Lieutenant Colonel John M. Lepry US Air Force (Ret) (1917-2003), a Warwick resident, flew 101 combat missions in a P-47 Thunderbolt over Italy, France and Germany in 1944 and 1945. He was awarded a Distinguished Flying Cross, five single action Air Medals and the Soldier’s Medal.
He was born July 17, 1917 and graduated from Warwick High School in June, 1934. Before WWII he worked as a clerk in the Warwick post office. He enlisted in the Aviation Cadet program in 1942 and earned his wings in 1944. In June, 1944, he arrived in Italy and was assigned to the 86th Fighter Group, 526th Squadron, which was based in Corsica and was equipped with P-47s. The Group’s primary mission was to cut off supplies to enemy forces. He took part in the destruction of bridges, railroads, trains, trucks, ammunition dumps, and anything that moved on the highway. He also flew many close support missions. In January, 1945, the 86th Fighter Group moved to France where they flew the same types of missions into Germany. He flew 101 missions and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Air Medal with 3 clusters. But he was perhaps most proud of the Soldier’s Medal awarded for his part in the rescue of eight elderly and infirm people during a flood in Grossetto, Italy.
Released from active duty in December, 1945, he enrolled at Providence College and graduated with the class of 1950. He taught English and social studies in the Warwick School system until he retired in June, 1979. He became a member of the 152nd Fighter Squadron, Rhode Island Air National Guard when it was formed in 1948. He remained with the Guard, transitioning to transport aircraft, until he retired as a Lieutenant Colonel in 1972.
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