John Capito was born October 31, 1945, in Augusta, Kentucky. He came to Bowling Green shortly after, attending St. Joseph’s School, and graduating from WKU in 1967. He had begun planning to be a Marine Corps aviator as a young boy when he heard his father (himself a Marine Corps combat hero) speak of his admiration for the pilots he had seen on Guadalcanal.
Selected for assignment to the F4 Phantom, he was sent to NAS Meridian Mississippi where he flew the T2 Buckeye advanced jet trainer and learned instrument, aerobatic and formation flying, and then to NAS Pensacola Florida for aircraft carrier qualification.
He requested and was ssigned to VMFA-513, a Phantom F4B squadron. Capito requested an assignment to Vietnam for two reasons: to follow in his father’s footsteps of serving in the Marines during the war and to avenge the combat death of his best friend Johnny Miller. He was able to support USMC ground operations, and flew 105 combat missions, returning stateside in 1971.
Lt Capito volunteered to fly the newest and most unusual aircraft in the Marine Corps arsenal, the AV8-A Harrier. This was the first combat aircraft capable of vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) and was the exclusive property of the Marines. There were no simulators or two-seat training aircraft available for this type, and when Capito arrived for duty with VMA-542 in MCAS Beaufort, South Carolina he was joining only the second squadron to be equipped with this incredibly complex machine.
With ever-increasing demands being placed on the Harrier squadrons, Capt. Capito found himself becoming one of the most experienced AV8 pilots in the Corps. His group performed weapons tests and evaluation, public relations and demonstration flights, and carrier testing and deployments. His squadron relocated to MCAS Cherry Point and continued to build strength and experience. After numerous overseas deployments, stateside rotations, and a brief stint as a civilian pilot with Braniff Airlines, Lt Col Capito reached the pinnacle of his Marine Corps career, becoming the Commanding Officer of the Marine Corps Harrier Training Squadron, VMAT-203, as well as being the first person to eject from the newest version of the Harrier, the AV8-B, following a catastrophic engine failure.
He credited his longstanding relationships with both officer and enlisted men in the Marine Corps with his success as a CO. Capito developed a true love for the Harrier and a natural aptitude for training young Navy and Marine Corps pilots to fly it professionally and young enlisted men to maintain, repair and arm the aircraft quickly and efficiently.
John retired from the Marine Corps for the second time in 1987 and spent several years in Kansas City where he explored many business ventures, always searching for new deals and opportunities. Big or small made no difference as to the amount of excitement, time, or work he invested. He served as president of his homeowner’s association and was active in numerous civic and veteran affairs. He was instrumental in the organization of all USMC Harrier reunions.
He returned to Bowling Green and passed away on November 9, 2020, the day before the Marine Corps birthday. He left behind his wife, Linda McIvoy Capito.
Lieutenant Colonel John William Capito, USMC, earned the Meritorious Service Award, the Air Medal (nine awards), the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal (two awards) with V device, the Navy Meritorious Unit Commendation, and various theatre and campaign ribbons.
Capito’s book about the Marine Corps V/STOL program, “AV-8 Harrier Straight Up and Out of Control: A Few Observations and Confessions of a Harrier Pilot,” is available on Amazon. Click this link to check it out.