Jackie Carwell was born on December 30, 1923, in Louisville, Kentucky. He began his 32-year military career just after America had entered WW2 when he dropped out of his senior year at Male High School to join the Army Air Corps. He was accepted as an Aviation Cadet, and began primary flight training at Kelly Field in San Antonio, Texas. He went on to advanced flight training in McAllen, Texas.
In January 1944, Carwell was transferred to Ft. Myers. Florida, where he was introduced to the aircraft that he would ride to battle; the Republic P-47 Thunderbolt. This aircraft was the largest single-engine fighter built by any country in the war, and was incredibly powerful, carrying eight .50-caliber machine guns, and an assortment of bombs and rockets, depending on the mission requirements. Jackie, a fit 5 foot, 5 inches, 140-pound fighter pilot, looked quite small next to this behemoth. But he was certainly up to the challenge.
Carwell was sent to England, where he joined the 62nd Fighter Squadron of the US 56th Fighter Group, the famed “Zemke’s Wolfpack”, commanded by Col. Hubert, “Hub” Zemke. Jackie’s combat duty involved flying escort duty for B-17 and B-24 bombing raids over Germany, France, and other European countries. He flew ground support missions, destroying trains, factories, and armored columns while providing support to Allied ground troops, and is credited with shooting down a Focke-Wulf FW 190. He made two low-level sorties over the Normandy Landing on June 6, 1944.
For his action in Europe, Carwell was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Air Medal, the Bronze Star, and various other medals and campaign ribbons. He achieved the rank of Captain at the end of the war and is commemorated at the American Air Museum in England. He had completed 96 missions and had accumulated 3,000 combat hours.
This was not the end of his military career, however. In 1946 he entered the University of Kentucky and after graduation, in 1948, returned to active duty with the newly formed US Air Force. He returned to Kentucky in 1954 and completed Dental School at the University of Louisville. He joined the Kentucky Air National Guard, flying P-51 Mustangs and F-86 Saber jets. He had a tour in Vietnam as a dental officer with the 25th Infantry Division, and was quoted as saying “Ground war is hell.”
Jackie was a successful dentist in Bowling Green, Kentucky, and piloted his aircraft until he was 85. He passed away on May 7, 2016.