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John W. Mitchell
Fighter Pilot and Ace

Background
John William Mitchell was born June 14, 1914 in Enid, Mississippi to parents Noah Boothe Mitchell and Lillian Dickinson Mitchell. He was the valedictorian of his high school then attended Columbia University graduating in 1934 with a degree in economics. Next, attended University of Chicago graduating in 1939. He married married Anne Lee Miller in December 1941.

Wartime History
Click For EnlargementOn April 9, 1934 enlisted in the U. S. Army and completed his basic training with the coastal artillery at Fort Ruger, in Hawaii between July 1934 until September 1938. On November 10, 1939 entered the Aviation Cadet Pilot Training Program and learned to fly. On July 26, 1940 earned his wings and was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant. His first assignment was to the 20th Fighter Group, 55th Fighter Squadron flying the P-40 Warhawk until January 1941.

Next, assigned to the 70th Fighter Squadron. After December 7, 1941, he arrived at Hamilton Field but arrived too late for deployment to Java. In January 1942 departed for Fiji and began flying the P-39 Airacobra from Nandi Airfield and conducted training for six months. On October 5, 1942 Mitchell and eight pilots from the squadron were detached for duty with the 399th Fighter Squadron on Guadalcanal.

During November 1942 promoted to Major and became the Commanding Officer (C. O.) of the 339th Fighter Squadron as it equipped with the P-38 Lightning, the first squadron in the South Pacific (SOPA) to operate the twin engine fighter and began flying combat missions.

"Yamamoto Mission"
During early April 1943, Mitchell was tasked with planning the "Yamamoto Mission" using P-38 Lightnings from the 339th Fighter Squadron to intercept and shoot down the bombers transporting Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto and his senior staff. On April 18, 1943 took off from Fighter 2 (Kukum) on Guadalcanal with Mitchell leading the mission and flying with drop tanks over the open ocean at low altitude to minimize the chance of being spotted and made three course changes at specific times to reach the interception point over southern Bougainville. The formation was divided into two groups: one to provide cover and the killer group to attack the bombers. Over southern Bougainville, the formation successfully intercepted the Japanese and the killer group shot down G4M1 Betty 2656 Tail 323 with Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto aboard and G4M1 Betty Tail 326 with Vice-Admiral Matome Ugaki. The U. S. pilots incorrectly claimed three bombers and Zeros shot down. In fact, only the two bombers were shot down and no Zeros were lost. Lost is P-38G pilot Hine  (MIA).

Aerial Victory Claims
Mitchell was credited with a total of eleven aerial victory credits. His first eight were during late 1942 until early 1943 while operating from Guadalcanal. His last three were during 1945 over Japan.

Victory Date Location Aircraft Notes on claim
1 10/09/42 Guadalcanal   First aerial victory.
2 10/23/42 Guadalcanal   Second aerial victory.
3 11/07/42 Guadalcanal   Third aerial victory claim.
4 01/05/43 Guadalcanal   Fourth aerial victory claim.
5 01/27/43 Guadalcanal   Fifth aerial victory claim, became an "ace".
6 01/27/43 Guadalcanal   Sixth aerial victory claim.
7 01/29/43 Guadalcanal   Seventh aerial victory claim.
8 02/02/43 Guadalcanal   Eighth aerial victory claim.
9 06/26/45 Japan   Ninth aerial victory claim.
10 07/16/45 Japan   Tenth aerial victory claim.
11 07/16/45 Japan   Eleventh aerial victory claim.

Memorials
Mitchell passed away on November 15, 1995. He is buried at Golden Gate National Cemetery at V, O, 876.

References
His Navy Cross Citation: "For extraordinary heroism while attached to a Marine Fighter Command in action against enemy Japanese forces in the Solomon Islands on April 18, 1943. Leading a flight of sixteen fighter planes at dangerously low altitude in the longest planned interception mission ever attempted, Major Mitchell contacted the assigned objective, consisting of two enemy bombers and six escort fighters, with complete tactical surprise and launched a fierce, determined attack. In the ensuing engagement he directed the operations of his group with such outstanding professional skill and daring courage that they shot down both bombers in flames, three of the hostile escort aircraft and another bomber, not in company, which was sighted approaching the nearby enemy base at Kahili. With full appreciation of the technical accuracy required for the achievement of this vital mission, Major Mitchell completed the difficult assignment with remarkable success. His brilliant leadership and valiant devotion to duty under extremely adverse conditions contributed greatly to the efforts of our forces in the Solomon Islands and were in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Armed Services."
FindAGrave - Col John William Mitchell (photo, Navy Cross citation and grave photo)
USAF Historical Study No. 85 USAF Credits For The Destruction of Enemy Aircraft, World War II Alphabetical: Mitchell Jonh W page 134
Mustang and Thunderbolt Aces of the Pacific and CBI (1999) pages 84



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