Merkel, Lee J. (P2, C3, L26)
Lieutenant Colonel Lee J. Merkel, 37, of Jefferson County, Kentucky, perished on 31 January 1956 when the F-51 “Mustang” aircraft he was piloting crashed ten miles north of Bedford, Indiana. Merkel had previously served as wing commander, air technician and first base detachment commander as well as commander of the 123rd Fighter Interceptor Group. Following his death the Kentucky Air National Guard established the “Colonel Lee J. Merkel Award For Outstanding Leadership.” This annual award was presented to deserving Air Force ROTC Cadets at both the University of Louisville (U of L) and University of Kentucky (UK). Over the years the award fell into disuse and stopped being presented. In 2010 efforts were made to re-establish the award with the University of Louisville. Merkel was laid to rest in Section F, Site 311 of Zachary Taylor National Cemetery in Louisville.