Vice Commander of the 354th at Myrtle Beach, American Ace in WWII
by Melissa LaScaleia
Kruzel Street, in the Market Common, is located between Farrow Parkway and Pampas Drive, running roughly parallel with both. It begins, or ends depending on your perspective, at Howard Avenue and Shine Avenue, connecting the two.
Kruzel Street was named to honor of the valor of Major General Joseph J. Kruzel, who was born in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania in 1918.
In 1938, he graduated with a BS in chemistry from the University of Scranton in Pennsylvania. In May 1940, he joined the U.S. Army Air Corps, completed flying training, and was commissioned a second lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force in December of that same year.
World War II was underway, and Joseph was stationed at Nichols Field, Manila, in the Philippines. He flew P-40 aircraft as a combat fighter in Australia, Java, and the Philippines. During this time, he logged 175 combat hours, and shot down a Japanese Zero fighter plane. He was in the Philippines when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and the Philippine Islands.
In 1943, he returned to the U.S. and became squadron commander of the 361st Fighter Group in Richmond, Virginia. Later that year, he and his group went to England to fight against the Germans.
During this time, he logged 325 combat hours, flying P-47 and P-51 aircraft. He brought down three German ME-109s and one FW-190 aircraft, earning him the accolade of American ace.
He was eventually promoted to general, and in 1945 was appointed deputy base commander for a P-47 combat crew training school in North Carolina. He also completed an asiatic studies course at Yale University.
In 1946, he was stationed in Seoul, Korea; in 1947, he served in Tokyo, Japan. Then he completed another tour of duty in the Philippine Islands.
In 1949, he was back in the United States where he attended Air Command and Staff College at Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama, as well as Air War College. He graduated in 1954, and stayed on at the Air War College as staff until 1957.
In June, he was appointed chief of the war plans division for the U.S. Air Force Headquarters in Europe, at Wiesbaden, Germany. He also served as chief of the Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers in Europe, in Paris.
In 1960, he returned to the U.S., attended National War College, and was assigned as Vice Commander of the 354th Tactical Fighter Wing at Myrtle Beach Air Force Base. He became full commander in 1963.
His last assignment before retiring in 1970 as a major general, was as deputy director of operations to the U.S. Air Force Headquarters.
Joseph Kruzel married after college, and had four children. His namesake, Joseph John, followed in his footsteps with a military career, eventually becoming a U.S. diplomat.
His son and two other diplomats were killed on a diplomatic mission to Bosnia-Herzegovina in 1995. The road washed out from under their vehicle and the car was swept down a mountain cliff before catching fire and exploding.
Major General Joseph J. Kruzel died at home, in Florida, on July 9, 2002. His military decorations include: the Silver Star with two oak leaf clusters; Legion of Merit; Distinguished Flying Cross with oak leaf cluster; Air Medal with three oak leaf clusters; and the Bronze Star Medal.