John Thomas Blackburn – Captain, United States Navy

From a contemporary press report:

John Thomas Blackburn,  81, decorated World War II fighter pilot and air squadron Commander, died of cancer March 21, 1994 in Jacksonville, Florida. The son and younger brother of Naval officers, he was born and grew up in the District.

He attended the old Western High School and graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 1933. In 1943, took command of fighter squadron VF-17, the first to fly an F-4U Corsair fighter plane in combat. Known as the Jolly Rogers, squadron was among the most famous of the war. Under his command, the squadron downed 155 Japanese airplanes in 76 days and produced 13 aces in the process. He himself shot down 13 enemy planes. He was awarded Navy Cross and the Distinguished Flying Cross for his war service.

He served at Pentagon after the war and commanded the aircraft carrier Midway in 1958 and 1959. He retired from the Navy in 1962.

In 1989, he published “The Jolly Rogers,” an account of his squadron's exploits during its campaign in the Solomon Islands.

His marriage to Rosalie Reed of the District ended in divorce. Survivors include his wife, Jane Brashears of Jacksonville; a daughter, a son, and 5 grandchildren. Services will be held at Arlington National Cemetery.

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