John William Ackley

1922 - 2014

Air Force

Their Story

            John William Ackley was born on May 8, 1922, in Athens, Ohio, to Flourine Smith Ackley and Autmer Ackley.  He grew up on the family dairy farm just outside of Athens.  Shortly after graduating from high school in 1939, John joined the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) and served in Eastern Oregon.[1]  After his time in the CCC, John returned to his hometown and joined the Athens Aviation Mechanics School.  When he finished his training, he headed to Baltimore, Maryland, and worked at the Martin Bomber Company.  Between 1941 and 1945, there were 5,288 B-26 bombers created in the state of Maryland.  Hundreds of these bombers were used in the invasion of Normandy in June of 1944. 

            Although proudly serving his country in Baltimore, John wanted to do more.  He volunteered for and was accepted into the Army Aviation Cadet Program. On December 7, 1942, exactly one year after the Japanese attacked the United States by bombing Pearl Harbor, he was called to active duty.  He went to Phoenix, Arizona, was commissioned a 2nd lieutenant, and received his pilot’s wings in October of 1943.  He was later promoted to captain.

            John was incredibly active when he went over to the European theater.  He flew over 63 combat missions in a single-seated P-38 Lightning Fighter Bomber.  These bombers could hold two thousand pound bombs, which could be dropped from a very high altitude.  The front of the plane also had a heavy mounted machine gun that was very useful against ground attacks.  He flew with the 474th Fighter group in the 9th Air Force.  The 474th was stationed at the Royal Air Force Base at Warmwell,[2] an air base near Dorset, England, that came under American control from March to August 1944.[3] It was known as USAAF Station AAF-454 during that time for security reasons.

            On the night and morning of June 5/6, John and his squadron took off to prepare for the invasion of Normandy, otherwise known as D-Day.  To this day, the 474th are revered for how well they performed during D-Day, as well as after.  One squadron from the 474th attacked a German stronghold and created so much damage that the Germans could not offer effective resistance.  The group also attacked roads and troops.

John, as well as the 474th, helped reinforce the Allies during the Battle of the Bulge from December 1944 to January 1945, in which the Germans counter-attacked the Allies in hopes of making a breakthrough.  John finished the war having earned the Distinguished Flying Cross, as well as the Air Medal with 12 Oak leaf Clusters.

            John was hospitalized in Belgium in January of 1945.  He recovered and returned to active duty, but was hospitalized again at Fitzsimons General Hospital in Denver, Colorado, due to a collapsed lung.  For John, this was a blessing in disguise, as he met his future wife, Marion Adele Buss, who was the head nurse on his floor at the hospital.[4]  She was a graduate of St. Luke’s School of Nursing and was a 1st lieutenant in the Army Nurse Corps and spent two years in the Pacific Theater, stationed in Korea and on Saipan.[5] She was then assigned to the Fitzsimons General Hospital where, in February of 1947, John married his nurse in the chapel.[6] They later had four children.

            After his service, John attended Oklahoma A&M College and Ohio State University.  He emerged from these institutions with a degree in agricultural engineering.  He then worked for Deere & Company for 33 years, where he held various positions.  One of these included working in Deere’s European office in Heidelberg, Germany, for six years as manager of product engineering coordination.  He retired in 1984.

John also was involved in many groups, such as the Moline Rotary Club where he was a Paul Harris Fellow, the 474th Fighter Group Association WWII, the P-38 National Association, Air Force Association, the Moline American Legion, and the Military Officers Association. He was a fellow and 60-year member of the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers. For six years, he served at Penn State University on the Industrial Professional Advisory Council. John’s son, John, II, became an engineer, as well.

On July 2, 2014, Captain John William Ackley passed away.  He is buried in the Rock Island National Cemetery in plot W-550. 

John William Ackley’s memorial page – Honor Veterans Legacies at VLM (

[1] John William Ackley (1922-2014) – Find a Grave Memorial

[2] 474th Air Expeditionary Group – Wikipedia

[3] RAF Warmwell – Wikipedia

[4] 19 Feb 2012, 60 – The Dispatch at

[5] 05 Jan 1947, 16 – The Morning Call at

[6] 20 Apr 1947, 15 – The Morning Call at