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Merle J Gilbertson


Flora, North Dakota's Maj. Merle J. "Jackie" Gilbertson had a combat career that spanned nearly the entire time the 20th Fighter Group was active during the war. He joined the 55th Fighter Squadron at March Field on 9 February, 1943 and after training was sent overseas.

He was one of the 20th Fighter Group pilots who flew with the 55th Fighter Groups during November of 1943, to gain combat experience, and on 28 December he flew on the first official mission of the 20th.

On New Year's Day, 1944 he was made a Flight Commander and he held this position until 26 August when he was promoted to Squadron Operations Officer. He held this post until the end of his first combat tour on 26 September 1944.

Gilbertson returned to the States for a much-needed rest but by 1 January, 1945 he was back amongst the ranks of the 77th Fighter Squadron as their Operations Officer and on 6 January he was back in combat flying the P-51.

On 9 February, 1945 a FW-190 exploded in front of his aircraft while he was strafing Eperstedt Airfield, which shattered his canopy. Though he suffered minor injuries he went on to destroy 3 more aircraft on the ground before returning to base. He was involved in the Frantic VI Mission to Russia. He flew his 100th mission on 21 April, 1945, the day of the last official mission for the 20th.

Gilbertson flew a total of 434:35 combat hours, 310:10 on his first tour and 124:25 on the second. During that time he downed 2 1/2 Me-109s and shared a third of a victory of an He-111. He also destroyed 3 Fw-190s and 1 ui/se on the ground as well as damaging a Do-217 in the air and an Me-110 on the ground. He was awarded the Air Medal with 10 clusters, the Distinguished Flying Cross with one cluster, the Purple Heart and a Silver Star.

2.83 air kills 4 ground kills



  • James Morris

    Military | Lieutenant Colonel | Fighter Pilot Twin Engine | 20th Fighter Group
    James Morris was born in Columbus, Ohio in 1920. He enlisted in the Air Corps in 1942 and flew 72 missions with the 77th FS 20th FG (7.33 victories). He was shot down by a ME-410 near Leipzig, Germany on 7 July 44 in P-38J s/n #43-28397 and was...

Units served with

  • 20th Fighter Group

    20th Fighter Group

    In August 1943, the 20th Fighter Group arrived in Clyde, Scotland, before travelling to Kings Cliffe, Northamptonshire, which was to be their base for the rest of the war. The Group flew 312 missions before their last mission on 25 April 1945. The...

  • 55th Fighter Squadron
  • 77th Fighter Squadron


Associated Place

  • Kings Cliffe

    Military site : airfield
    Kings Cliffe began as a satellite air base for the Group based at nearby Wittering. The 56th Fighter Group, however, were all based at Kings Cliffe and it was here that the pilots trained in P-47 Thunderbolts and flew their first missions in the...


Event Location Date
Born Benson County, ND, USA 28 September 1920
Lived in West Antelope, ND, USA 1930
Lived in Benson County, ND, USA 1942
Enlisted Sturgis, SD 57785, USA 29 January 1942

Fort Meade

Squadron Operatons Officer King's Cliffe, Peterborough PE8, UK 26 August 1944 – 26 September 1944
Died Hockessin, DE, USA 19 October 1950

Was killed in the crash of an F-84.

Buried Benson County, ND, USA 25 October 1950

Flora Cemetery
Benson County
North Dakota, USA


Date Contributor Update
28 November 2017 13:13:46 Lucy May Changes to biography

Bringing in source from duplicate entry: Drawn from the records of the National Museum of the Mighty Eighth Air Force, Savannah, Georgia / King's Cliffe Memorial Edition

Date Contributor Update
18 December 2016 04:25:19 466thHistorian Changes to biography

Date Contributor Update
18 December 2016 04:23:16 466thHistorian Changes to nickname, highest rank, role, events and place associations

Date Contributor Update
05 December 2016 00:53:12 fugari Changes to nickname, highest rank, role, biography, awards and media associations


Date Contributor Update
16 September 2016 18:40:05 WD-C Mustang Changes to nickname, highest rank, role, biography and events

Merged info from duplicate entry

Date Contributor Update
27 September 2014 18:20:05 AAM AAM ingest

Ted Damick, VIII Fighter Command pilots list