Joseph Peterburs enlisted in the US Army Air Corps in November
1942 and was called to duty as an Aviation Cadet
in January 1943.
After basic training and aircraft training, he was selected
for single-engine pilot training and, in April 1944, received
his wings and a commission as a 2nd Lieutenant.
At 19, Peterburs was assigned to the 20th Fighter Group,
55th Squadron serving in England where the group was flying
the P-51 Mustang. He flew 49 missions for the 20th Fighter
On his last mission, flying escort for B-17 bombers headed
toward Berlin, Peterburs chased a Me262 slicing through the
formation and attacked. After injuring the 262, Peterburs
strafed an airfield several times, destroying five enemy
aircraft and damaging several hangars, but his aircraft was
too damaged to make it back to base.
He eventually bailed out near Burg, Germany and was immediately
captured as a prisoner of war. He quickly escaped, joined
the Russians and fought with them to the battle of Wittenburg
on the river Elbe.
After World War II, Peterburs held several command and administrative
non-flying positions, but continued to fly B-25s and C-47s
to maintain his proficiency. At 22, he was promoted to Captain
in June 1947.
In December 1951, he was recalled to active duty and assigned
to the 12th Squadron, 18th Fighter Bomb Group flying out
of Hoengsong, Korea, where he was a Squadron Flight Leader,
Assistant Group Operations Officer and Group Training Officer.
After serving in Korea, Peterburs served a tour in Newfoundland,
a tour at North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD)
Headquarters and a tour with the Royal Air Force (RAF) Fighter
Command Headquarters at Bushy Heath, England.
In 1967, Peterburs was assigned to the 7th Air Force Headquarters,
Vietnam, as Staff Operations Officer for command and control
in the war zone. From 1968 to 1972 he was Director of the
31st NORAD Region Combat Operations Center. He was promoted
to Colonel in 1969.
Colonel Peterburs retired after 36 years of military service
in 1979 as a command pilot with over 2000 hours of conventional
and 2000 hours of jet time. He flew 125 combat missions.
His decorations include: The legion of Merit, The Distinguished
Flying Cross with one Oak Leaf Cluster (OLC), the Bronze
Star with one OLC, The Purple Heart with one OLC, the Air
Medal with seven OLCs, the POW Medal and 32 other medals