From USNA Virtual Memorial Hall
John Willey '44

Date of birth: December 24, 1920

Date of death: August 30, 1943

Age: 22

Naval Academy Register

John Scott Willey was admitted to the Naval Academy from Iowa on July 12, 1940 at age 19 years 7 months.

He resigned on on April 22, 1941: "Deficient in studies, first term's work. Continued with class pending reexamination. Reexamined and again deficient. Recommended to be dropped. Permitted to resign."

Lucky Bag

John Scott Willey is listed on a page titled "Gone… But Ne'er Forgotten":

There were close to a thousand of us when we entered in June of 1940 and formed the new fourth class, the class of 1944. Now, as we graduate one year ahead of time, there are less than 800. But we who go to join the active services are sure in our minds that our friends of fourth class summer who have left us at various stages of the course will find their place in the American Victory Machine, rolling relentlessly on to a triumph over the forces of evil that threaten the life and liberty we all hold so dear.



John was killed in action on August 30, 1943 while piloting a P-38 Lightning fighter over Italy.

From the 71st Fighter Squadron History:

30 Aug 43 An escort mission protecting B-26s to their target at Aversa marshalling yards. During this time two waves of German fighters challenged the bombers and P-38s in a battle which numbered 75 highly aggressive and persistent aircraft against 44 P-38s. The group ended up with 13 pilots not returning from the mission, and one wounded.

Five from the 94th were lost: Lts John G. Cram (MIA), Ralph E. Peck (MIA), Charles A. Woodward (MIA), David O. Parlett (POW) and Harold D. Rigney (POW). Hal Rigney and David Parlett were captured, escaped and returned to the squadron in the summer of 1944. Lt Jack Pettus was the only #4 man to return. An interesting fact surrounds the downing of Hal Rigney. Rigney flew in a rear position and noticed a stray P-38 that flew in behind him. The P-38 fired and hit Rigney forcing him to bail out. A captured P-38 flown by a German was the culprit. Burned and bruised, Lt Parlett bailed out into the water where he was picked up and taken prisoner. He shared the same prison with Lt Catledge who was captured two days previously.

The 71st lost five: Lts John Willey (KIA), Clarence Southgard (eventually returned) and Walter Morrison (POW), Lt Ralph Turrentine (KIA- presumed killed in a mid-air collision with German fighters). The 27th lost Lts Harry Warmker (KIA), Clifford Randol (KIA), Jerome Weinberg (KIA) and F/O Donald Deisenroth (POW), and Lt John Husby was wounded in action. This was the greatest loss the Group suffered in a single day thus far (and second only to the 10 Jun 1944 mission) and earned it a second Presidential unit citation.

Other Information

From the Daily Courier (Waterloo, Iowa) on October 20, 1944:

Independence, Ia.-Mrs. Hazel Willey of Independence, has been notified by the government that her son, First Lieut. John S. Willey. who had been missing for a year following action in Sicily, bas been officially declared dead.

John, the eldest son of Mr. and Mrs. Horace Willey, was born here Dec 24, 1920. He was graduated from Independence high school junior college and enrolled in Iowa State college at Ames. After about year there, he received an appointment to the Annapolis naval academy in June, 1940, which he attended up to a short time before enlisting in the army air forces.

His training took place at several fields, culminating in graduation from Luise Field, Phoenix, Ariz as pilot of a P-38 fighter plane.

He bad seen action in Africa before the Italian campaign, receiving a distinguished flying cross several months ago. He has also been awarded posthumously the purple heart and presidential citation for the action in which he lost his life.

John has a memory marker in Iowa; he is also listed at the North Africa American Cemetery and Memorial in Tunisia.

He was predeceased by his father and a younger brother.

Memorial Hall Error

John is listed in Memorial Hall as "2LT, USMCR," but he was a 1LT in the US Army. This is correctly reflected in the March 1944 issue of Shipmate, where he is listed as missing.

Class of 1944

John is one of 66 members of the Class of 1944 on Virtual Memorial Hall.

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