With over 300 missions in World War II's Pacific Theater, John Loisel spent more than 3 consecutive years in combat--longer than any other US pilot. Born in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, and raised in Norfolk, Nebraska, Loisel entered the Army Air Corps and completed flying training in October 1941. While on a ship heading for the Philippine Islands, he learned of the Japanese attack on Hawaii. Mentally, he prepared for the air battles he knew lay ahead. Loisel flew 82 combat missions over New Guinea in the P-39 Airacobra before being selected as initial cadre for a new unit, the 475th Fighter Group, equipped with the P-38 Lightning.
He quickly advanced to flight lead, and in October 1943 became an "ace" when he downed two Japanese fighters in a single engagement over Oro Bay, just 2 months after his first victory. Three months later, Loisel took command of the 432nd Fighter Squadron, a unit assigned to strike targets in New Guinea and the Halmaharas, and cover General MacArthur's return to the Philippines. Advising his squadron pilots to "Head for the main body of the enemy.disregard stragglers...(and) plow into the largest bunch you see," he gained a reputation for aggressiveness which was soon reinforced by two more victories over enemy fighters. While escorting B-25 Mitchells attacking a Japanese convoy in Indochina, he scored his final victory, a Japanese fighter.
He later earned promotion to lieutenant colonel and command of the 475th Fighter Group. Loisel flew more than 875 hours in combat--all by the age of 25. Popular and respected, he became the 475th's fourth leading ace while flying in the company of topscoring aces Charles MacDonald, Dick Bong, and Thomas McGuire. After an assignment in Korea, he returned to the States in May 1946, to command the 63rd Fighter Squadron at Selfridge AFB, Michigan, and guide the unit's transition to the jet-powered P-80 Shooting Star. Following a tour at HQ Air Defense Command, Loisel returned to combat as the Korean Conflict neared armistice.
Commanding the 474th Fighter Bomber Group, he flew the F-84G Thunderjet on 22 combat missions. He later excelled as Commander, 83rd Fighter Group, and Deputy Commander, 4th Tactical Fighter Wing. He retired from the Air Force in 1970 with over 5,500 flying hours, 323 combat missions, and 11 confirmed aerial victories. Returning to college for an advanced degree in physics, he began another rewarding career, teaching at the high school level. He retired again in 1985. He is an avid golfer and active member of the American Fighter Aces Association.*
On 3 April 1944, as the last major battle began for control of the skies over Hollandia, New Guinea, a flight of Japanese fighters moved into Captain John Loisel's view, completely unaware they had been spotted. Escorting a flight of B-25s on a low-level attack against Japanese airfields, Loisel found himself in a position to seize the initiative and rolled his long-range P-38 Lightning over and dove, scattering the enemy formation while the bombers pressed on. When the frenzy subsided, Loisel had scored two more victories over Japanese fighters--his ninth and tenth of the war.