This page is in Honor and Memory of Lt. Col. Gene Earl “Tornado” Jackson and his impressive USAF career.
Gene Earl Jackson was born September 20, 1946 in Nacogdoches County, Texas, the son of Louise and Joe Jackson
On January 14, 1967, Gene married Donna Ray Buchanan in Denton County, Texas. Shortly thereafter, Gene entered USAF on September 11, 1967. On September 1, 1970, Gene and Donna were divorced in Jefferson County, Texas.
In 1969, after attending Undergraduate Pilot Training, F-4 Replacement Training, Air Force Survival Training and Jungle Survival Training, Captain Jackson was assigned to the 433rd Tactical Fighter Squadron ‘Satan’s Angles’, 8th Tactical Fighter Wing, Ubon Royal Thai Air Force Base in Thailand flying the McDonnell Douglas F-4D, Phantom II. Part way through his tour, he volunteered for and became a Wolf FAC Aircraft Commander.
On June 8, 1975, Gene Earl Jackson and Nelda Delores Gilbert, a semi-pro bowler, were married in Clark County, Nevada. They had three children, their two sons are, Craig J. Jackson, and Jackie Jackson.
As a Major, Gene graduated from the Air Command and Staff College at Maxwell Air Force Base (AFB), Montgomery, Alabama.
In 1979 and 1980, Gene ‘Tornado’ was assigned to the 22nd Tactical Fighter Squadron, 36th Tactical Fighter Wing, Bitburg Air Force Base, Bitburg, Germany. And later on to the 32nd Tactical Fighter Squadron, Soesterberg AB, The Netherlands
At various times during his career Gene was also stationed at Nellis AFB, Las Vegas, Nevada and Langley Air Force Base, Hampton, Virginia.
In 1987, Gene was assigned to the 9th Tactical Fighter Squadron, 49th Tactical Fighter Wing, Holloman ABF, New Mexico flying the F-15A ‘Eagle’.
On March 9, 1987, Gene was taking off in F-15A, sn 77-075, when a rudder malfunction caused an uncommanded roll. It is believed one of the Aileron-Rudder Interconnect hydro-mechanical units failed. Reportedly he was told to eject on several occasions, but refused, stating the aircraft was too unstable and every time he released the controls, the aircraft started rolling towards base housing. He fought the aircraft until it was no longer a threat to anyone, but was unable to eject in time to save his own life
Twenty three years later the following was published in the Lufkin Daily News, on November 11, 2010;
An unexpected letter reminded a former Lufkin man of the impact his brother’s military death made more than 20 years ago. Refusing to eject out of a doomed fighter jet, Air Force Lt. Col. Gene Jackson protected the lives of others on the ground at the price of his own.
When Jackie Jackson came home to see a letter addressed to his mother who died 12 years ago, he thought there must be some sort of mistake. It sat untouched for more than a month before Jackson and his father, Joe, of Lufkin, opened it.
The letter sent by a man named James Maddox from Palmyra, N.Y., read:
“Dear Louise Jackson,
I was stationed at Holloman Air Force Base on March 9, 1987, when your son, Gene Jackson, died heroically. He was told to eject from his F-15, but he refused, stating the aircraft was too unstable and every time he released the controls, the aircraft started rolling towards base housing. He fought the aircraft until it was no longer a threat to anyone, but was unable to eject in time to save his own life. I consider him a hero.
Ms. Jackson, I was there in front of my base housing that day. I saw it happen. His F-15 touched the roof of my house when he was holding on. One of the lives he saved was my own life.
I think about it every day. I do not consider myself worthy enough for him to have given his own life. I have ‘survivor’s guilt’ so badly. I am so sorry about the loss of your son.
I have guilt that he died so heroically. I am grateful to still have my life, but I feel guilty every day that he died instead of me. Even though your son was a Lt. Col, he was the only officer I ever met that respected the Air Force enlisted people.
He would talk to me without talking down to me like other pilots. He treated me with respect and care. I have the highest respect for Lt. Col. Gene Jackson.
Thanks for raising a true American hero,
Jackie Jackson said he and his father were truly touched by the letter. While they have long since came to terms with Gene’s death, they were touched someone would be thoughtful enough to thank the family of someone who gave everything. Gene left behind a wife and three small children…