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Joe Peterburs


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 Joseph A. Peterburs, Colonel USAF, Retired

Joe Peterburs enlisted in the US Army Air Corps on 30 November 1942   On 15 April 1944  he received his pilot’s wings and commission as a 2nd Lieutenant. After graduation he flew the P-40N and A-24 during combat replacement training.  On 6 November 1944 Lt. Peterburs arrived in England and was assigned to the 55th Squadron of the 20th Fighter Group he was 19 years old. The unit had P-51s and he quickly checked out in the  P-51B ,C and D models . He flew many memorable missions the 49th and last of which was the most exciting.

On 10 April 1945 the Group was escorting 450+ B-17s to targets in the Oranienburg  area . Just as the bombers were unloading, a swarm of Me 262 turbojets hit the formation. Lt. Peterburs  saw a 262 slicing through the B-17s. Before he could latch on to the 262 he had blown 4 B-17s out of the sky, 2 of which Peterburs saw him destroy. Peterburs  pulled into the 262s 6 0’clock with his six .50 calibers blazing .He saw hits and smoke on the 262s left wing and engine but broke off the chase when the 262 entered a cloud bank.. 60 years later Peterburs found out that the damage he inflicted on the Me 262 resulted in the engine disintegrating and the pilot bailing out. The pilot of the Me 262 was Oberleunant Walter Schuck, a top German Ace with 206 confirmed air victories. After breaking off the 262 Peterburs started strafing an airfield and after  too many passes his aircraft was severely damaged by ground fire and he headed for friendly territory. His attack on the airfield resulted in several hangers damaged and   5 enemy aircraft destroyed on the ground. He was unable to make it back to friendly lines and bailed out over Burg, Germany, immediately captured and became a POW. He escaped joined the Russians and fought with them to the battle of Wittenberg on the Elbe.

From 1945 until 1950   administrative non-flying jobs. However, he continued to fly B-25s and C-47s.. In June 1947 at 22 years old he was promoted to Captain. In December 1951 he was assigned to the 12th Squadron of the 18th Fighter Bomber Group flying F-51Ds out of its forward operating base at Hoengsong (K-46), Korea.  . After about 5 hours of re-familiarization he was flying combat. He flew 76 close air support and interdiction missions over North Korea sustaining battle damage on several including a .50 caliber through the prop and small arms fire in the cockpit and face. While assigned to the 18th he was Squadron flight leader, Assistant Group operations officer and Group training officer.

After Korea he was Operations Officer for a flying support unit flying F-51Hs and later F-80 A & Bs and the T-33. In 1954 he participated in an Atomic bomb test at Camp Desert Rock, Nevada where he sat in a trench under a 20 kiloton bomb blast. In January 1955 he ejected from a T-33 with a fire in the plenum chamber. In the late 1950s Major   a tour in Newfoundland, in the early 1960s a tour at NORAD Headquarters and from 1965 to 1967 a tour with RAF Fighter Command Headquarters .In the fall of 1967 Lt. Colonel Peterburs was assigned to 7th Air Force Headquarters, Viet Nam as staff operations officer for command and control in the war zone. During Tet the Viet Cong were able to lob a 122 mm rocket into his barracks; blowing up his room .From 1968 until 1972 he was director of the 31st NORAD Region COC; promoted to Colonel in 1969 he was made Director of Operations for the 507th Tactical Air Control Group.

From 1972 to 1978 he was assigned to Germany and held positions as the Air Liaison Officer to the US Army’s 7th Corps Commander,  Commander of the 600th and 601st Tactical Air Control Groups and then Deputy Commander for Tactical Control of the 601st Tactical Control Wing. In 1979 Colonel Peterburs retired after over 36 years and 5 months of active military service. He is a Command Pilot with over 2000 hours conventional and 2000 hours jet time, 125 Combat Missions, 407 Combat Hours; a Master Air Weapons Controller and an inductee into the USAF Air Weapons Controller Hall of Fame. His military decorations include: The Legion of Merit, Distinguished Flying Cross w/1olc, Bronze Star w/1olc, Purple Heart w/1olc, Air Medal w/7olc, POW Medal and 32 other medals and decorations.

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