By Dennis Smith - email
JACKSON, MS (WLBT) - John Rhemann learned to fly cropdusters in Texas when he was 12 years old. Five years later, as a senior in high school, he entered service during World War II in the Army Air Corps, but shortly afterwards was in the Marines as a tail gunner on a dive bomber.
It was during the invasion of the Marshall Islands in the Pacific that he found himself dive bombing Japanese supply depots.
"Japan had the stores stacked to fight to invade Hawaii, I might add," Rhemann recalls. "You don't hear about that much, but that's what it was."
"We went over and dropped the bombs, and they said get out of the area, and we did," he continued. "And suddenly the horizon lighted up like a nuclear flash. Every one of those ships must have shot their guns at the same time."
After the American forces secured the Marshals, it was used as their base of operations. Seven months later they were all in for a show when Bob Hope visited with some special treats.
"Well, Francis Langford was a good singer," Rhemann recalls. "Shelly Williams had a polkadot bathing suit on. She looked good, I tell you!"
Rhemann eventually went on to become a fighter pilot, flying seven different fighter aircraft including the P-51 Mustang, the F-86, the F-100, and the A-7.
It was during Korea that he switched to the Air Force. In Vietnam, he served four tours of duty leading the first dive-bombing attack in an A-7 on Hanoi.
Col. Rhemann was awarded both the Legion of Merit and the distinguished Flying Cross twice each. He ended his career at the Pentagon after 30 years and three wars. He lives today in Jackson with his wife, Celeste.
"Sure enough -- you marry a Mississippi girl you are going to live in Mississippi," he says. "So here I am."
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