John Herbert “Jack” Lyle
November 7, 1920 – January 5, 2019
Class 44-G-SE 8/4/1944 Flt. Officer T64638 Chicago, IL
Jack graduated from Englewood High School, he was engaged and inspired by his mother, the singer Ernestine Lyle, who performed in a quartet and with the American Negro Light Opera Association. She enrolled him in piano and violin lessons, according to his wife.
“His mom bought him a 50-volume set of the Harvard Classics,” she said. “He was very well-read.”
The members of the nation’s first black fighter squadron won acclaim for their aerial prowess and bravery, despite a military that imposed segregation on its African-American recruits while respecting the rights of German prisoners.
Lyle, who named his plane “Natalie” after his first wife, was credited with shooting down a German Messerschmitt.
“We flew 500 feet above the bombers to keep enemy fighters from hitting our guys,” he recalled in a 2012 interview with Jet magazine. “I loved flying, being up in the clouds, the scenery. I flew 26 combat missions, from southern Italy to Austria and southern Germany, over the Austrian Alps.”
Lyle told Jet he was fired upon several times.
“I watched bombers being torn apart, but they were performing the mission they signed up to do,” Lyle said. “And when I had to shoot the guy who was shooting at the planes I was protecting; I did not feel bad because that was my assignment.”
After the war, Lyle served as a police officer with the Chicago Park District and founded a tree-trimming company. He later took up sailing.
“He was an amazing sailor,” said Janet Hansen of the Jackson Park Yacht Club. “He could sail his boat in any weather.”
In addition to his wife, Lyle is survived by three step-children.