Difference between revisions of "JOSEPH G. KLEEFISCH, CDR, USN"

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== Loss ==
== Loss ==
[[File:1976 Kleefisch 1.jpg|right|thumb|350px|none|via researcher Leslie Poche.]]
[[File:1976 Kleefisch 1.jpg|right|thumb|350px|none|via The Sheboygan Press.]]
From the  [http://articles.latimes.com/1995-05-19/news/mn-3465_1_san-diego-navy Los Angeles Times] on May 19, 1995
From the  [http://articles.latimes.com/1995-05-19/news/mn-3465_1_san-diego-navy Los Angeles Times] on May 19, 1995
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Revision as of 20:55, 13 September 2020

Joseph Kleefisch '76

Date of birth: January 28, 1954

Date of death: May 17, 1995

Age: 41

Lucky Bag

From the 1976 Lucky Bag:

1976 Kleefisch LB.jpg

JOSEPH GERARD KLEEFISCH

Wisconsin

Out of that distant north land known as Wisconsin came Kohler's own candidate for the six million dollar repair job. A natural athlete, Joe both loved, and excelled in many sports. One of his favorites, basketball, proved to be a wolf in sheep's clothing when during youngster year it gave our local hatchet men their chance to give him a new ankle. Klee was not one to abandon all hope and through a great show of determination was back on his feet in no time. Segundo year was the payoff for his hard work. That was the year which found him leaping over Army in a single bound and capturing the coveted N★. It also found him living in fear that some conscientious type would spy him wheeling around Crabtown in his sapphire blue TR6. Whatever possessed Fisch to play company basketball first class year was certainly appreciated by the team, as he led 18 to the Brigade Championship.

1976 Kleefisch LB.jpg

JOSEPH GERARD KLEEFISCH

Wisconsin

Out of that distant north land known as Wisconsin came Kohler's own candidate for the six million dollar repair job. A natural athlete, Joe both loved, and excelled in many sports. One of his favorites, basketball, proved to be a wolf in sheep's clothing when during youngster year it gave our local hatchet men their chance to give him a new ankle. Klee was not one to abandon all hope and through a great show of determination was back on his feet in no time. Segundo year was the payoff for his hard work. That was the year which found him leaping over Army in a single bound and capturing the coveted N★. It also found him living in fear that some conscientious type would spy him wheeling around Crabtown in his sapphire blue TR6. Whatever possessed Fisch to play company basketball first class year was certainly appreciated by the team, as he led 18 to the Brigade Championship.

Loss

via The Sheboygan Press.

From the Los Angeles Times on May 19, 1995

The wreckage of an F/A-18 Hornet was discovered Thursday in the mountains of northern New Mexico after a crash in severe weather that killed a San Diego Navy admiral and his pilot, military officials said.

Killed in Wednesday's crash were Rear Adm. James G. Prout III, 51, commander of the Carl Vinson aircraft carrier battle group, and his pilot, Cmdr. Joseph G. Kleefisch, 41, a training squadron commander based at Lemoore Naval Air Station near Fresno, said Chief Petty Officer Pat Neal, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Pacific Fleet in San Diego.

The wreckage was not found until 24 hours after the crash because bad weather had grounded search-and-rescue efforts.

The admiral was flying in the two-seat trainer version of the carrier-based all-weather fighter aircraft for two reasons, said Cmdr. Mike Thurwanger, another Navy spokesman.

Prout was headed for St. Louis to meet with officials at McDonnell Douglas, the manufacturer of the F-18, he said. And Prout chose to fly in the F-18 so he could experience its capabilities en route, Thurwanger said.

The F-18 carrying Prout and Kleefisch was flying with another Hornet out of Miramar Naval Air Station in San Diego when they encountered thunderstorms, heavy winds and snow over New Mexico.

"They separated to go above the weather, and the [trailing] aircraft with the admiral was not seen after that," Thurwanger said.

Search-and-rescue units from Kirtland Air Force Base in Albuquerque, N.M., discovered the wreckage Thursday morning on a 9,700-foot mountain ridge about 45 miles northwest of Santa Fe, a Air Force spokesman said.

Prout was commanding officer of the 32nd Street Naval Station in San Diego from 1989 to 1991 before taking command of a destroyer battle group. He became an admiral in 1993 and served as deputy chief of staff for the commander of the Pacific Fleet in Hawaii.

Obituary

From The Sheboygan Press (Sheboygan, Wisconsin) on May 30, 1995:

Commander Joseph G. Kleefisch was born in Sheboygan, WI on January 28, 1954. His family moved to Kohler in 1964, where he grew up. Joe participated in numerous youth activities, including Boy Scouts and Explorers, and was an altar boy at St. John's Catholic Church. In high school, he was active in drama, sang with the chorus, Madrigals, and glee clubs. He played drums for the junior, senior and jazz bands.

