Last Known Activity
John Thomas Lyles, Jr. was born in Newberry, South Carolina on September 12, 1918. He was the son of John T. and Maggie A, Lyles, Sr. He graduated from Newberry High School in 1935. He then enrolled at Clemson University, graduating in 1939 with a Bachelor of Science degree.
He enlisted in the U.S. Army on July 25, 1940. After basic training, he was sent to Fort Benning, Georgia as an instructor. In January 1942, he transferred to the Army Air Forces and underwent pilot training. He received his commission and wings at Moultrie Field, Georgia on August 5, 1942. He then spent the next two years with operational units, becoming an experienced P-47 pilot. Sometime during this period, he married Kathryn Crawford.
In March 1945, he was sent to the South Pacific Area and assigned to the 463rd Fighter Squadron of the 507th Fighter Group. on May 20, 1945, while performing a scheduled altitude test over Eniwetok Atoll in the Marshall Islands, his wing man lost sight of Captain Lyles' aircraft. It was never seen again.
He is memorialized on the Tablets of the Missing at Honolulu Memorial and Cemetery in Hawaii. His name is also on the Roll of Honor on the Old Tillman Hall Bell Marker at Clemson University.
The State (Columbia, SC) newspaper issue of 6/13/1946 p2
Captain Lyles, while an experienced P-47 pilot, was flying P-51D # 44-63982, unnamed, at the time of his death. According to records, the 507th Fighter Group was converting from P-47 aircraft to the P-51 at this time.
Missing Air Crew Report 16554 was issued to cover this loss. As this incident occured before the cessation of hostilities with Japan, Captain Lyles should, as a MIA and never recovered, have been awarded the Purple Heart Medal. However, his record does not indicate this award.
Service photo source: