The Journey Continues: Dr. Theodore 'Ted' Dake
Editor’s note: This is the first part in a two-part column about Dr. Theodore Dake. Part two will be published on Sunday, Sept. 15.
My journey this week takes me to United State Air Force Col. (ret.) Theodore “Ted” Dake, MD, who best represents service to the nation for 31 years and continues to serve his fellow man.
An ignitor to his long journey of service occurred at age 10 when his mother died from complications from a blood transfusion given after childbirth.
“I had to do something in life to make my mother proud,” Dake said.
And he did, meeting challenges and exercising remarkable endurance. Born in Paris, Texas, Dake at the early age of 17 volunteered for active-duty service in the United States Navy as a Hospital Corpsman. In 1952, he volunteered for the challenge of U.S. Air Force pilot training.
Second Lt. Dake then participated in 25 combat missions in an AT-6 “mosquito” airplane during the Korean Conflict in direct support of the 1st ROK (Republic of Korea) Division.
Returning home to Texas, between 1953-1956, he served as an Air Force instructor-pilot at Goodfellow Air Force Base in San Angelo. He was released from active-duty and as Captain Dake joined the New York Air National Guard.
For the next three years he flew while also completing medical school at State University, Medical College in Brooklyn, graduating in June 1962. That same year he joined the Air Force Medical Service Corps. Until the Southeast Asian conflict broke, he honed his medical skills to be a USAF flight surgeon.
In 1964, the next challenge facing Captain Dake was with the United States Air Force Commandos in Udorn, Thailand (CIA/ Air-America operatives). In preparation for this assignment he attended the USA Special Forces Jump School, earning a Parachutist rating. His duty with the commandos included instructor-pilot, flight surgeon and medical civic action support, often requiring jumps into the jungles of Thailand to treat indigenous people for illnesses. He was selected as the United States Air Force Flight Surgeon of the Year in 1964. Duty in Udorn, Thailand included flying missions over the entirety of Southeast Asia — Laos, Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam.
As a flight surgeon, his next duty station involved both secrecy and mystique with the 1129th Special Activity Squadron , Area 51 Groom Lake, Nevada Test Site. The squadron’s mission was CIA Intelligence — flying the world’s most sophisticated and secret plane, the A-12, the precursor to the SR-71 “Blackbird.” The 1129th flew all over the world, but mainly Southeast Asia, North Korea and North Vietnam.
More flying status followed resulting in upgrade to command pilot — rated as a pilot for 15 years with 2,000 hours of flying time — as well as earning his Master Parachutist rating, which requires 60 jumps including water, night and forest jumps.