war and again in Korea.
Other Kentucky casualties listed yesterday by the Offense Department included two men injured in accidents. They were
Sfc. James F. Ashby, husband of Mrs. Jonelle Ashby, Oak Grove, and Pvt. John D. Lewis, son of Mrs. Eugene Lewis, Sr., Wheelwright. Sfc. William E. Tuggle, brother of Wayland M. Tuggle, Alpha, previously injured , was returned to duty.
The bodies of 11 Kentuckians who lost their lives in Korea are among 451 Americans now being returned aboard the Furman Victory.