WW II veteran, Merrill Edward Scharmen, beloved husband, father, grandfather and friend, passed away peacefully on May 28, 2016 at the age of 92, after a distinguished 32-year career in the United States Air Force, and contented retirement.
Born and raised in Detroit, Michigan, Merrill graduated from Detroit’s Cass Technical High School in 1942 with a focus in Mechanic Arts. Upon graduation, he joined the Army Air Corp and completed the multi-engine advanced flying school at Altus Army Airfield, Oklahoma in 1943, Class 43-I.
On April 28, 1944, just 20 years old, he and his crew flew an assembly-line-new B-24 from Topeka, KS, to Wharton Field, England. The trip took 60 hours in 11 days with 6 stops via Florida, Trinidad, Brazil, Senegal and Morocco.
On June 17, 1944, 10 days after D-Day — he embarked on the first of 35 missions as pilot of B-17s and B-24s in the 8th Air Force, European Theatre of Operations. He wrote in his combat diary of his bomber crew #BJ103: “The enlisted men are my pride and joy, best bunch of boys out”. Through 1945, he continued flying special missions and VIP transport with the Air Transport Command 6th Ferrying Group, wrapping up the first stage of his military career.
Merrill was recalled to active duty with the U.S. Air Force in 1951. In the interim, he had married Audrey Yvonne Frost, of Topeka, KS, and fathered two sons, Kim and Thomas, while serving as a police officer in his hometown of Detroit. Assigned to the Strategic Air Command 15th Air Force SAC, he flew B-36 and B-52 bombers out of Carswell AFB, Texas, Walker AFB, New Mexico and March AFB, California. Two daughters, Deborah and Margaret, joined the family during these years.
In 1968, Merrill went once again to war as the Chief of Bomber Division for the Strategic Air Command in South Vietnam. The last years of his career were served at the Pentagon, as Deputy Director for Support and Services with the Defense Intelligence Agency. He continued to fly up until his retirement in 1979.
Settling in Lusby, MD, Merrill volunteered with the Coast Guard Auxiliary, teaching navigation and boating safety classes and conducting weekend rescue patrols around the Chesapeake Bay. He was also an active member of the Drum Point Club during its formative years.
To their great joy, Merrill and Audrey have been blessed with 13 grandchildren and one great-granddaughter: John, Fred, Frank, Adria, Pablo, Selah, Becky, Lisa, Hank, Sarah, Becca, Will, Marta and Leah.
Despite the demands of his military career, Merrill always made time for his family and friends, devoting his talent, love and support to the community around him. With the patience of a saint, his temperament was always gracious, kind, humble and witty right up to his last days on earth. There is no doubt that ‘the Colonel’ was an outstanding member of ‘The Greatest Generation’.
A memorial gathering for family and friends will be held Sunday, October 23, 2016, 3-8 p.m. at Drum Point Club, Lusby, MD. A private inurnment will be held at a later date at Arlington Cemetery.