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Antonio Bautista

Filipino Philippine Air Force

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Commandant17 #1 Posted 27 May 2013 - 06:26 AM

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Antonio M. Bautista (September 17, 1937– January 11, 1974) was a Filipino pilot of the Philippine Air Force.
Colonel Antonio "Tony" Marfori Bautista was a pilot of the Philippine Air Force (PAF) and died in action in 1974. In the early 1960s, generally known as the PAF's Glory Days, he was squadron commander to one of the PAF's aerial acrobatic teams, the Golden Sabres. His skills and sheer audacity with the F-86 Sabre jets, delighted fans and audiences anywhere his group put up an air show. He also became a member of the famed Blue Diamonds (aerobatic team), the Philippine's own International Aerial Acrobatic Team.
Antonio Bautista is best remembered for his final combat Mission against a rebel uprising on January 9, 1974. As Commander of the 9th Tactical Fighter Squadron, 5th Fighter Wing, he had already flown over 200 successful combat missions for the Air Force, when his squadron was ordered to provide close air support to government ground forces engaged in anti-insurgent operations in Jolo. As he had so often done before, he personally led a fighter strike mission against a thousand armed insurgents, who had launched a fanatical attack against besieged government forces in Parang, Jolo.

In order to effectively break the spearhead of the rebel assault, Lt. Colonel Bautista had to fly his plane as close to the ground as possible to execute accurate and effective strafing attacks. He knew he risked being targeted by high-powered assault rifles, but with clinical precision, he began his attack runs. With each pass, he flew his F-86 Sabre Jet through a fusillade of hot lead bullets. Ignoring the increasing number of warning lights blinking steadily on his instrument panel, Lt. Col Bautista continued his assault, sustaining more and more damage with each pass. Only after two effective bombing runs and five successful strafing passes had depleted his ammunition, did he break off and try to save himself. He turned his burning plane toward friendly territory in Jolo.
Realizing he would never be able to land his plane, he flew his jet away from populated areas, radioed in his last position to the command base, and finally ejected over a contingent of government troops just before his plane exploded in mid-air. Unfortunately, strong winds pushed his parachute back over enemy controlled territory. Marine units were dispatched from the nearby airbase in a frenetic effort to mount a rescue. Lt. Colonel Bautista's last radio transmissions from the field reported that rebel forces had marked his area and were preparing to attack and overrun his position. Outnumbered and outgunned, Lt Colonel Bautista never gave up, and he engaged the rebel troops in a valiant gunfight. Government marine troops rushing to the scene could hear the gunfire and were a few hundred meters from Lt. Colonel Bautista's position when they heard the deafening silence. Moments later they arrived on the scene and secured Bautista's body.
For his uncommon bravery and tenacity in the face of overwhelming odds, the Armed Forces of the Philippines posthumously awarded Bautista the Distinguished Conduct Star on April 29, 1974. His widow, Alice Jane Rigor received the awards on behalf of her fallen husband from then Philippine President, Ferdinand Marcos. For his gallantry, the PAF air base at Puerto Princesa, Palawan (island) was named after him: Antonio Bautista Air Base, when it opened on 21 March 1975. It is now home for the Air Force's 570th Composite Tactical Wing.

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