March 26, 2019
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Contributed | BDN
Contributed | BDN

STERLING, Va. – John J. Pesch, a retired Air Force major general and former director of the Air National Guard, passed away Jan. 10, 2010. He was a devoted husband, father, grandfather and great-grandfather. He was born in Maspeth, N.Y., in 1921, to Charles Pesch and Margaret Schoerlin Pesch, and was the eighth of 10 children. Gen. Pesch’s military career began in the Air Corps in 1942. While initially a single engine dive-bomber pilot flying A-24 dive-bombers, John eventually was assigned as first pilot in a B-17 group forming in the U.S. In late 1943, the group was ordered to England. Gen. Pesch completed 31 combat missions in the European Theater of Operations, the majority of which were deep penetrations into Germany. A captain at the time, he was flying as lead/ pathfinder pilot. His plane was badly damaged from enemy fighter fire on several occasions, and once he brought his B-17 bomber back on only two engines with just himself and his copilot J.C. Amley. The other eight members of the crew, one of whom had been wounded, bailed out over Holland while under a second fighter attack. They remained prisoners of war until the end of the war. After his narrow escape, Gen. Pesch continued to fly deep missions into Germany, including as lead pilot of his squadron on the first shuttle raid from England to Poltava, Russia, June 21, 1944. A German HE 177 long-range reconnaissance Bomber shadowed them as their 93 B-17s landed at Poltava, Russia, and with the gained knowledge the Germans assembled a force of 150 He 111s and JU 88s to launch against the B-17s on the ground. The attack was such a success that the Germans continued the destruction of the three squadrons of B-17s for more than an hour and a half; about 110 tons of bombs were dropped during this time. Of the 24 aircraft in John’s squadron, only one survived. After the attack Gen. Pesch returned with his men to England in U.S. BE cargo aircraft via Africa. He flew his last mission, July 19, 1944. John left the Air Force in 1946 and joined the Maine Air National Guard with his Air Force rank of major. He returned to college, which had been interrupted in 1941, and continued work flying P-47s and P-80s, until recalled in 1950. At that point, he was assigned to 12th Air force Advon in Landsburg, Germany. Later Gen. Pesch served in the Pentagon in Air Force Operations, at Headquarter Air Defense command in Colorado Springs, Colo., and once again in the Pentagon in the National Guard Bureau. He had been promoted from major to lieutenant colonel and as deputy director of Air National Guard to brigadier general. In 1974 he was assigned as director of the Air National Guard and promoted to major general. John retired from the military in 1977, but continued as a consultant to General Electric & Northrop until 1987. Gen. Pesch’s military decorations and awards include the Distinguished Service Medal, The Legion of Merit, the Distinguished Flying Cross with Oak Leaf Cluster, the Meritorious Service Medal, the Air Medal with Four Oak Leaf Clusters, etc. Gen. Pesch’s wife, Gloria, died in 1992. They had been married 47 years. Their son, John Jr., an F105 pilot, died in an aircraft accident in 1978. John is survived by his three daughters, Maureen and Carolyn from Virginia and Katherine from Colorado; and one son, William, from the Island of Guam. He also leaves behind two sisters, one brother, seven grandchildren and six great-grandchildren. A memorial Mass and service will be held 2 p.m. Monday, Jan. 18, at Falcons Landing, Sterling, Va. A funeral Mass will be held 10:45 a.m. Monday, March 8, at Fort Myer Chapel, Fort Myer, Va. Please arrive at the Fort Myer gate by 10 a.m. Graveside services and interment will be held after the funeral at Arlington National Cemetery with full military honors. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Medical Missionaries, 9590 Surveyor Court, Manassas, VA 20110, Loved ones may view and send condolences at

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