Robert Wendell 'Buck' McNairDSO DFC (3) CD was born at Springfield Nova Scotia, the son of a railway engineer and grew up in North Battleford Saskatchewan (SK). He was educated in Prince Albert SK and Edmonton Alberta. Following his high school education, he joined Canadian Airways as a radio operator.
In June 1941, he joined the RCAF and graduated as a sergeant pilot in March 1941. His first operational posting was to 411 Fighter Command Squadron RCAF based at Digby in Lincolnshire. He remained there until February 8 1942 when he was posted to Malta where he joined 249 Squadron RAF. He shot down one enemy plane while he was with 411 Squadron.
By May 22nd 1942 he had shot down 7 enemy planes and damaged an equal number and was awarded his firstDistinguished flying Cross (DFC). On June 1st he was made a flight commander and on June 19th he was transferred back to 411 Squadron in England where he remained as flight commander until September 21st 1942. His squadron took part in the August 19th 1942 Dieppe Raid and during a fierce battle with enemy fighters, McNair damaged several.
In September 1943, he was sent to Canada to help promote a war bond drive. He returned to England in April 1943 and was posted first with 403 Squadron RCAF, then in May taking command of 41 Squadron RCAF at Kenly. Next, in June he took command of 421 Squadron. In a short period he had added 8 more victories bringing his total to 15, and was awarded his second and thirdDFC.
In October 1943, McNair became Wing Commander Flying, of 126 Squadron RCAF Wing, the leading Fighter Wing in the Second Tactical Air Force, based at Biggin Hill. After 6 months he was taken off operations and given an administrative job. In April 1944 he was awarded theDistinguished Service Order (DSO). His citation reads, in part, as follows: Throughout, Wing Commander McNair has set a magnificent example by his fighting spirit, courage and devotion to duty both in the air and on the ground. He has inspired his pilots with confidence and enthusiasm.
At the end of WW2, McNair stayed in the RCAF where he further distinguished himself by holding a number of senior positions, including that ofDeputy Commander of NORAD in Duluth Minnesota.
In 1947 the government of France awarded him theCroix de Guerre and named him a Chevalier de la Legion d'Honneur. In his peacetime career McNair also continued to display his inbred bravery. On December 30th 1953, A North Star Transport, in which he was a crew member, crashed at Vancouver British Columbia. McNair supervised the rescue of all passengers from the wreckage. Though soaked in gasoline and aware that fire could break out at any moment, he refused to leave the aircraft until everyone was accounted for.
In 1968, he became Senior Air Liaison Officer with the Canadian Joint Staff in London England. He died there in January 1971. McNair was inducted as aMember of Canada's Aviation Hall of Fame in 1990.