Capt. Joe Pickerel enlisted in the Army Air Corps during World War II when he was 18 years old. He flew P-47s in the 347th Fighter Squadron between November 1944 and May 1945. On April 2, 1945 he took part in one of the most important aerial engagements of the group when 347th pilots engaged Italian Bf-109s of the 2° Gruppo Caccia, ANR (Aeronautica Nazionale Repubblicana). Eight P-47s were jumped by 30+ Messerschmitts and the 347th shot down 6 and damaged 3 with no losses to themselves. An account of the dogfight is in An Unofficial and Historical History of the 347th Fighter Squadron, 350th Fighter Group, 12th Air Force, September 1942-October 1945 by Charles Schiffman. The pilots on that mission can be seen in this photo from Schiffman's book.
Also, 350th historian Colonel Hugh Dow notes Pickerel's last flight on April 19th, 1945 in his 350th Flight Operations Report. Dow wrote,
"On his 100th and last mission, hit by AAA. On fire, he bailed out 8 miles wsw Bologna. He was captured and held 2 days before his position was overrun by Allied Forces. He flew 93 hours and 29 missions during the last 30 days."
Joe was only 21 years old when the war ended. He is survived by his children, Jeff, Barbara, Amanda and Andrew; and his sister Ruth. He is seen here in flight in a B-747.
Contributors to this page:
Barbara Freeberg, Joe's daughter
Bob Howard, Barbara's husband
Bob Shifflet, military history
Colonel Hugh Dow, Ret., military history