John Mitchell was born on July 14, 1915, in Enid, Mississippi. He enlisted in the U.S. Army on April 9, 1934, and after completing basic training he served with the Coast Artillery Corps at Fort Ruger, Hawaii, from July 1934 to September 8, 1938. Mitchell was selected to attend the Aviation Cadet Program, and entered training on November 10, 1939, receiving his commission as a 2Lt in the Air Corps and his pilot wings on July 26, 1940. He flew as a P-40 Warhawk pilot with the 55th Fighter Squadron of the 20th Fighter Group from August 1940 to January 1942, and then flew P-39 Airacobra fighters with the 70th Fighter Squadron from January to September 1942, and with the 67th Fighter Squadron from September to November 1942. Mitchell next flew P-38 Lightning fighters as the commander of the 339th Fighter Squadron from November 1942 to May 1943. He served a tour with Headquarters Army Air Forces from June to December 1943, and then was assigned to the 412th Fighter Group, where he served from December 1943 to April 1945. Mitchell flew Spitfires and Hurricanes as an observer in England in April and May 1945, and then served with the 15th Fighter Group from May to June 1945. Col Mitchell was credited with destroying 12 enemy aircraft in aerial combat during World War II. He next served as Deputy Commander and then Commander of the 21st Fighter Group, where he served from July to October 1945. After using up some leave time, Col Mitchell was assigned as Director of Training and Operations at Keesler Field, Mississippi, from February 1946 to August 1947. He attended Air Command and Staff College at Maxwell AFB, Alabama, from August 1947 to June 1948, and then served as base commander at Godman AFB, Kentucky, from June 1948 to July 1949. Mitchell served with the 63rd Fighter Wing at Brooks AFB, Texas, from July 1949 to November 1950, and then served as Commander of the 57th Fighter Interceptor Group at Eielson AFB, Alaska, from November 1950 to June 1952. Col Mitchell next flew combat missions during the Korean War as Commander of the 51st Fighter Interceptor Wing from June 1952 to June 1953, where he was credited with the destruction of 4 more enemy aircraft in aerial combat. He then served with the 28th Air Division at Hickam AFB, Hawaii, from June 1953 to July 1956. Col Mitchell's final assignment was as Commander of the Detroit Air Defense Sector at Custer Air Force Station, Michigan, from July 1957 until his retirement from the Air Force on July 31, 1958. He flew 240 combat missions in two wars and was credited with 16 air victories. John Mitchell died on November 15, 1995.
His Navy Cross Citation for leading the mission to shoot down Admiral Yamamoto reads:
For extraordinary heroism while attached to a Marine Fighter Command in action against enemy Japanese forces in the Solomon Islands on April 18, 1943. Leading a flight of sixteen fighter planes at dangerously low altitude in the longest planned interception mission ever attempted, Major Mitchell contacted the assigned objective, consisting of two enemy bombers and six escort fighters, with complete tactical surprise and launched a fierce, determined attack. In the ensuing engagement he directed the operations of his group with such outstanding professional skill and daring courage that they shot down both bombers in flames, three of the hostile escort aircraft and another bomber, not in company, which was sighted approaching the nearby enemy base at Kahili. With full appreciation of the technical accuracy required for the achievement of this vital mission, Major Mitchell completed the difficult assignment with remarkable success. His brilliant leadership and valiant devotion to duty under extremely adverse conditions contributed greatly to the efforts of our forces in the Solomon Islands and were in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Armed Services.