|Colonel Wilbert T. Turk
Wilbert Thomas Turk (Col. USAF Ret.), 88, a 22-year resident of Montgomery, Alabama died on Friday, June 4, 2010 at Russell Medical Center in Alexander City, Alabama. He will be interred with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery. His Memorial Service will be held on Wednesday, June 9th at 1:00 pm at Southern Memorial. The family will receive friends beginning one hour prior to the service. Col. Turk was born August 20,1921 in Falls Creek, Pennsylvania. He entered the Army Air Corps in 1942 as an air cadet. Already an accomplished pilot by the time of his enlistment, Colonel Turk was a charter member of the Civil Air Patrol. Following his military pilot training, he was reassigned to the 5th Air Force in the Southwest Pacific Theater where he flew 380 aerial missions, including lead pilot in the Los Banos Raid, accruing more than 860 combat hours in WWII. From May 1946 to May 1948 the colonel was stationed at Munich and Kaufbeuren, Germany. Returning to the U.S., he was assigned to a number of command and staff positions throughout the U.S. Including a three-year tour at HQ USAF in Washington, D.C. In 1955 Colonel Turk returned to Europe and was assigned as executive officer of the Sixth Allied Air Forces in Turkey. From January of 1957 to June of 1961, Colonel Turk was stationed at Sewart AFB, Tennessee, where he was squadron commander in the 314th Wing. During his tour with the 314th Wing, Turk made aviation history on January 27, 1960 by becoming the first Air Force pilot to successfully land a plane at the South Pole. This event is credited with opening up exploration of Antarctica and the establishment of a permanent science station. In July of 1962, Turk went to the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. and was assigned to the Office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He served in that office until 1965 when he received an assignment to the Staff and Faculty, Armed Forces Staff College at Norfolk, Virginia. From September 1968 to September 1969 Colonel Turk served in the Republic of Vietnam as Commander, 483rd Tactical Airlift Wing. In October 1969, he assumed command of the 322nd Tactical Airlift Wing at Rhein-Main AFB, Germany. Retiring in 1972, Colonel Turk was a command pilot with more than 8,000 flying hours in numerous Air Force aircraft. His military decorations include the Legion of Merit, distinguished Flying Cross with two Oak Leaf Clusters, the Air Medal with five Oak Leaf Clusters, the Joint Services, Navy and Air Force Commendation Medals, the Vietnamese Medal of Honor, First Class, and several service and campaign medals. He is preceded in death by his first wife, Katherine I. Turk; three brothers, Harold, Richard, and James; and one sister, Lucy. He is survived by his current wife, Jerry R. Turk; two children, Patricia A. Ardis, Ravenna, Texas and Harold P. Turk, Montgomery, Alabama; three grandchildren, Leslie Ward, Michael Ardis, and Philip Turk; one great-grandson, Jackson Ward; two sisters, Maxine Weed and Shirley Langer, and many other extended family members and friends. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations to Southern Care Hospice in Alex City or to Memorial Presbyterian Church on Bell Road.