Joe was an exceptional athlete, earning 14 varsity letters in football, basketball, baseball and track. In his senior year, he was the basketball team's highest scorer and led his team to the state championship tournament. By the time Joe graduated from Kohler High School in 1972, he had garnered the American Legion Gold Award for athletic excellence and set several track and field records; his Wisconsin state high-jump record stood for many years.

Kleefisch entered the United States Naval Academy in 1972 and graduated in June 1976 with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Oceanography and commission as an Ensign. He reported to NAS Pensacola in July 1976 for flight training and received his wings in December 1977 with orders to VA-122 at NAS Lemoore.

After completing Fleet Replacement training in the A-7E Corsair II, he reported to the VA-113 “Stingers" on board the USS Ranger (CV-61). He completed two cruises with the Stingers, one of them during the 1979 Iranian hostage crisis. Kleefisch cross-decked to the Stinger’s sister squadron, VA-25, for three months as a junior officer while he received his airwing LSO qualification.

In 1981, Commander Kleefisch returned to VT-26 at NAS Chase as an instructor pilot and later to Training Wing 3 as the Wing LSO. While stationed at Beeville, he earned his Masters Degree in Business Administration and Management from Webster University.

Commander Kleefisch reported to the USS Kitty Hawk (CV-63) in 1984 as assistant Air Operations Officer working with CVW-9. After his sea tour, Kleefisch returned to NAS Lemoore in 1986 as a member of the adversary squadron VA/VFA-127, as the Operations Officer during the squadron's move to NAS Fallon.

He returned to VA-122 as a replacement pilot in 1988 and later reported to the VA-146 “Blue Diamonds" as a department head. While assigned to the Blue Diamonds, he transitioned to the F/A-18 Hornet. In 1989 he reported to the Hornet FRS squadron, VFA-125, as the Operations Officer and served as an instructor pilot.

Kleefisch received orders to the Navy War College in 1991, where he received a Masters Degree in National Security and Strategic Studies and was selected for squadron command. He joined VFA-25, the "Fist of the Fleet” in November 1992 as Executive officer and assumed command in February 1994. VFA-25 deployed to the Persian Gulf aboard USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70) in 1994 with Airwing 14 (CVW-14), participating in Operation Southern Watch and winning several awards. CDR Kleefisch was an extremely popular commanding officer, well loved by both his enlisted troops and the ready room, with his leadership and airmanship serving as examples.

On May of 1995 Kleefisch and his boss, CAG CVW-14, planned to bring the commander of Carl Vinson’s battle group, Adm. James Proutt, to St. Louis, MO to tour F/A-18 Hornet manufacturing facilities and gain insight into the Hornet’s operation. The admiral was a surface warfare officer and had never flown in a tactical jet. On May 17, 1995 Kleefisch flew a two-seat F/A-18D (Bu#163492) borrowed from VFA-125 and picked up ADM Prout at Naval Air Station Miramar. CAG flew alongside them in a VFA-25 jet. The pair planned a series of low level training routes through northern New Mexico and southwestern Colorado en route to St. Louis. The weather deteriorated with snow showers, however, and 45 miles northwest of Santa Fe, New Mexico they performed a low altitude abort, taking separate headings and rapidly climbing to escape the cloud cover. CAG found blue skies above 15,000ft, but Kleefisch and Proutt never emerged. They crashed into a 9,700 ft tall mountain obscured in clouds while in a very shallow descent, entered after they leveled off briefly within the cloud layer. There was disagreement as to why this occurred.

Aviation physiologists and flight surgeons claimed vertigo/disorientation as the cause, but seasoned aviators believed he attempted to engage the autopilot to allow retrieval of navigation materials and the autopilot had either disengaged without his notice, or had not been properly engaged in the first place. Kleefisch was only a couple weeks from his scheduled change of command at the time of his death, and had over 4,000 flight hours and 500 carrier landings.

CDR Kleefisch was married to the former Nancy “Nan” Aqnew of San Diego, Calif. The couple had two sons, Joseph and Matthew. Kleesfisch was very active in the local community. Although frequently deployed at sea or away for military exercises, he nevertheless devoted numerous hours as a Cub Scout leader, foster father and coach for numerous youth league teams including soccer, baseball and basketball.

A funeral mass with full military honors took place at El Camino Memorial Park in San Diego. A memorial mass for Commander Kleefisch was celebrated at St. John's Catholic Church, Kohler, WI on June 2, 1995, with members of his squadron present

Joseph is buried at El Camino Memorial Park in San Diego, CA.

Related Articles

James Prout, III '66 was also also lost in this crash.


Class of 1976

Joseph is one of 11 members of the Class of 1976 on Virtual Memorial Hall.

The "category" links below lead to lists of related Honorees; use them to explore further the service and sacrifice of alumni in Memorial Hall.