Service Number: O-006998
Birth and Early Life:
Few details of Jack Lyon’s early life are known. Upon enlisting, he named his wife as his next-of-kin, and claimed Seattle, Washington as his home town. (1)
Enlistment and Boot Camp:
Lyon enlisted in Spokane on September 17, 1940. He was designated a Student Naval Aviation Pilot. By December 9, Lyon had completed the preliminary requirements for further training, and was accepted as a cadet at Puget Sound Navy Yard. He would earn his wings and his commission in 1941.
On March 21, 1942, Jack Lyon and a host of other pilots boarded the USS Procyon at San Diego, and set sail for Samoa. Upon his arrival, he was assigned to VMF-111, the “Devil Dogs,” who were anxiously awaiting something else from the Procyon – their allotment of 19 F4F Wildcat fighters. Every man on the island had heard of the demise of Wake Island, and many rightly figured that they were in a similarly sacrificial position – one pilot, R. Bruce Porter, recalled that “Our job was simply to attack Japanese warships as far out at sea as we could find them and, failing that, to defend the beaches when the dreaded invasion force landed. As had already happened at Wake, those of us who survived air combat were expected to fight as infantry once our Wildcats could no longer be flown. We were expendable. Our only purpose out there was to buy time for our nation to train and equip the hundreds of Navy, Marine, and Air Corps squadrons yet to be formed.” (2)
Training continued through the spring and summer as news of the fall of Corregidor, the defense of Midway and the victory in the Coral Sea filtered through to the Americans on Samoa. The threat to Samoa was not lifted, and strong emphasis was placed on practicing fighter gunnery in mock dogfights.
Date Of Loss:
July 26, 1942, was supposed to be routine: practice flights, including a few mock dogfights. However, it would end with the first of many losses the squadron would suffer during the war.
We suffered our first fatality during this period, while six of us, in two three-plane elements, were practicing formation dogfighting. The two elements had just completed a head-on mock firing pass and I was recovering to the left, when I saw that 2nd Lieutenant Jack Lyons’s [sic] F4F had broken from the opposing formation and was spiraling nose-first toward the sea. I had no idea why Lyons was diving, but he looked to be in trouble, and I instinctively dived away after him. Jack never got out of the airplane; I saw no sign of life in the cockpit. The F4F plunged straight into the water and was never seen again. I learned within a minute that Jack had swept ahead of and too close to his element leader and that the element leader’s propeller had cut through Jack’s F4F right behind the cockpit. Jack doubtless had zero control over his fighter in the wake of the collision, and he could very well have been too dazed or injured to react. Or perhaps his cockpit canopy had become stuck on its rails while Jack was trying to bail out. Whatever the case, Jack Lyons died when his Wildcat dived into the water. (3)
Next Of Kin:
Wife, Mrs. Jack Lyon
Status Of Remains:
Lost at sea.
Tablets of the Missing, National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific.
(1) The ABMC memorial for Lt. Lyon records that he was originally from Montana, however no definite census records have been located to confirm this.
(2) Porter, R. Bruce with Eric Hammel. “Ace! A Marine Night-Fighter Pilot in World War II.”
(3) Ibid. The serial number of Lyon’s aircraft is not known; the only loss recorded by the Aviation Archaeology database for July 26, 1942 was an F4F flown by a VMO-251 pilot, Lt. George Kohler.