Lieutenant Colonel Lee J. Merkel
(1918 - 1956)
Lt Col Lee J. Merkel
Lieutenant Colonel Lee Joseph Merkel, long-time base detachment commander at Standiford Field, died when his F-51 Mustang crashed at about 3:30 p.m. on 31 January 1956 some ten miles north of Bedford Indiana along Salt Creek. Merkel was on a test flight. Merkel was a highly decorated World War II pilot with service in Europe with the 346th Fighter Squadron as squadron flight leader in six campaigns (North Africa, Sicily, Italy, and France. He was awarded the Air Medal with five oak leaf clusters and the Distinguished Flying Cross. He flew 143 missions in World War II and was shot down behind enemy lines on once occasion in Italy.
He was a graduate of DuPont Male High School and also attended the University of Louisville. Merkel joined the United States Army in August 1940 at Godman Field with the 12th Observation Squadron. In January 1942 he began training as an aviation cadet.
Merkel accumulated some 400 combat flying hours during World War II. Merkel left active duty in January 1946 but soon joined the Kentucky Air National Guard in February 1947 and served as a squadron commander, executive officers and wing commander in addition to base detachment commander. He was qualified in the F-51D, C-47 and F-84E with more than 3,000 flying hours in his career. He was also rated as a test pilot and instructor pilot.
He went on active duty again when the Kentucky Air National Guard was federalized during the Korean War serving with the unit in England.
||KyANG Merkel Award for Outstanding Leadership (AFROTC)
In April 1956 the Kentucky Air National Guard established an award in honor of Lt. Col. Merkel in Kentucky Air National Guard Regulation 35-54. That award is still current today.
Purpose. The purpose of the Kentucky Air National Guard Merkel Award for Outstanding Leadership is to recognize, foster, and encourage those qualities of leadership as a cadet in the Air Force Reserve Officers Training Corps (AFROTC) which ultimately will make a vital contribution to the national security when the individual is commissioned as an officer in the Air Force, Air National Guard or Air Force Reserve. The Kentucky Air National Guard Merkel Award for Outstanding Leadership is awarded in memory of the late Colonel Lee J. Merkel, Base Detachment Commander at Standiford Field, Louisville, Kentucky, who met his death on 31 January 1956 while flying.
Basis for Award. The Kentucky Air National Guard Merkel Award for Outstanding Leadership is made annually at each Kentucky university having an AFROTC Detachment. Award is on the basis of recommendations by the Professor of Aerospace Science who will identify the cadet exercising the most outstanding leadership qualities. Selection is on the basis of those personal and professional qualities and achievements which will enable the individual to make a maximum contribution to the national security when he/she is commissioned as an officer in the Air Force, Air National Guard or Air Force Reserve.
Recommendations are submitted through The Assistant Adjutant General for Air and The Adjutant General to The Governor. Award is authorized for the senior cadet in Aerospace Science IV at each university. (One per AFROTC unit).
Presentation. The Kentucky Air National Guard Merkel Award for Outstanding Leadership will be presented by The Governor or his designated representative at the Annual Review, Dining-In or other occasion when similar awards are presented at the university.
Description. The Kentucky Air National Guard Merkel Award for Outstanding Leadership is a suitably inscribed parchment bearing the seal of the Department of Military Affairs, Commonwealth of Kentucky and authenticated by the signatures of The Governor, The Adjutant General and The Assistant Adjutant General for Air.