By Paul Foote
MADISON COUNTY —
Maj. Gen. Philip Pendleton Ardery was a man of many talents, a combat hero of World War II, a lawyer, citizen-soldier, author and humanitarian.
He was the first wing commander of the Kentucky Air National Guard when it was formed in 1947. Ardery’s devotion to service, integrity and persistence established the foundation for the contemporary Kentucky Air National Guard
He was born March 6, 1914, in Lexington and grew up on a Bourbon County farm.
After earning a degree in English literature from the University of Kentucky in 1935, Ardery obtained a law degree from Harvard.
He returned to Kentucky and began practicing law in Frankfort, but the venture was short-lived. In 1940, when Europe was engulfed in war, he enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps as a private. Ardery graduated as 1st Captain of the Flying Cadet Corps at Kelley Field in San Antonio, Texas, in April 1941 and was assigned as a flight instructor at Goodfellow Field in San Angelo, Texas.
He later commanded the 564th Bomb Squadron (H) beginning in February 1943, joining the 389th Bomb Group (H) based in Norwich, England, that June.
From airfields in North Africa, he flew B-24s on many missions across the Mediterranean, including the first low-level raid on oil refineries at Ploesti, Romania.
The Ploesti oilfields were among the most heavily defended targets in Europe. Of a total force of 178 B-24s in the raid, only 88 managed to return to Benghazi, Libya.
Personnel losses included 310 airmen killed, 108 captured and 78 interned in Turkey. For his actions, Ardery was awarded the Silver Star.
From England and North Africa, Ardery flew raids during the winter of 1943-44, leading up to the invasion of Normandy. He also led the 2nd Combat Bomb Wing on the first daylight bombing of Berlin in March 1944 and flew on the first mission of D-Day, June 6, 1944.
His memoir of the war, “Bomber Pilot,” was published in 1978.
Discharged from active duty in 1945, Ardery was given command of the 123rd Fighter Wing of the newly formed Kentucky Air National Guard. He and his unit were called to active duty during the Korean War. The 123rd was relocated to England, where he served as wing-base commander of the NATO Air Force, Royal Air Force Station Manston, 1951-52.
After being decommissioned, Ardery continued to command the 123rd, which sometimes included air groups in other states, as well as Kentucky’s, and was based at Louisville’s Standiford Field.
He was promoted to brigadier general in April 1962 and retired from the military as a major general in 1965.
After Ardery left the military, he co-founded the law firm of Brown, Ardery, Todd & Dudley in June 1959. It merged with Brown, Eldred & Bonnie, and Marshall, Cochran, Heyburn & Wells in 1972 to form Brown, Todd & Heyburn, then Kentucky’s largest law firm.
Ardery retired from legal practice in 1979 but remained active in his community.
In the early 1980s, he became an advocate for mental health. With Barry Bingham Sr., publisher of the Courier-Journal, Bosworth Todd and Dr. Herb Wagemaker, Ardery founded the Schizophrenia Foundation of Kentucky in 1981.
This foundation gave rise to Wellspring, which now provides housing, care and rehabilitation for people with mental illness at 19 sites throughout Jefferson and neighboring counties.
Philip Ardery died July 26, 2012, at his Louisville home. He was 98 years old.