Michael J. Quirk, a member of the famed 56th Fighter Group, "Wolfpack," became a "double Ace" over Germany. Born in Port Henry, New York, Quirk grew up in Washington D.C. where he attended St. John's, a military high school. He entered college at Catholic University and while studying, also obtained a pilot's license through a government-sponsored program. He spent three summers at a citizen's military training camp in Maryland preparing for a commission in army artillery. In December 1941, Quirk, who had 100 flying hours in the Piper Cub, enlisted in the Army Air Forces.
He completed flying school in June 1942, and was then assigned to the 56th Fighter Group, which became the first fighter unit shipped out to England. In his Republic P-47 Thunderbolt "Putty," Quirk shot down 12 enemy fighters in 1 year of combat; he destroyed five more on the ground. For flying skill, aerial leadership, and proven gallantry, Lt Gen Doolittle approved a Silver Star for Quirk. In September, on his 100th mission, Quirk was shot down and captured; he later received a Purple Heart for wounds sustained that day. A prisoner-of-war, he was freed in April 1945, when Stalag Luft I at Barth was liberated by the advancing Red Army.
Leaving the Army Air Force soon after, Quirk returned to Catholic University and earned a degree while flying P-47s with the Air National Guard. He returned to active duty in April 1947 as a regular officer. In the 4th Fighter Group until 1949, Quirk flew the Lockheed F-80 Shooting Star at Andrews AFB. When the unit moved to Langley AFB, he flew the new North American F-86 Sabre. He then spent 2 years with the USAF mission to Bolivia at La Paz, teaching pilots to fly the F-47 from a 13,000 foot-high airfield. From 1951 to 1952, Quirk was on the operations staff at Central Air Defense Force, Kansas City, Missouri.
He then led the 87th Fighter Interceptor Squadron at Sioux City, Iowa, during their transition from the North American P-51 Mustang to the F-86. Returning to England in 1954, he commanded the 512th Fighter Interceptor Squadron and flew the F-86 at RAF Bentwaters until 1957. Quirk then served in a series of staff assignments before moving to Homestead AFB, Florida, in 1967. He was named Vice Commander, 453rd Tactical Training Wing, and transitioned crews to the McDonnell F-4 Phantom II.
After duty at Seventh Air Force Headquarters, Tan Son Nhut AB, Republic of Vietnam, Colonel Quirk completed 30 years of active service while assigned to the Tactical Air Warfare Center, Eglin AFB, Florida. An avid boating enthusiast, he joined the US Coast Guard Auxiliary and now directs Gulf Coast operations as Commodore.
On 20 February 1944, it appeared there would be several days of good visibility and clear skies over the Reich...the allies could finally launch a long-planned series of coordinated attacks on Germany's aircraft industry. One thousand USAAF bombers, escorted by Republic P-47 and North American P-51 fighters, flew east to attack and destroy 12 targets. On 20 February 1944, Captain Mike Quirk and his flight of P-47s engaged in a general melee with 10 Focke Wulf 190s. "I picked out two" he said, "and after chasing them for a while, positioned myself on tail-end charlie and opened fire." Quirk claimed his first victory of "Big Week."