John Bernard Mayes, Class of 1940
Born on September 2, 1918, to Agnes Summer Mayes and John Bernard Mayes, John Mayes entered The Citadel with the Class of 1940 at the start of the 1936-1937 academic year after graduating from Newberry High School in South Carolina. He was a private in Company D of the South Carolina Corps of Cadets. After completing his freshman year, he left Charleston for Atlanta, Georgia, and in 1941, graduated from Emory University where he received pre-medical training.
He entered the US Army Air Corps in July 1941. After completing flight training at Foster and Randolph Fields in Texas, he was commissioned a second lieutenant and assigned to a B-17 squadron, the 342nd Bomb Squadron, 97th Bomb Group. He received further training at Sarasota-Brandenton Field in Florida.
Arriving in England, June 1942, his squadron was among the first to participate in missions over occupied Europe. He and his crew were given a citation for bravery after one of the biggest raids over France.
In November, the group was transferred to North Africa, and, on December 18, 1942, while on a mission over Bizerte Harbor, 1Lt. Mayes and three other crewmen were killed in action when their plane was brought down by enemy fire. The Flying Fortress “Sooner II” of which Mayes was co-pilot, crash-landed at Le Klef.
Only five days earlier, Bizerte had claimed the life of a 1941 graduate of The Citadel when the plane of 2Lt.Walter R. Erness, a 1941 graduate of The Citadel, was brought down by the enemy fighters killing Erness and two other crew members.
According to the accounts from friends in his squadron in their letters to his family, he was buried in Souk Ahras, Algeria with full military honors conducted by Maj. H.P. Abbott, army chaplain, with a military escort of two British regiments. After the war, the body of 1Lt. John Bernard Mayes was repatriated, and, on Friday, November 18,1949, interred at his final resting place at Rosemont Cemetery, Newberry, South Carolina. He was awarded posthumously the Purple Heart Medal and the Air Medal with two oak leaf clusters.
Photo courtesy of The Citadel Archives and Museum, Charleston, South Carolina.