Enlisting in the Air Corps

Fighter Pilot

War's End


John Lawler was born in September 1921 in Baltimore [Annotator's Note: Baltimore, Maryland] with three brothers and three sisters. His father worked for North American Cement Corporation throughout the Depression [Annotator's Note: the Great Depression was a global economic depression that lasted from 1929 through 1939 in the United States]. He went to Mount Saint Joseph High School in Irvington [Annotator's Note: Irvington, Maryland]. After high school, Lawler went to work for the same cement business as his father. He was dating the woman who would become his wife, Catherine Snowden, at the time. Lawler decided to enlist after Pearl Harbor [Annotator's Note: the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii on 7 December 1941] and was assigned to the tank corps. Later, he does not remember how, he got into the Air Force and became a fighter pilot. He enjoyed it. He shot down 11 enemy planes during the war. He was sent overseas to North Africa, after stopping in Palermo, Sicily. When learning to fly, you flew with an instructor until he thought you could handle it on your own. Lawler always felt confident about flying, he loved being a pilot. It made him feel like a king. He enjoyed being in the Air Force.


John Lawler flew a P-51 [Annotator's Note: North American P-51 Mustang fighter aircraft] with the 2nd Squadron, 52nd Fighter Group [Annotator's Note: 2nd Fighter Squadron, 52nd Fighter Group, 15th Air Force]. His first kill was in May 1944. Once, when he landed there were 18 bullet holes in his plane. He was so busy shooting at someone else that he did not even notice anyone shooting at him. He never felt fear. Lawler ended the war with 11 confirmed kills. His role was to escort bombers, staying above and behind them. The fighter escorts were in communication with each other, but not with the bombers. Lawler would come as close as within 100 yards of enemy fighter planes. Every time they pulled the trigger, a camera would run and film what they were firing at. They would watch the films when they got back to base. There was always liquor waiting for them when they got back. Lawler never saw fellow pilots get shot down, but occasionally someone would not come back and they would just hope they bailed out safely.


John Lawler never doubted the United States would win the war, but did not know how long it would take. He received mail, but did not write back very often. They were constantly getting news about the war via radio. The fighter pilots and bomber pilots were mostly separated and did not get to know each other. When the war ended, Lawler went back to the United States and relaxed. Lawler earned the Silver Star [Annotator's Note: the Silver Star Medal is the third-highest award a United States service member can receive for a heroic or meritorious deed performed in a conflict with an armed enemy] and DFC [Annotator's Note: the Distinguished Flying Cross, or DFC, is awarded to members of the United States Armed Forces for heroism or extraordinary achievement while participating in an aerial flight], but does not recall for what actions. He did not think much about the war once he got home, and soon got married. The war did not change him, he saw it as just another job.

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