Mitchell flew a dive bomber in the Pacific Theater during World War II with the Navy Air Corps
Brought into this world in 1924 by a midwife in the suburbs of Chicago, Mitch laughs when he tells that he lived on Mozart Street, but developed a love for jazz. Once he graduated from high school and 18 years old Mitch enlisted in the Navy Air Corps with the desire to fly, and fly he did! His wings were given to him in Texas in February 1944, and soon after he was in a dive-bomber plane on a carrier on a shakedown of the ship. The shakedown was to work out all the “bugs” on the ship such as landing procedure and anything else that involved flying.
FLYING IN WWII
By April of 1945, Mitch was flying support for ground forces over Okinawa. He then proceeded to bomb targets in Japan, both ship and military installations. One day that lives in his memory is the day of July 28, 1945, when his plane was disabled by enemy aircraft and his gunner, Pinky, was seriously injured. Mitch was able to make a water landing in the Sea of Japan, got Pinky on an inflatable raft, set off a flare and waited for help to arrive. With the plane going down head first, he held onto the raft thinking he would never live to tell this story. A plane flew over, but did not see the two in the water and only after that same plane rescued five others in the water some miles away did they see Mitch and Pinky and made a successful rescue. Fifty years later at a reunion Mitch would be reunited with a man on the crew of that plane that picked them up, and that is when Mitch learned “the rest of the story.” After being rescued from the water, both men went to Okinawa hospital ship for treatment for Pinky and then to a rest camp for two weeks where Mitch met other pilots who had been rescued. Pinky survived.
Not long after, Mitch was sent back to the carrier for more flying and remembers the day he circled over the USS Missouri while the peace treaty was being signed. He then flew over prison camps and dropped cigarettes and candy to the soldiers standing on roofs of those buildings. That was a wonderful feeling to be doing something more for the prisoners before their rescue. Mitch flew a total of 18 missions.
AFTER THE WAR
After leaving the service in Dec. 1945 Mitch attended Purdue University for three years, then left to work in Chicago with a company that manufactured industrial products and aircraft components. After one year they put him in sales. He would later work for a company that made stainless steel equipment for veterinary hospitals and research facilities. He and his wife, Pauline, loved the travel of that job until his retirement in 1989. Having no children of their own they moved from Kansas City to Independence to live near a nephew. Mitch had a brother who was drafted into the infantry, stepped on a mine in Italy and lost his leg. Two other brothers served in the military after WWII. Mitch was invited to take an Honor Flight on May 1 to visit the WWII Memorial in Washington, D.C.