The 352nd FG was scheduled to fly a bomber escort mission on New Year’s Day. The night before, Lt. Colonel John C. Meyer asked for permission to fly a local patrol along the front before the escort mission to clear the air of any enemy planes that were in the vicinity. He was first denied his request, but was later granted permission. Twelve planes of the 487th FS were readied for the early morning mission. JC, leading the Squadron, took off into the first wave of enemy fighters. Despite the fact that the airfield was under attack all 12 blue nosed Mustangs made it off the ground safely. Meyer’s hunch had paid off.
After scoring his first victory of the day in “Petie 3rd” HO-M, Meyer latched on to a second Focke Wulf fighter and chased it all the way to Liege before shooting it down. His performance in the “Legend of Y-29” battle earned him his third Distinguished Service Cross.
A few days lt. Lt. Col. Meyer was seriously injured in an automobile accident and saw no further combat during WWII. After the war JC remained in the Air Force. He was CO of the 4th FIW when they deployed to Korea in the autumn of 1950. He shot down two MiGs and damaged a third to bring his score to 26. Attaining the rank of General by 1959, Meyer would earn four stars and be in charge of the Strategic Air Command before he retired in 1974.
General Meyer, born in Brooklyn, New York, attended schools in New York and left Dartmouth to become an Aviation Cadet in 1939. After the war he graduated from Dartmouth College with a bachelor of arts degree in political geography. He enlisted in the United States Army Air Corps in November 1939 in order to fly. In July 1940 he was commissioned a second lieutenant and awarded pilot wings. Second Lieutenant Meyer was assigned to flight instructor duty at Randolph Field, Texas and Gunter Field, Alabama. He was then transferred to the 33rd Pursuit Squadron of the 8th Pursuit Group at Mitchel Field, New York to fly the P-40. During the tense days before the United States entered World War II, the Group was sent to Iceland, flying convoy patrol missions. He then received orders in September 1942 to report to the newly formed 352nd Fighter Group at Westover, Massachusetts where he, as a 1st Lieutenant, assumed command of the 34th Pursuit Squadron that had recently returned from the Philippines in name only and was in need of new equipment and personnel. By the end of December, Meyer had received most of the ground personnel and had twenty six pilots assigned, but had no aircraft. In January, the unit moved to New Haven, Connecticut and began picking up the first P-47 Thunderbolt fighters that it would take to combat. The 34th was redesignated as the 487th Fighter Squadron in May 1943 prior to receiving orders to deploy to England.
Captain Meyer took the 487th Fighter Squadron to its new base at RAF Bodney in East Anglia and into combat during World War II scoring its first victory in November while flying a P-47. By then he had been promoted to major and began leading the group in aerial victories. He continued to score against German fighters and remain a leading ace after the 352nd transitioned to the P-51 Mustang and adopted their famous “Blue Noses”. By November 1944 he was deputy commander of the 352nd Fighter Group and the fourth highest scoring American ace in Europe with 24 confirmed air-to-air victories and 13 destroyed on the ground.
In December Meyer, as a Lieutenant Colonel, deployed with the 352nd to a forward base in Belgium designated “Y-29”. His foresight in having the 487th squadron preflighted and ready to take off on 1 January averted a major disaster when the field was attacked by fighters of Jagdgeschwader 11 in the massive aerial assault known as Operation Bodenplatte. Meyer led the takeoff under fire and scored against a strafing Fw-190 before his landing gear retracted earning a Distinguished Service Cross that day.
Later, a vehicle accident left him with a severe leg injury thereby ending his combat flying with the 352nd after flying 200 combat missions with 462 combat flying hours and scoring 24 aerial victories with another 13 credited to ground strafing. He also scored 3 in P-47 Thunderbolts (jugs)
In 1948 General Meyer was selected as the Secretary of the Air Force’s principal point of contact with the United States House of Representatives. General Meyer then returned to a tactical flying unit in August 1950 when he assumed command of the 4th Fighter Wing at New Castle, Delaware. He took the F-86 Sabre jet wing to Korea where it flew in the First United Nations Counteroffensive and Chinese Communist Forces Spring Offensive campaigns. He destroyed two communist MiG-15 aircraft, bringing his total of enemy aircraft destroyed (air and ground) to 39½.
After a tour of duty as Director of Operations for Air Defense Command and Continental Air Defense Command, General Meyer graduated from the Air War College, Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama, in June 1956, and was retained as an instructor at the college. He was then assigned to Strategic Air Command where he commanded two air divisions in the Northeast United States. In July 1962 he moved to the headquarters of SAC at Offutt Air Force Base, as the deputy director of plans, and also served as the commander in chief Strategic Air Command’s representative to the Joint Strategic Target Planning Staff.
In November 1963 General Meyer became the commander of the Tactical Air Command’s Twelfth Air Force with headquarters at James Connally AFB in Waco, Texas. Twelfth Air Force provided tactical air units for joint logistic and close air support training with Army ground units stationed in the western half of the United States.
In February 1966 he was assigned to the Organization of the United States Joint Chiefs of Staff where he served first as deputy director and then vice director of the Joint Staff. In May 1967 he became the director of operations on the Joint Staff.
He was then selected to be the vice chief of staff of the United States Air Force, and assumed those duties in August 1969. He served as the vice chief of staff through April 1972. On May 1, 1972, he became the seventh commander in chief of the Strategic Air Command, and the director of the Joint Strategic Target Planning Staff. As commander of SAC from 1972 to 1974, he directed Operation Linebacker II, the ‘Christmas Bombing’ of North Vietnam.
General Meyer’s military career has included a very broad variety of Air Force and joint assignments. He held operational jobs in air defense interceptors, tactical fighters and strategic bombers. He had also been a key member of the Joint Staff, the Headquarters U.S. Air Force staff, and the Strategic Air Command staff. He had been called upon to command major tactical and strategic units, and retired on July 1, 1974, as the commander in chief of the Strategic Air Command.
General Meyer died of a heart attack on December 2, 1975.
Source: National Museum of the Mighty Eighth Air Force