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Col. Fred J. Federici, Jr. USAF (Ret.)

November 25, 1935 ~ February 14, 2024 (age 88) 88 Years Old

Col. Fred J. Federici, Jr. USAF (Ret.) Obituary

Colonel Fred J. Federici Jr., USAF (Ret.), 88, of Lake Ridge passed away in Strasburg, Virginia on February 14, 2024.  He was a decorated veteran who served in Vietnam and retired after 30 years on active duty.  

He was born in 1935, in Albuquerque, New Mexico to Fred J Federici Sr and Anna S Federici.  He graduated from Raton High School in 1953 and was appointed to the United States Naval Academy (USNA) where he excelled academically, played on the tennis team and sang in the Catholic Choir and Glee Club, performing with the latter on the Ed Sullivan Show.  

Commissioned in the Air Force in 1957, he was assigned to Strategic Air Command (SAC) as a B-47 pilot in 1958.  After transitioning to B-52s in the early 1960s, his crew flew the first H model into Homestead AFB, Florida.  During the Cuban Missile Crisis and later, he participated in Operation Chrome Dome, where nuclear armed B-52s remained on 24-hour continuous airborne alert.  According to the Homestead Reserve Air Force Base history, in 1962, his crew, in B-52H “Homestead’s Hesperides X” broke a world record for distance in a closed course without landing or refueling.

He earned a Master of Science in Applied Mathematics from NC State University in 1967, after which he taught mathematics at the Air Force Academy (USAFA).  He deployed to Vietnam from January 1970 to April 1971.  In Vietnam, he served as a C-7A Caribou Aircraft Commander and Wing Officer Controller in the 457th Tactical Airlift Squadron (TAS)/483rd Tactical Airlift Wing (TAW) at Cam Ranh Bay AB, RVN, flying 110 combat missions, often in adverse weather into marginal landing areas and frequently under fire, and receiving a Distinguished Flying Cross, multiple Air Medals and a Bronze Star.  He was awarded his second Air Medal after courageously and repeatedly landing under enemy fire to rescue and evacuate Cambodian refugees from Bang Lung, Cambodia as part of the Cambodian Sanctuary Operation.  His Bronze Star was earned, in part, for actions in response to rocket and sapper attacks that saved lives and equipment at Cam Ranh AB.  He also coordinated the successful evacuation of the Wing’s Caribous during two typhoons that resulted in minimal aircraft damage and no missed or delayed air combat missions.  He ended his flying career with 4,500 hours of flying experience in the B-52, B-47, C-7A, T-29, and T-33.  

Post-Vietnam, he resumed teaching mathematics at the USAFA, while also volunteering as a flight instructor.  As the Math Department’s personnel officer, he was instrumental in recruiting the first female mathematics instructors after correctly anticipating that the Military Academies would soon welcome their first female cadets. 

From 1974 to1977, Colonel Federici was assigned to the Pentagon where he helped develop the B-52 multi-mission concept to improve U.S. conventional capabilities worldwide.  He was later selected to represent the Secretary of the Air Force on critical issues on Capitol Hill as part of the Secretary’s Office of Legislative Liaison.  

In 1978, Colonel Federici was assigned to the Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE), in Belgium, where he helped develop strategic plans and policy for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) during the height of the Cold War.  In 1981, he was selected as Commandant of the NATO School, located in the beautiful alpine village of Oberammergau, Germany.  Outgoing and always quick to make a lifelong friend, he helped establish the International Friendship Club in Oberammergau that is still ongoing.  Colonel Federici’s final assignment was as the United States European Command (USEUCOM) liaison officer to NATO’s Headquarters, Allied Forces Central Europe (AFCENT) in Brunssum, Netherlands.  During this last assignment, he worked the entire spectrum of political and military affairs facing the United States and NATO, resulting in him being recognized as a “Chevalier” of International Diplomacy.  

Colonel Federici retired in June 1987.  His final decorations include the Defense Superior Service Medal, Distinguish Flying Cross, Bronze Star, Defense Meritorious Service Medal, Meritorious Service Medal, Air Medal, Air Force Commendation Medal, Joint Service Commendation Medal, Presidential Unit Citation, Air Force Outstanding Unit Award with Valor, the Vietnam Gallantry Cross and Bundeswehr Cross of Honor (in Silver).  

His USNA Yearbook described him as having “one of the biggest, friendliest hearts at the Academy.  He was always around when one needed a friend.”  That remained true throughout his life.  
Fred enjoyed playing golf, tennis and piano and was an avid reader.  

He married the former Virginia (Jinny) Zirkle on December 22, 1959, at the Naval Chapel in Washington, D.C.  At the time of his passing, they had been married for 64 years.  

A caring and generous husband and father, he will be greatly missed by Jinny, their children, Tara (Jeff), Fred III (Karen) and Todd (Erin) and seven grandchildren; his sister-in-law, Sara Zirkle; and his extended family in New Mexico and Colorado.  

Interment at Arlington National Cemetery will be on a date yet to be determined.  In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made in his memory to support Servicemembers and families in need through the Air Force Aid Society (afas.org).  

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