World War II Flight Training Museum and
63rd AAF Flying Training Detachment

Douglas, Georgia

Joseph Anthony Peterburs


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Joseph Anthony Peterburs

Theater: European Joseph A. Peterburs

Highest rank: Colonel

Wife: Josephine (Heffner) Peterburs

Advanced Training was at Napier Field, Douthan, AL.

The following was extracted from his excellent interview found at http://video.flyingheritage.com/v/117113029/colonel-joseph-peterburs.htm

He was trained on P-40s. He was sent on the ship, Ile De France, to Kings Cliffe RAF Station in England. He was in the 20th Fighter Group, 55th Fighter Squadron, flying P-51s, escorting B-17 bombers on their missions and defending against German fighter attacks. He flew 49 missions and 269 combat hours.

On April 10, 1945, on an escort mission to Oranionburg, ME-262s intercepted the B-17s. The ME-262 was the first German jet used in combat, had twin turbo engines, and could reach speeds approaching the speed of sound. He observed one ME-262 shoot down two B-17s, and he shot and damaged the ME-262. The ME-262 flew into a cloud bank. As Peterburs dropped to lower altitude to avoid the cloud bank, he saw an airfield of German aircraft, which he then strafed more than once, hitting multiple planes and a FW200 Condor on his last pass. He received some damage and was smoking. He got to Magdenburg, where he was spotted by a FW 190 which fired at him. He had to bail out at low altitude, out of the left side of the plane that wasn't burning.

He was burned and hurt, and was taken prisoner by the German Luftwaffe, which sent him by train to the British POW Camp Stalag 11. The camp was being evacuated by the Germans, and he then was part of the evacuation, but he and others escaped and joined up with the Russians for about 2 weeks. They ended up at the Battle of Jitterbug and Wittenburg, where he was involved in a few minor skirmishes. Soon after he was handed over by the Russians to Americans and ended up with the Americans in Halle, Germany. He tired of this and bummed a ride to Paris on a C-47. On June 1, 1945 he was returned to New York and got married June 13.

Sixty years later, he received a letter from Werner Dietrich of Berg, Germany, who was 13 at the time of Peterburs' encounter with the ME-262 and saw Peterburs' plane go down. He showed WWII airplane investigators where Peterburs' plane went down for a TV show and the plane was recovered in 1996. Dietrich then set out to find the pilot of the plane, and he eventually found Peterburs. The TV station wanted to do a follow up and so they traveled to the U.S. to interview Peterburs. After hearing the story of the ME-262, Dietrich returned to Germany and discovered that the pilot of the ME-262 was Walter Schuck, a German ace with 206 victories. But Peterburs was not convinced. Two years later, Norwegian writer Christer Bergstrom contacted him and he, along with others, was convinced it was Schuck because only Schuck shot down two B-17s in the box that day on April 10, 1945.

In 2005, Peterburs and Schuck met. They became the best of friends. Schuck explained that his plane started to disintegrate after he went into the cloud bank. He had to bail out, and with much difficulty managed to bail out. He hurt his legs but credited Peterburs with saving his life, for he thought he would have been killed in future missions as the War was being lost by Germany.

Peterburs also served in Korea. In December 1951 he was assigned to the 12th Fighter Bomber Squadron of the 18th Fighter Bomber Group flying the P-51D(F-51D) in Korea. He flew 76 missions over North Korea sustaining battle damage on several of those missions including a .50 caliber round through the prop of his P-51. He also sustained small arms fire into the cockpit which directly struck his face.

In the fall of 1967, Lt. Colonel Peterburs was assigned to Vietnam as Staff Operations Officer responsible for Command and Control in the war zone. During the Tet offensive, the Viet-Cong were able to lob a 122mm rocket into his barracks blowing up his room as he slept.

During the Cold War, he was commander of the 600th and 601st tactical air control units and then deputy commander of the 601st Tactical Control Wing in Europe.

His military decorations include: The Legion of Merit, Distinguished Flying Cross w/ 1 OLC, Bronze Star w/ 1 OLC, Purple Heart w/ 1 OLC, Air Medal w/ 7 OLC, POW Medal and 32 other medals and decorations.

Joseph A. Peterburs

Peterburs after soloing in September 1943 at Douglas, GA, 18 years old.

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