Joe Crecca was born in 1940 in East Orange, New Jersey. He entered Air Force Officer Training School at Lackland AFB, Texas, on July 2, 1964, and was commissioned a 2Lt in September 1964. Crecca next went through Undergraduate Pilot Training, graduating in October 1965. He completed F-4C Weapons Systems Officer training in June 1966 and reported to the 480th Tactical Fighter Squadron of the 366th Tactical Fighter Wing "Gunfighters", at Danang AB in the Republic of Vietnam, in August 1966. While flying his 87th combat mission, Lt Crecca's F-4 was hit and he was forced to eject over North Vietnam. He was immediately taken as a Prisoner of War and spent the next 2,280 days in captivity before being released during Operation Homecoming on February 18, 1973. After repatriation, Crecca went back on flying status and served with the 58th Tactical Fighter Squadron, 33rd Tactical Fighter Wing, at Eglin AFB, Florida, flying F-4E's from February 1974 until November 1976. He next served with the 3246th Test Wing, also at Eglin AFB, from November 1976 until he left the Air Force in July 1978. He served as Chief of Stan/Eval in both the 33rd TFW and 3246th TW. After leaving the Air Force, Major Crecca flew Douglas DC-8's and Boeing 747's with Flying Tigers, and then MD-11's and DC-10's with Federal Express after the two airlines merged. He retired from Fedex in September 2005. Major Crecca wears Command Pilot Wings and accumulated over 1,800 flying hours in the T-37 Tweet, T-38 Talon, F-4C, D, E, and RF-4C Phantoms, and the T-33. In addition, he has flown over 15,000 hours as an airline pilot and in civilian flying in the Beech King Air, EMB-120, Boeing 727, 747, 757, 767, DC-8, DC-10, and MD-11 aircraft. Joe is married to the former Joan Rice of Liverpool, England, and they have one son, Elliott, who is a U.S. Army Captain in the JAG Corps and has recently spent a tour in Iraq.
His Distinguished Flying Cross Citation reads:
First Lieutenant Joseph Crecca Jr., distinguished himself by extraordinary achievement while participating in aerial flight as a Pilot of a tactical jet fighter near Thuy Ba, North Vietnam on 7 November 1966. On that date, Lieutenant Crecca's flight of three tactical fighters was diverted from their pre-planned target to a highly important hostile storage and supply point. In the ensuing flight, Lieutenant Crecca accurately navigated the flight to the new target through severe weather conditions, located the target visually and controlled the flight during the critical attack phase. The professional competence, aerial skill, and devotion to duty displayed by Lieutenant Crecca reflect great credit upon himself and the United States Air Force.