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Summer 2018 Wofford Today
Kirtley Military

Wofford in the military: Col. Robert E. Kirtley ’39

100 years old and still honored for service

In July, Air Combat Command published “Air Force veteran turns 100,” a story about Col. Robert Kirtley ’39, retired. A World War II and Korean War veteran, Kirtley says in the article of his combat missions, “I didn’t really fancy getting shot at.”

Kirtley loved his work as a test pilot of the P-38 aircraft for the U.S. Air Force. War, however, placed him in the role of fighter pilot. He was shot down over North Africa during World War II and evaded capture for three weeks before returning to his unit.

During his career Kirtley was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, more than a dozen air medals, the Bronze Star and the Legion of Merit. Later in his career he briefed President Eisenhower as the USAF member of the Joint Advanced Study Group and, as a fellow at Harvard University’s Center for International Affairs, worked closely with Dr. Henry Kissinger.

Read the full article by Jennifer N. Spradlin at

Special thanks to John Hoberg, Kirtley’s grandson, for providing photos.