Gathering of Eagles Foundation

Honored as an Eagle in:

1995 1997

Eagle Biography

John F. Bolt

John F. "Jack" Bolt is the US Marine Corps' sole jet Ace; moreover he is also the only US naval aviator to become an Ace in two wars. In July 1941, he joined the USMC Reserve to help pay his way through college and was commissioned in 1942. Following a short stint as a flight instructor, he entered advanced training in the F-4F Wildcat and soon became carrier qualified. He was assigned to the Solomon Islands in 1943 where he joined a pool of replacement pilots. There, he met Major Pappy Boyington, a Marine veteran of the American Volunteer Group.

This pool eventually became a squadron, the VMF-214, commanded by Boyington. Because they were waiting to enter combat and felt like outcasts, they nicknamed themselves Boyington's Black Sheep. While at Espiritu, Bolt questioned the value of the standard load of incendiary, tracer, and armor-piercing rounds in a 1 - 1 - 1 mix repeated throughout the entire ammo belt. After conducting tests on wrecked airplanes in the base "boneyard," he switched the unit's pattern to one tracer for every five to six incendiaries and eliminated the armor-piercing round altogether. The lower number of tracers created a second advantage: the enemy pilot was less quickly alerted to his attacker, giving the attacker a chance to correct his aim if he missed on the first try. Such innovation helped Bolt claim six aerial victories.

Following WW II, he participated in an exchange with the USAF flying the F-86 Sabre with the Oregon Air National Guard. In 1952, he reported to Korea for a combat tour in the F-9F Panther, where he flew 94 air-to-ground missions. Shortly after arriving, Bolt surmised that much of the reported flak damage was actually self-inflicted. He found that aircraft were flying through their own bombs' fragmentation patterns. He originated the use of delayed fuses, allowing an aircraft to pull clear before its bomb detonated. He also instituted the use of phosphorous bombs with proximity fuses, that under the proper conditions, provided greater coverage than napalm bombs. Bolt wangled his way into a second Korean tour, only this time with the USAF, again flying the F-86.

He began flying as wingman to Joseph McConnell, the leading jet Ace of the Korean War, and ended the tour as an Ace, having destroyed six MiGs. After Korea, Bolt's assignments included command of VMF-214, the Black Sheep. In 1958, he led the first flights of single-engine fighters from Hawaii to California, using unit aircraft to refuel one another. He next led the first Hawaii-Japan flight of Navy/Marine single-engine fighters, this time using USAF and Navy tankers. Lieutenant Colonel Bolt's retirement in 1962 led to careers in both business and law.

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Lithograph Setting

Late 1943, flying over the Japanese stronghold of Rabaul, Captain "Jack" Bolt encountered a Zero carrying a single phosphorous bomb. The Japanese pilot tried to "throw" the bomb at a formation of B-24 bombers, but with little success. Capt Bolt chased the Zero down and destroyed it, just after it jettisoned its impotent bomb. This "Black Sheep" pilot would go on to achieve five more aerial victories in World War II.

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