JOHN L. MEHLIG, LCDR, USN

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John Mehlig '37

Date of birth: January 19, 1915

Date of death: February 21, 1945

Age: 30

Lucky Bag

From the 1937 Lucky Bag:

1937 Mehlig LB.jpg

JOHN LOUIS MEHLIG

Miami Beach, Florida

"Whitey" "Pop-Eye"

Back in the dark days of '33 when the cannon's roar and the battle field were as much a part of a plebe's life as four hard unforgettable years until graduation, Whitey stepped forth into a world of academic and foggy surroundings—the Naval Academy. Finding his first interest in football, Whitey did well, and in addition made a place for himself in that most pugnacious entertainment, lacrosse. Four years by the Bay, in spite of some of his failings of social and energetic nature, have proven Whitey's abilities and his possibilities as a naval officer.

Football 4, 3, 2. Lacrosse 4, 3, 2, 1, N. Two Stripes.

1937 Mehlig LB.jpg

JOHN LOUIS MEHLIG

Miami Beach, Florida

"Whitey" "Pop-Eye"

Back in the dark days of '33 when the cannon's roar and the battle field were as much a part of a plebe's life as four hard unforgettable years until graduation, Whitey stepped forth into a world of academic and foggy surroundings—the Naval Academy. Finding his first interest in football, Whitey did well, and in addition made a place for himself in that most pugnacious entertainment, lacrosse. Four years by the Bay, in spite of some of his failings of social and energetic nature, have proven Whitey's abilities and his possibilities as a naval officer.

Football 4, 3, 2. Lacrosse 4, 3, 2, 1, N. Two Stripes.

Loss

John was lost when USS Bismarck Sea (CVE 95) was sunk by two kamikazes on February 21, 1945 while supporting the invasion of Iwo Jima. He was the ship's executive officer.

From the Miami Herald on April 1, 1945:

Lt. Comdr. John Louis Mehlig, USN, son of Mrs. Webb Jay, Miami Beach, died as a result of wounds suffered Feb. 21 when his ship, the USS Bismarck Sea, was sunk off Iwo Jima.

The 30-year-old air command officer transferred to the Naval Air Corps in August, 1941, after serving three and a half years on the USS Tennessee. Completing training as a fighter pilot at Opa-locka, he was assigned to the Enterprise.

Before the Enterprise came home, Comdr. Mehlig shared a group Presidential citation for meritorious service. He was attached to the naval air station at Pearl Harbor before returning to this country early in 1944 for a leave and assignment to the Bismarck Sea.

As a boy in Washington, Comdr. Mehlig wanted to attend the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis, and entered Severn school, Maryland, with that in mind. Later, through the interest of Frank B. Shutts, Miami, he was appointed to Annapolis by Sen. Park Trammell.

A tribute to his ability as a fighter pilot was contained in a letter by an admiral to Mrs. Jay last Christmas. In it he said, "I want to tell you with utmost sincerity that John is a grand lad and is doing a wonderful job. Everyone who comes in contact with him says the same thing."

Other Information

From researcher Kathy Franz:

John attended John Eaton school and then Western High School in 1931. He was a Boy Scout and Eagle Scout with Troop 44 in Kokomo. At Severn school, he was voted the boy who contributed most to the school in leadership athletics and scholarships. He was a star lacrosse player at Annapolis.

Father Raymond Louis Mehlig was the president of the South Side Lumber and coal company in Kokomo, Indiana. His mother May was Mrs. Webb Jay.

From Severn School 1933 yearbook: “Whitey” You’ve guessed it the “Whitey” Mehlig who spends his Christmas leaves down in Miami. One of our finest athletes, Johnny captured a place on the All-Maryland football team of 1932, is showing up just as well on the mat, and is an expert when it comes to handling a lacrosse stick.

There is an old saying that ladies as well as gentlemen prefer blondes, but Whitey starts a new one – that all blondes don’t go for the ladies. Quiet, unassuming, well liked by all, Whitey goes through his classes leaving a long string of 4.0’s behind him. A member of Sigma Phi Sigma. Good luck, Whitey, and best wishes for the future.

He does not have anyone listed as next of kin, but he was survived by his parents (mother remarried), grandparents, and uncles who are retired USN.

Photographs

Bronze Star

The Miami News reported on December 31, 1946 that John's mother was presented his posthumous Bronze Star in a ceremony at the Miami naval air station.

Career

John was promoted to LTJG on June 3, 1940; on December 2, 1941 he was designated naval aviator #9988. He was promoted to LT on January 2, 1942 and reported as executive officer of Fighting Squadron (VF) 6 aboard USS Enterprise (CV 6) on August 24, 1942. He was promoted to LCDR on July 1, 1943 and on some unknown date after this became executive officer of USS Bismarck Sea (CVE 95). (Information from Richard Leonard, naval aviation historian.)

Navy Directories & Officer Registers

The "Register of Commissioned and Warrant Officers of the United States Navy and Marine Corps" was published annually from 1815 through at least the 1970s; it provided rank, command or station, and occasionally billet until the beginning of World War II when command/station was no longer included. Scanned copies were reviewed and data entered from the mid-1840s through 1922, when more-frequent Navy Directories were available.

The Navy Directory was a publication that provided information on the command, billet, and rank of every active and retired naval officer. Single editions have been found online from January 1915 and March 1918, and then from three to six editions per year from 1923 through 1940; the final edition is from April 1941.

The entries in both series of documents are sometimes cryptic and confusing. They are often inconsistent, even within an edition, with the name of commands; this is especially true for aviation squadrons in the 1920s and early 1930s.

Alumni listed at the same command may or may not have had significant interactions; they could have shared a stateroom or workspace, stood many hours of watch together… or, especially at the larger commands, they might not have known each other at all. The information provides the opportunity to draw connections that are otherwise invisible, though, and gives a fuller view of the professional experiences of these alumni in Memorial Hall.

January 1939
Ensign, USS Tennessee

October 1939
Ensign, USS Tennessee

June 1940
Ensign, USS Tennessee


Others at or embarked at this command:
LT Claude Haman '26 (Observation Squadron (VO) 2)
November 1940
Lieutenant (j.g.), USS Tennessee


Others at or embarked at this command:
LT Claude Haman '26 (Observation Squadron (VO) 2)
April 1941
Lieutenant (j.g.), USS Tennessee


Others at or embarked at this command:
LCDR Claude Haman '26 (Observation Squadron (VO) 2)


Class of 1937

John is one of 45 members of the Class of 1937 on Virtual Memorial Hall.

The "category" links below lead to lists of related Honorees; use them to explore further the service and sacrifice of alumni in Memorial Hall.