Joseph V. D’Ambra

  • Lieutenant Colonel
  • Vietnam


Joseph V. D’Ambra was born on 8 November 1943 in Providence Rhode Island. He is the son of Joseph and Mary D’Ambra. Joe is a 1962 graduate of Classical High School, Providence, Rhode Island where he was a member of the Baseball team and the Latin and French clubs. Joe is a 1966 graduate of the University of Rhode Island where he earned a Bachelor of Science Degree in Civil Engineering. His activities included: Sigma Pi Fraternity, American Society of Civil Engineers, and the Union Movie Committee. He was enrolled in the Army ROTC program for two years.

Joe enlisted in the U.S. Air Force and was commissioned a Second Lieutenant through the Officer Training School, Lackland Air Force Base, Texas and then attended Air Force Pilot Training at Randolph AFB, Texas. After graduating, he was assigned as a KC-135 pilot in the Pacific. Captain D’Ambra flew 199 missions in direct support of combat air operations in Southeast Asia. He often bent the rules and entered enemy air space to ensure that strike aircraft, critically low on fuel, made it home. For his extraordinary achievements in Air Refueling, Captain D’Ambra was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.

                                                                             Citation – Distinguished Flying Cross

Captain Joseph V. D’Ambra distinguished himself by extraordinary achievement while participating in aerial flight as a KC-135 Aircraft Commander in Southeast Asia on 14 September 1971. On that date Captain D’Ambra led a flight of KC-135’s into hostile territory to refuel another aircraft performing an important reconnaissance mission. The professional leadership of Captain D’Ambra insured the timely refueling of the aircraft. The refueling of this aircraft was vital to the successful completion of its mission. The professional competence, aerial skill, and devotion to duty displayed by Captain D’Ambra reflect great credit upon himself and the United States Air Force.

Captain D’Ambra returned home to attend the Air Force Institute of Technology’s Education with Industry program and was assigned to Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio as the Developmental Engineer, Technical Intelligence, Foreign Technology Division to work on technical analysis of foreign aircraft. During this assignment, he authored the publication “World Air Refueling Capabilities,” a Top Secret document published by the Foreign Technology Division for the Defense Intelligence Agency.

After earning a Master of Liberal Arts from Texas Christian University, Joe returned to flying as an Instructor Pilot, Staff Evaluator and Flight Commander with the 42nd Wing at Loring AFB, Maine. The 42nd participated in strategic and tactical exercises worldwide with B-52 bombers and K-135 tankers to support USAF needs for air refueling. The 42nd won the Omaha Trophy as “the outstanding wing in Strategic Air Command (SAC) for 1977.” He was later assigned to Andrews Air Force Base, Washington, DC flying the First Lady, cabinet members, congressional leaders and the Vice President on Air Force Two.

His later Air Force assignments included Program Manager, Federal Aviation Administration and Air Force Radar Replacement Program. Lt. Col. D’Ambra provided outstanding leadership, management and direction of this joint program. He worked with the FAA in fulfilling all the program manager’s functions and responsibilities in the management of the joint FAA/USAF Radar Program. Lt. Col. D’Ambra developed the design, test, evaluation, production and integration of hardware and software within budget at a cost of $580M.

Lieutenant Colonel Joseph V. D’Ambra retired from the United States Air Force in September 1989 after more than 22 years of service and was awarded the Defense Meritorious Service Medal for his service. Lt Col. D’Ambra led the way in air refueling operations, combat air operations, the Airborne Self-Protection Jammer Program and the Air Force/Federal Aviation Administration Radar Replacement Program.

Lieutenant Colonel D’Ambra’s other awards include the Air Force Meritorious Medal with 2 Oak Leaf Clusters, Air Medal with 3 Oak Leaf Clusters, Air Force Commendation Medal with 1 Oak Leaf Cluster, Air Force Outstanding Unit Award, Air Force Combat Readiness Medal, Science and Technology Award, Air Force Systems Command and Project Managers Award, Naval Air Systems Command.
Lieutenant Colonel Joseph D’Ambra retired from the United States Air Force in 1989 after more than 20 years of service. He was awarded the Defense Meritorious Service Medal for his service to America and the United States Air Force.

He was hired by American Airlines in 1989 and served as a First Officer and Captain flying Boeing 727’s and McDonnell-Douglas Super 80’s at the American Airlines bases of Washington DC and New York. He retired from American Airlines at the mandatory age of 60 in 2003.

Lieutenant Colonel D’Ambra remained active in the Department of Defense after retirement serving as Principal Staff Assistant to the Assistant Secretary of Defense, Acquisition, Technology and Logistics, and Networks and Information Integration. His areas of responsibility included: the development of the KC-X Tanker and the EA-18G Growler aircraft, the Air Operations Center, National Airspace System, Battle Control Systems and the Combatant Commanders’ Integrated Command and Control System.

Lieutenant Colonel Joseph D’Ambra is a long-standing member of the URI Foundation and URI Alumni Association and one of the strongest supporters of the University of Rhode Island Washington, DC, Alumni Chapter. Joe and his wife Pat reside in Mount Airy, Maryland.