Joseph “Joe” Joiner

Colonel US Air Force, Fighter pilot

Joseph “Joe” Joiner amassed a staggering 10,000 hours in fighter planes over a 30 year US Air Force career. During WWII, Joiner flew 84 missions encompassing 374 combat hours over Europe, shooting down 4 Luftwaffe fighters in aerial combat and destroying another 4 on the ground.

Only recently did the soft-spoken modest veteran inform his children that he served in World War II.

It didn’t occur to me to talk about it. Everybody my age served in Word War II.

Nick Devaux came across Mr. Joseph “Joe” Joiner’s incredible profile thanks to Michael Barns wonderful article in Statesman. We are honored to further present Mr Joe Joiners story and incredible service.

Training and combat

Born in Plainview, TX, Joiner grew up dreaming of being a fighter pilot as he watched planes fly overhead from NAS Corpus Christi. When the war started he applied to both the Navy and the Army pilot training programs. The Army accepted him first and he enlisted in the Army Air Corp in 1942. He completed the Aviation Cadet Training Program and graduated as a 2nd Lieutenant December 1943.

After completing P-51 Mustang flight training in Florida he was assigned to the 4th Fighter Group, 336th Squadron in Debden, England.

336th Squadron, January 1st 1945 – Cpt Joe Joiner top row, second from right. Red circle added by author.
Source: https://www.americanairmuseum.com/media/14875

As young relatively inexperienced pilot he, per his own account, prematurely became a Flight Commander as his predecessors were shot down one by one. Having graduated from flight training 9 months earlier and with 170 hours of combat he was selected to lead his Squadron on combat missions.

Joiner flew 84 combat missions, 20 of them leading 336th Squadron and 2 leading the entire Fighter Group.

Capt. Joseph H Joiner, 336th Fighter Squadron. P-51D 44-13630 VF-R “Rebel”.
Source: https://www.americanairmuseum.com/media/22170

On 20 February 1945, his last mission of WWII, he shot down two Fw-190’s. Upon return the Group Commander, Colonel Stewart, insisted that Joiner take a 30 day leave back to the States. While home he heard the European war was ending. Joiner cut his leave short and returned to New York, hoping to rejoin his Group which he figured would be heading to the Pacific. This would not be as for him and the Group the war was over.

Joiner was awarded two Distinguished Flying Crosses, ten Air Medals and a Unit Citation.

Post war service

After the war he ferried surplus military aircraft to boneyards in the Arizona desert.

During 1948 and 1949 he flew a P-51 on the first Air Force aerobatic team “The Red Devils”.

USAF Red Devils demonstration team pilots.
Standing from left are Lt. Gabriel Bartholomew, Maj. John England (leader) and Lt. Leon Pagan; kneeling from left are Capt. Joe Joiner and Lt. James Putnam
Source: https://aerobaticteams.net/en/teams/i197/USAF-Red-Devils.html

Further service and combat duty

The Korean War raged between 1950 and 1953 during which, Joiner trained other pilots in P-51s and F-80s at bases in the US. Later he was relocated to Japan for combat duty.

He flew F-102s on a tour as Squadron Commander in Greenland during the Cold War. During a tour in Vietnam he flew OV-10 Bronco’s as part of the forward air control.

After a career spanning over thirty years and three wars with over 10 000 hours amassed in Fighters Colonel Joseph “Joe” Joiner retired in 1973.

A profound visit

By happy coincidence my sister Anabel Kuhr lives 20 minutes away and agreed to present the Log Book to Mr. Joiner for his signature. Below is Anabel’s account of her profound visit with Mr. Joiner:

I was honored to visit with Mr. Joseph “Joe” Joiner, and hear a couple of his stories. I recount here ones that blew me away. He told of his being listed as an Ace Pilot which meant that he had shot down 5 enemy planes.

Apparently he was officially listed as having shot down 4.5 but there was a back story which the officer in charge knew of and so he is indeed an Ace Pilot. When a plane is fired upon, the bullets leave incendiary marks on its fuselage. The plane awarded as .5 to Joe, was one he had shot at in combat. During the dogfight however, Joe’s comrade also engaged and shot at the German plane. The German was eventually shot down. Back on the ground, the third pilot said that he had shot the German plane which meant that he and Joe would share 50/50 in the ‘score’ on their records.

Two days after the incident, the third pilot was shot down and taken prisoner for a year. However in looking over the film of the air battle it was clear to see that the third pilot’s shot did not hit the German’s plane. There were no incendiary marks from his shots. This meant that Joe should receive the full score on his record. The Officer of record asked Joe if he would like to have the record changed, but Joe said not to bother with it. The third pilot was now a POW and also a friend of Joe’s.

Joe also mentioned his strafing activities, which means trying to hit a plane on the ground. He said these were more deadly missions than air fights, since the landed planes were well guarded and the pilot attacking from the air was very likely to be killed. He said a lot of pilots died that way. Apparently the aim of the attacking pilot was not just to strafe the landed planes, but actually make them burn, by hitting the fuel tank. You got more points for this, as it meant the plane was completely destroyed. His record of 4 such points were from a couple of missions. He said that a squadron usually had about 25 pilots, and within a few months they lost 52 pilots.

I asked Joe if he ever fought against a German pilot that he knew he had come across before, and he said “no”. However, he said that one time he was chasing a German plane; he was on his tail, when they both started climbing. (Joe put his hands up to show the motion of the climb) He said as he was climbing past the plane, he and the German turned their heads to look at each other. He said he was just a few feet away, (about 30 feet) and could see the German pilot’s eyes clearly, and they both knew one of them was going to die.

Anabel Kuhr

Thanks Anabel!!

Last Updated on 13 March 2021 by Lars McKie