Former Air Force general from Yacolt releases autobiography


A Yacolt resident has released a book that details his life as a general in the United States Air Force.

The book, titled “Pull the Chocks, I’m Launching,” was released by retired Major General David E.B. Ward on Feb. 7. 

Ward, who retired on his birthday on Sept. 4, 1998, spent 11 months writing the autobiography. He spent 36 years in the military with the U.S. Air Force and the Oregon Air National Guard. 

“I think I come from a family of storytellers,” Ward said. “I just happened to have so many incidents in my life, even before I was able to take control of events being associated with it. In the groups, I would tell people stories and they would say, ‘you got to write a book,’ and that happened for years and finally I decided to sit down and do that.”

He said part of the inspiration for writing the book is because his life has been eventful and he wants to create an “inspirational story” for young people. 

Ward was born in Miles City, Montana, where both sides of his family were ranchers and farmers. According to an overview of his book, he spent summers in the countryside and later moved with his family to Portland when he was 8 years old. 

“For as long as I can remember, I always wanted to be a pilot, and when I first saw F-80 fighter jets making practice gunnery passes on a firefighting training tower in Anchorage, Alaska, I knew I had to become a fighter pilot,” states the overview of his book. 

Ward graduated from Willamette University in June of 1960, and later graduated from Air Force pilot training in March of 1962 to become a jet instructor pilot in the T-33 aircraft. That met his “need for speed,” stated the information, which he later used to become a supersonic T-38 trainer. After some time spent overseas, Ward returned to the states and resigned from the Air Force. He later joined the Oregon Air National Guard in 1967. In 1968, he joined Pan American Airways as a pilot-flight engineer for a time, became a full-time instructor pilot and then in 1986, he was selected for an 18-month active duty tour in Germany. 

During his military flying career, an “about the author” section online states Ward logged over 6,400 hours in tactical jet trainers and fighter aircraft.

“Pull the chocks is a metaphor saying to get the obstacles out of your way and you’re launching your career to your goals, so it was a combination of several things,” Ward said.

One of the important people he mentions in the book is his best friend Capt. John “Sam” Carlson, who went missing while fighting in the Vietnam War after his plane was shot down. 

“He ended up getting killed in December of 1966, so Jody (Carlson’s wife) and I went through that and (it’s) been part of our lives all this time. He’s still MIA, so there’s a lot of those things, but also a lot of funny things that happened (in my life),” he said.

The funny things Ward talks about is his own character as well as those of his fellow pilots and soldiers he trained with. He said his approach to writing an autobiography is different from others because he cataloged many of the events he mentions, which he then turned into short stories. 

“I would interject in the stories which resulted in a lot of re-editing in order to get the train of thought and the vision going through,” Ward explained. 

When writing the book, he said he wrote every day and was “fairly disciplined” throughout the process. The part that took the longest was getting the book published and working to edit out things Ward felt weren’t necessary to the story. He also originally intended to include pictures, but withdrew them to avoid potential copyright issues. 

“I wanted to get it out as soon as possible,” Ward said. “I initially planned on my autobiography being just one book. But that one is the first one in a trilogy and (I’m working on) a second book at this time, which is about my time in the Air National Guard and part of my time as an airline pilot.”

Ward said he has received high praise for his book from those who have read it, with some saying they got through it in two to three days.  

Ward remains active in many local organizations like the Lions Club, the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the American Legion, and the Southwest Washington Wine Association, which he said made it easier to distribute the book to others. So far, he said he’s personally sold 75 hardbacks and 100 paperbacks to people. 

The book can be purchased at


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