Merritt W. Wheeler was a World War II combat veteran. He was born 30 January 1923 in St. Paul, MN. He attended public schools there and graduated from the University of Minnesota with a Bachelor of Science degree.
Soon after Pearl Harbor in December 1941, he enlisted as a private in the US. Army Air Forces. In April 1943 he was commissioned Second Lieutenant at the age of 20 in the Army Officers Reserve Corps (ORC) with the rating of Bombardier. His father, Dr. Wheeler, served in France during 1917-18 as an Army surgeon; and his brother, Capt. John Zadoc Wheeler, fought gallantly against the Japanese Imperial Army during the Battle of Bataan (WWII) with the Army 26th Cav. Regt. (Philippine Scouts). He survived the Bataan Death March, but later died under tragic circumstances in a prison ship following his internment as a prisoner of war.
Whit performed his combat service with the 92nd Bombardment Group, 8th Air Force stationed in the United Kingdom. He flew 17 missions against the Luftwaffe over Germany and occupied countries as a Bombardier in B-17 heavy bombers. On his final mission (Berlin, 9 March, 1944) his aircraft was damaged and forced down at the target. After a solo flight at low altitude across Northern Germany the crew crash-landed their crippled aircraft in southern Sweden where the crew was interned for seven months at the villages of Korsnos and Granna in the Northern Province.
During the Korean War he served as a bombing instructor for crews posted to combat operations. During the Viet Nam War he worked as a civilian employee (Material Analyst and Editor) at the Army Command General Staff College and the Institute of Combined Arms and Support, Army Combat Developments Command, Fort Leavenworth.
Whit was awarded the Air Medal with two bronze Oak leaf Clusters; Air Force Presidential Unit Citation; American Campaign Medal; the European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with Battle Star (ETO); World War II Victory medal; and the Air Force Reserve Medal. He served 28 years, active and reserve, and retired with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel, Air Force Reserve.
He was a life member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars; Disabled American Veterans; Eighth Air Force Historical Society; The American Air Museum (UK); the 92nd Bomb Group Memorial Corp; Retired Officers Association; the Reserve Officers Association; Life Member, Past Commander, and Chaplain of the Heart of America Chapter of the American Ex-Prisoners of War, and member of the Leavenworth Chapter. He was a former member of the Greater Leavenworth Kiwanis Club and member of St. Paul's Episcopal Church.
He was a resident of Leavenworth, KS for 35 years.
After his retirement in 1972, Whit pursued an active career as a Securities Analyst and Private Investigator. In recent years he has been an active donor to the Kansas State and U of M Foundations, funding scholarship programs for students majoring in Forestry and Agricultural Science.
Whit is survived by his wife, Judith Hall of Lincoln, KS, and his sister, Henrietta Wheeler, wife of Judge Andrew A. Glenn of St Paul. He and Judith were married 31 December, 1975 in Jefferson County, KS. The raised two daughters and a son.