Joseph J. Maisch Jr., a retired Maryland Air National Guard officer and fighter pilot who flew numerous missions over the enemy in World War II, died of stroke complications Monday at the Lorien Bel Air nursing home. The Joppatowne resident was 86.
Born in Baltimore and raised in the 900 block of Calvert St., he attended the Cathedral School on Mulberry Street and was a 1940 City College graduate. He attended the University of Baltimore.
He worked briefly as a salesman for the Baltimore Stationery Co. before enlisting in the Army Air Forces as an aviation cadet in March 1942. He graduated from flight training school and was commissioned a second lieutenant.
Mr. Maisch flew P-51 fighter planes on 69 missions over France and Germany during World War II.
In a Maryland Air National Guard publication, he recalled one mission over central France when he shot down two German Messerschmitt 109s on a single day, Sept. 11, 1944. He said he "had the advantage of altitude and came at them from the sun."
On another day, during a bombing run over Hamburg, Germany, he was part of an air mission that included his brother George, who was flying in another aircraft, a bomber. His brother, a radio operator, on his return to an English air base, survived a crash landing in the North Sea. The two brothers were later united at the family Calvert Street home and were interviewed and photographed by The Sun.
Another brother, Richard, served in the Army Air Corps as a navigator on a B-17 and also flew numerous missions in Italy and Austria.
Mr. Maisch was also credited with shooting down another enemy aircraft. Surviving photos of the period show him with three German swastikas painted on his fighter plane.
In an 1964 Evening Sun interview, Mr. Maisch recalled flying across the English Channel on D-Day, June 6, 1944.
"There were so many planes in the air that day they almost ran into each other," he said. "The Britishers would fly through the clouds, nipping in and out."
His surviving brother, Richard, who lives in Leesburg, Fla., recalled that Mr. Maisch's fighter plane was downed over Poland. Members of the Polish resistance hid him until he could be picked up and returned to England.
According to Army records, Mr. Maisch was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for "extraordinary achievement and heroism in aerial combat" and the Silver Star "for gallantry in action." He also held the Air Medal with seven oak leaf clusters.
In 1947, he joined the Maryland Air National Guard's 104th Fighter Squadron. He served at the old Harbor Field near Dundalk and later at Martin Airport.
During his years - he had 6,000 hours of flying time - he flew Stearmans, Douglas Dauntlesses, Curtis Hell Divers, Thunderbolts, Aircobras, King Cobras, Tomahawks, Mustangs and F-86 Sabres.
"He was a good flight trainer and instructor," said Thomas Rostkowsi, a friend and fellow retired Air National Guard member. "He expected people to do their job. He was also a good military man and a strict disciplinarian."
When portions of the Maryland Air National Guard were mobilized following the USS Pueblo incident of 1968 - in which the U.S. ship was attacked by North Korean forces - Mr. Maisch was deployed to Cannon Air Force Base at Clovis, N.M.
He retired in the late 1970s as deputy commander for operations of 175th Tactical Fighter Group.
In his free time Mr. Maisch enjoyed boating and fishing. He was also an avid Orioles fan.
His wife of more than 50 years, the former Doris Snyder, died in 2005.
Services were held Friday in Bel Air.
In addition to his brother, survivors include two daughters, Joann Ferrer of Joppa and Janice Pusey of Belcamp; four grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren.