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ENID — Yalobusha County resident Donald Dalrymple is raising funds to purchase a historical marker to recognize Col. John William Mitchell, from Enid. Col. Mitchell was a World War II Triple Ace pilot credited with leading the operation to kill Japanese Marshal Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, who conceived the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. He was awarded the Navy Cross, the Navy’s second highest award, for his brilliant leadership and valiant devotion to duty under extremely adverse conditions.
Assisting Dalrymple with the fundraising is David Howard, owner of the Enid Depot restaurant. The marker will be placed on restaurant property, located only a few hundred yards from Mitchell’s childhood home. The marker will be approved by the Mississippi Department of Archives and History and will include a brief biography detailing Col. Mitchell’s combat history.
John William Mitchell was born in Enid in 1914. He enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1934 and served with the Coast Artillery Corps at Fort Ruger, HI, until 1938. Mitchell entered flight training with the Army Air Corps one year later, where he was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant.
His most notable feat comes from his leadership during the Yamamoto Mission, also referred to as Operation Vengeance. In April of 1943, the U.S. military intercepted an encoded message detailing the flight of Admiral Yamamoto to Bougainville, in the Solomon Islands. To avoid detection on radar, Mitchell and seventeen other pilots flew just 50 feet above the water. They departed from Guadalcanal at 7:10 a.m., hoping to spot Yamamoto’s flight at 9:35 a.m. Mitchell took meticulous control over the mission, carefully checking off each leg of the flight to Bougainville.
Yamamoto’s bomber was downed in a fiery crash upon the jungle canopy. It was not until later, when a search party discovered the Admiral’s body among the wreckage, that it was known with certainty to be the bomber carrying Yamamoto.
Legal speculation surrounding the credit for downing Yamamoto’s aircraft persisted in the decades following the mission. Julius “Jack” Jacobson, a pilot during the mission, defended the group effort over individual recognition.
“Historians, fighter pilots and all of us who have studied the record of this extraordinary mission will forever speculate as to the exact events of that day in 1943. There is glory for the whole team,” Jacobson remarked in 1997.
Mitchell flew 240 combat missions in World War II and Korea and was credited with 15 combined aerial victories. His accolades include the Distinguished Service Cross, Navy Cross, Legion of Merit, Distinguished Flying Cross with 2 Bronze Oak Leaf Clusters, Bronze Star Medal, Air Medal with Silver and 4 Bronze Oak Leaf Clusters, Army Commendation Medal, Presidential Unit Citation, American Defense Service Medal, American Campaign Medal, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with 4 Bronze Stars, European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with Bronze Star, World War II Victory Medal, Army of Occupation Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Korean Defense Service Medal with 3 Bronze Stars, Air Force Longevity Service Award, Armed Forces Reserve Medal, Republic of Korea Presidential Unit Citation Medal, United Nations Service Medal, Republic of Korea War Service Medal, and Command Pilot Badge.
Pilots who downed five or more enemy aircraft during combat received the unofficial military aviator title of Ace. Col. Mitchell is a member of an elite list of pilots that hold the title of Triple Ace.
Col. Mitchell passed away in 1995, and is buried at Golden Gate Cemetery, in San Mateo, Calif.
The cost of the memorial marker is expected to be $2,300, $1,700 of which has already been secured. Contributions can be made by way of a check, made out to Dalrymple, and delivered to the Herald office on Main Street in Water Valley. For more information, contact Dalrymple at (662) 662-710-9043.