John A. Carey exhibited exemplary service and heroism during a career of more than 30 years in the US Army Air Corps and US Air Force. Carey was born on 12 November 1919 in Washington, DC. In 1938, he graduated from high school in Hampton, Virginia, and entered the University of Miami. In 1939, he enlisted in the US Army to attend the US Military Preparatory School, after which he completed primary and basic flying schools in Georgia, and advanced flying school in Alabama. On 12 December 1941, he was commissioned as a second lieutenant.
During World War II, Carey served in Africa, Italy, England, France and Belgium, flying 181 combat missions in Spitfires, P-47s and P-51s. He is one of a few US pilots to fly every one of these aircraft into combat, and earned a Silver Star, two Distinguished Flying Crosses, two Purple Hearts and 30 Air Medals. He is also credited with four and one-half air-to-air victories. While flying Spitfires during the North African campaign, he was shot down twice by ground fire. On both occasions, he crash-landed and walked back to friendly lines. At one point, Carey was chased and shot at by a patrol of six Italians and one German. He outran them and made contact with a three-man British patrol.
Carey and the patrol members then captured the seven enemy pursuers. The German prisoner led them to 90 more Italians who were then also taken prisoner. In preparation for Operation OVERLORD, Carey led the development of new fighter air-to-ground tactics. As a 24-year-old squadron commander, he flew four sorties across the beaches of Normandy on D-Day. Two days later, he landed his P-47 in German controlled territory to pick up a fellow pilot whose plane had been forced down. The two men squeezed into the small cockpit and flew back to England, marking the first time two men ever flew in the same P-47 together. Carey led his unit in many devastating attacks against German ground units, including one that incapacitated or destroyed 15 tanks and many vehicles. In the opening stages of the Korean War, Carey led the development of the first jet air-to-air combat tactics in aviation history.
Flying F-86s, he battled MiG-15s along the Yalu River, damaging two. In 1958, he became the initial commander of the Air Force Middle East Task Force that responded to the Lebanon Crisis. His actions during that period established a template for future Air Expeditionary Force doctrine. Ten years later, he led the operations section of United Nations Command, Korea, during the Blue House raid and Pueblo Crisis. He developed plans, executed the buildup of forces and briefed President Lyndon B. Johnson and South Korean President Park Chung Hee on long-term regional strategy. During his career, Carey commanded at the squadron, group, wing, sector and joint director levels. He retired from active duty as a colonel on 31 January 1970 and resides in Clearwater, Florida.
In the fall of 1942, then-First Lieutenant Carey reported for duty in North Africa with the 52nd Fighter Group. For almost a year, he attacked enemy air and ground forces with his Spitfire, supporting friendly ground troops and scoring four and one-half aerial victories. When the Allies invaded northern France on D-Day in June 1944, he was a 24-year-old major and commander of a P-47 squadron that was flying missions over Normandy.