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history lesson

  • Celebrating the heroic life of John "Jack" Lyle, one of the last surviving Tuskegee Airmen

    John “Jack” Lyle next to his fighter jet named after his first wife Natalie during WWII.

    “I don’t consider myself a hero because a hero is somebody who does something beyond the call of duty, I never did anything beyond the call of duty, whatever I did I did because I liked it” Fox News Channel May 4th 2018

    On this Black History Month Cockpit USA pays honor to one of the last surviving heroes of the iconic Tuskegee Airmen group of WWII. The Tuskegee Airmen were a group of black soldiers that defied expectations in a segregated military during a time when it was believed African-Americans couldn’t be trained in aviation. Their bravery and contributions helped promote inclusion in the advancement of the United States military.

    Photo of Tuskegee Airmen During WWII

    John “Jack” Lyle died on January 5th, 2019 at 98 years old in his home in the Chicago South Side. Lyle was a child musician, fighter pilot, cop, a sailor, an entrepreneur, and an amateur inventor. His wife Eunice Jackson-Lyle described him as an individual who loved to learn; “his home had a library stocked with encyclopedias and classic novels”. During his last days, Lyle spent his time at the Jackson Park Harbor on Lake Michigan, a perfect location for one of his many passions, sailing.

    “Captain Jack” as he was called by many loved ones was a highly skilled fighter pilot, "We flew 500 feet above the bombers to keep enemy fighters from hitting our guys," he recalled in a 2012 interview with Jet Magazine. "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." Lyle also mentioned in the interview on how he was fired upon on several times and how he watched at first-hand other bombers being torn apart by the enemy. After the war, Lyle returned to his hometown of Chicago where he enlisted in college to then work as a skyscraper window washer. Lyle found other ventures after window washing; he worked as an insurance salesman to then owning his own fish and chicken restaurant and eventually a tree cutting service company.

    John "Captain Jack" Lyle, at his Chicago home, Friday, Dec. 2, 2011. (Antonio Perez/Chicago Tribune)

    Lyle’s childhood dream came true in 1957 when he bought his first sailboat. The freedom he felt on the water fulfilled his competitive spirit. His intelligence and pilot experience made him an outstanding sailor, as he was quick to respond to any wind changes upon the horizon. The many years of practice paid off and Lyle eventually became a captain at the Jackson Park Yacht Club. Lyle's focus and love of sailing awarded him the title of  “Yachtsperson of the Year” by the Chicago Yachting Association at the age of 91, becoming the eldest person to receive the honor.

     

    John Lyle on Lake Michigan 2018

    With all of these recognitions none compare to the Congressional Gold Medal bestowed by then president George W. Bush in 2007, which acknowledge Lyle’s achievements and bravery during WWII. All of these milestones never deterred Lyle’s humbleness as he never considered that what he did was award-worthy.

    U.S. Capitol. Arrival. Greeted by Speaker Nancy Pelosi in Statuary Hall. Photo opportunity with 300 Tuskegee Airmen prior to Ceremony.

    Today we pay respect an honor the legacy of an American champion. Surviving though his wife and three children, John “Captain Jack” Lyle is part of history. Lyle and many other men during WWII risked their lives to ensure that our freedoms at home were protected during a time of adversity. His service and the service of all Tuskegee Airmen is an important piece of the Civil Rights Movement that influenced unity within the military. Here’s to a man who lived to be free in the skies and on the water, rest in peace John “Captain Jack” Lyle.

  • An Air Force Second-To-None

    USAF F16 and P51 Mustang Heritage Flight

    Today, September 18th, 2018 we celebrate the 71st birthday of the United States Air Force. The Air Force traces its history back to 1907 when it became a division of the U.S Army Signal Corps just 4 years after the first powered flight at Kitty Hawk, NC by the aviation pioneers the Wright Brothers. First tested in combat during WWI, matured during the years between the World Wars, and dominating the skies in combat during WWII and coming into its own as the U.S Army Air Corps, and in 1941 renamed the U.S Army Air Force during WWII the independent Air Force concept took shape.

    Mosquito FAC pilots Korean War1

    In the aftermath of World War Two, as aviation technology advanced rapidly into the jet age proponents of an independent service branch were heard loud and clear. As a function of the National Security of 1947 the U.S Air Force was born on September 18th of that year and would become what could be considered the first line of defense against the growing Soviet Threat of the post-war years, that would become known as the Cold War. Since its birth 71 years ago the USAF has dominated the skies over our adversaries and has held the edge of Air Superiority over our nations, and allies’ foes through its dedicated and skilled airmen, and it’s always evolving and ground-breaking technological advances.

    F-84 Pilots circa 1950

    On this occasion, we salute all the men and women who have served our nation as Airmen past and present as well as all those who have defended our nation through air dominance for 71 years. We are also very proud to have supported our airmen for over 35 years supplying high quality, made in the USA flight apparel including flight jackets, flight suits, and especially proud to have been a part of bringing back the A-2 flight jacket tradition to aircrews in 1987 on the occasion of the 40th birthday of the United States Air Force.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Happy 71st Birthday USAF!

    To learn more about our nation’s Air Force go to www.af.mil and see first-hand the amazing job our Airmen do every day, both at home and abroad.

    Hill AFB F-105D and F 1980s
  • History.com: Chaplain G.I.

    In the same way that we at Cockpit USA preserve history through the creation of WWII leather aviation jackets, Film Corps is an outreach program that collects, maintains and presents pieces of aged film which captures unseen moments of the war. From his beginnings as a minister in Iowa, Bob Marken's father went on to become a chaplain in the National Guard. His interest in photography and relentless bravery on the front line, which awarded him a deserved record, with time resulted in reels of film capturing his time in service in Europe. While maintaining spiritual morale among the troops, conducting church services and providing prayer for the wounded and dying G.I.'s, Marken's father managed to film Eisenhower, Winston Churchill and even a young Queen Elizabeth. Discovered by his son many years later, these many hours of moving image have been transferred from their disintegrating reels onto video, where they have been edited and narrated, creating unique pieces of film specifically preserved in his memory. Take a look at this interesting video taken by History.com...

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