Col. (Ret.) Joseph “Joe” Peterburs

55th Fighter Squadron, 20th Fighter Group, 8th Air Force

Joe Peterburs was born on November 25, 1924 in St. Paul, Minnesota . He enlisted in the Army Air Corps November 30, 1942 and was selected for pilot training in April, 1944, commissioning as a 2nd Lieutenant. When he was shipped out to England in November, he was assigned to the 55th Fighter Squadron, 20th Fighter Group, 8th Air Force.

At just 19 years old, Joe trained on the P-51 and began flying combat missions. During his 49th and last mission on April 10, 1945, they were escorting a group of B-17 bombers and were attacked by ME-262s. He engaged the enemy and shot down at least one before attacking German planes on the ground. As his plane was damaged, he bailed out near Burg, Germany and was captured and force marched to Stalag III at Luckenwalde. The camp was lightly guarded, he escaped in the night. He walked towards Berlin, until he was discovered by a Soviet tank unit and joined them. Several days later, an American patrol noticed his flight suit, and Joe was finally able to return home.

Joe continued his military service after WWII, participating in Korea and Vietnam. He retired in 1979 after 36 years and 5 months.