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John “Jack” Lyle (2019), World War II Tuskegee Airman

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Legendary fighter pilot was awarded a Congressional Gold Medal

John “Jack” Lyle (2019) was one of the legendary Tuskegee Airmen, the country’s first African-American fighter group. The Airmen were among the most skilled pilots during World War II. Lyle, who named his plane “Natalie” in honor of his first wife, was credited with shooting down a German Messerschmitt. After the war, he became a Chicago police officer with the park district and operated a tree trimming company. His favorite hobby was sailing on Lake Michigan.

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Died: Saturday January 5, 2019. (Who else died on January 5?)

Details of death: Died at the age of 98 at his home in Chicago from prostate cancer.


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On racism during the war: “The airmen made a contribution to our country.” “And even though there was a lot of racism then, a lot of other people think so, too. Once, I went to a bar in full uniform and some white guys started approaching me. I was watching them. Then, they broke into smiles and started thanking me, saying, ‘You’re one of those people that protected our guys.’ – In a 2012 interview with Jet Magazine

On his love of flying: “We flew 500 feet above the bombers to keep enemy fighters from hitting our guys.” . . . . I loved flying, being up in the clouds, the scenery. I flew 26 combat missions, from southern Italy to Austria and southern Germany, over the Austrian Alps.” – In a 2012 interview with Jet Magazine

What people said about him: “He taught a lot of people how to sail so the wind was always their motor.” “You have to understand the wind to be a pilot, whether it’s in the air or a sailboat.” – Janet Hansen, commodore of the Jackson Park Yacht Club told the Chicago Sun Times


Visit our Tuskegee Airmen Photo Gallery


Full obituary: Chicago Sun Times

Related lives:

World War II Memorial Site – Honoring veterans

Remembering Tuskegee Airmen Photo Gallery

Remembering the Tuskegee Airmen Video Tribute

Floyd Carter, Sr. – Tuskegee Airman Obituary