Vernon Lloyd Zieske – First Lieutenant, United States Army Air Corps

Vernon Lloyd Zieske was born July 11, 1919. He grew in a small town in northeastern Ohio where his father worked for the New York Central Railroad. The oldest of two boys, he was Senior Class President and Valedictorian of  Austinburg High School where he graduated in 1937.

He went on to Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio and was followed there a year later. He got his  BS degree in Microbiology 1941. He was Senior Manager for the Ohio State Football Team during 1940-41 season. He was also President of the Scarlet Key, the Athletic Mangers organization on the Ohio State campus.

He joined the Army Air Corps and trained at Bennettville and Sumpter, South Carolina , and received his pilot wings and his Second Lieutenant rating on October 9th, 1942 after completing his Advanced Training at Spence Field, Moultrie Georgia. From then until June 44 he was an instructor in the Fighter Training command in Naples, Florida, flying AT-6s, P-40s, and P-39s.

He was transferred to the Fighter Base Units and began flying P-47 first at Bradley Field, Connecticut, and then in Norfolk, Virginia, patrolling the eastern seaboard. On October 9, 1944, he flew 4 hours in a P-47 also on that day, he was given emergency leave because his family had just received word that his younger brother, First Lieutenant Clarence Eugene Zieske had been declared killed in action with the 361st Fighter Group.

He returned home to see his parents, his 5 year old sister, his brother's young wife and her new born son. He told his parents he would find his brother. By November 30, 1944, he was with the 36th Fighter Group in Belgium flying P-47s. He flew 7 missions in December and was there when their air base was nearly overrun by German advances during the Battle of Bulge. He flew 5 missions in January. He was the element leader in red flight and was returning from a mission against a German supply depot at Zulpich on the Neffelb River when the weather closed out on them.  While descending through clouds with his wingman, Willie Friend, he ran into a hill and was killed on January 26, 1945.

In the history of 36th Fighter Group, Charlie Queen writes the following about that day, “Was it the weather, the instruments, the guy on his wing who was his responsibility, was anything in the way? Then suddenly, the hill, did he see it just before the crash? Was his head ‘in the cockpit' reading his instruments and it never seen or felt, did he see it and was unable to execute a sharp turn away without taking himself and Willie with him?

He received both an Air Medal and Oak leaf Cluster posthumously and also as part of the 36th Fighter Group received the Belgian Fourragere for service during the Battle of the Ardennes and the liberation of Belgium.  He is buried in Arlington National Cemetery beside his younger brother.


  • 1ST LT 23 FTR SQ 36 FTR GP A F WW II

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