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Lt. Cdr. Bernard W. Kortge  
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In his memory:

Lt. Cdr. Bernard "Bill" W. Kortge
VFP-62 circa. 1962-1964

Service 5/1945 - 7/1971 Retired Lt. Cdr.

Updated: March 20, 2016

[Webmaster's Note: This page is under construction and will be updated as tributes from family, friends, and former Navy members are received. Contact Webmaster on the link below.]

    Memories and Tributes

    With Grandson Quentin---circa 2014

  • Bernard William (Bill) Kortge, 87, Lieutenant Commander, US Navy, retired, died Sunday, June 7, 2015, in Bar Harbor, Maine. Born June 30, 1927, in The Dalles, Oregon to Oscar William Kortge and Catherine Lillian Fleck Kortge, Bill served in the US Navy from 1945 - 1971. He served during WWII and Korea and his career included decorated missions as a Photographic Intelligence Officer during the Cuban Missile Crisis and the Six Day War.

    Bill and his beloved wife of 55 years, Eleita Voyle Martin Kortge, embraced local cultures wherever they lived. They raised their family in places as diverse as Washington, California, Hawaii, Florida, Virginia, and Maryland before retiring to Central Oregon where they lived for 36 years. After Eleita's death in 2006, Bill relocated to Maine to be with his daughter.

    An avid rock-hound, he spent his life collecting and studying rocks wherever he traveled. Whenever Bill looked down he found something interesting to pick up. Even in retirement, he was always seen with a camera in hand and a handful of rocks in his pocket.

    Bill is survived by his three children and their spouses, Karen Kortge and Bruce Steely of Maryland, Mary and William Martin Kortge of California, Bronwyn Kortge and Daniel Pileggi of Maine; grandchildren Lauren and Kyle Steely, Sierra and Bryce Kortge, Quentin Pileggi; sister Winifred Smith, and many nieces and nephews.

    A private burial with full military honors will be held at Arlington National Cemetery. The family plans to gather for remembrances in Portland, Oregon, date and time to be announced.

    Arlington Memorial Photos (click to enlarge):

    The ceremony was so lovely. It was attended by me, my siblings, our spouses and children, and cousins from every branch of our family tree. I was so thankful to be surrounded by our Navy family; My knowledge of the even the base itself is sadly outdated ... I just assumed that with Ft. Myer being right there, they must have the duty performing the Arlington ceremonies. I was surprised, and so grateful to see the Navy honor guard and all those familiar uniforms, and to hear the Navy Hymn.

    You can see my sister, my brother and me (my brother is in the center, my sister on his left, and I on his right), as we received the flag from the honor guard.

    The site is so lovely, looking up at the Arlington House, and seeing across the river the top of the Lincoln Memorial, the spire of the Washington Monument and the dome of the Capitol Building.

    I hope to visit it in spring or summer sometime so I can learn if the tree that shades the area is an Oak. It looks likely, and would have pleased my mother to no end.

    Bronwyn Kortge (Pileggi), Karen Kortge Steely, Mick (William) Kortge, Quentin Pileggi, Dan Pileggi

    The Cuban Missile Crisis

    Lt(jg) (then) Kortge (second from right-front)Celebrating medals received by VFP-62 pilots and squadron at the ceremony in Boca Chica Florida (Nov. 26, 1962), where President Kennedy presented the Navy Unit Commendation to VFP-62 for its service during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Click photo to enlarge.

    [Message from the Webmaster]: Sometime during 2011 when I was deep into writing "Blue Moon Over Cuba: Aerial Reconnaissance during the Cuban Missile Crisis" and desperately looking for personal accounts of VFP-62 squadron members' experiences during the Cuban Missile Crisis, I received a CD from former photomate Richard Crowe with a remarkable memoir by Chief Petty Officer, William T. Hocutt who served with the Atlantic Intelligence Command during the Cuban crisis. Included were some fabously written accounts by Lt. Cdr. Kortge. The following is his account of what it was like, waiting for the command to launch our photo jets for the first low-level photo mission (Oct. 23, 1962) over the Soviet nuclear missile sites. Lt(jg) Kortge was the photo intelligence officer with the VFP-62 detachment at NAS Boca Chica, Key West, Florida:

    We were in the ready room, open for business. The ground crews are swarming around the aircraft like bees around a hive. Our planes take up the ramp adjacent to the tower. The windows have been covered with sheets of plywood, and they are covered with maps. Initially there were only three points plotted on the maps [longitudinal and latitudinal coordinates for the first day's targets].

    After 8 a.m. our phone rings. I answered with, "VFP-62 ready room." Voice on the phone: "Do not hang up your phone." Me, "Okay, whom am I talking to?" There is no response. The line is open but not responding. During the next hour or more, a voice came on and said, "You can man your aircraft and start your engines." Shortly after, not certain that there was someone on the other end of the line, I said to the voice, "We have eight aircraft ready for launch-six go-birds and two spares." Shortly, the voice came back and said "Launch your aircraft."

    I served with VFP-62 during the crisis but regret that I never got to know Lt(jg) Kortge. He was the type of leader that made the squadron great. As I wrote in "Blue Moon Over Cuba,"

    "Without Kortge's diligence and perseverence, VFP-62's first Blue Moon mission could have been jeopardized. Sometimes, one man can make a difference between success and failure. Bill Kortge rose through the ranks from enlisted photomate--US Navy photographer--to so-called 'mustang' officer rank....All were held in particularly high esteem by the enlisted men."

    Ken Jack, webmaster vfp62.com and co-author Blue Moon Over Cuba: Aerial Reconnaissance during the Cuban Missile Crisis

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    Updated 3/9/18



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