John Flynn was born on July 17, 1922, in Cleveland, Ohio. He enlisted in the Ohio Army National Guard on September 20, 1938, and received an honorable discharge on September 24, 1940. Flynn next enlisted in the Army Reserve on November 18, 1942, and entered the Aviation Cadet Program on February 18, 1943. He was commissioned a 2d Lt in the Army Air Forces and awarded his pilot wings on May 23, 1944. After serving with a P-40 Warhawk Replacement Training Unit, Flynn was assigned to the 31st Fighter Wing in Italy, where he flew P-51 Mustangs on bomber escort missions until the end of the war. When the war ended, Flynn was transferred to the 20th Fighter Wing at Biggs AFB, Texas, where he flew P-51 Mustangs in aerial demonstration teams. He then attended the second Jet class at Williams AFB, Arizona, where he trained to fly the P-80 Shooting Star. His next assignment was as an RF-80 Shooting Star reconnaissance pilot with the 67th Tactical Reconnaissance Wing at March AFB, California, where he served from September 1947 to July 1948. In August 1948, Flynn was transferred to the 49th Fighter Wing at Misawa AB, Japan, serving there until February 1951. During this time, Flynn flew combat missions in Korea from June 1950 to February 1951. His next assignment was with the 20th Fighter Bomber Wing at Shaw AFB, South Carolina, and then at Langley AFB, Virginia, and finally at RAF Wethersfield, England, where he served until August 1953. Flynn transferred to the 49th Air Division in Sculthorpe, England, and served there until May 1956, when he was assigned as Chief of Plans for 19th Air Force at Foster AFB, Texas. He deployed with 19th AF to Adana, Turkey, for the Lebanese Contingency in 1958. Flynn next attended Armed Forces Staff College at Norfolk, Virginia, graduating in June 1959. He then served at Headquarters USAF in the Pentagon from July 1959 to February 1963, and attended the University of Maryland through Operation Bootstrap from February to August 1963. Flynn next attended the National War College, graduating in July 1964. He then served as the Deputy Commander for Operations with the 49th Tactical Fighter Wing at Spangdahlem AB, West Germany, from August 1964 to June 1966, when he was made the Director of the Operational Readiness Inspection at Headquarters USAFE in Wiesbaden, West Germany, where he served until August 1967. Col Flynn became Vice Commander of the 388th Tactical Fighter Wing, and began flying combat missions out of Korat Royal Thai AFB, Thailand, in August 1967. He was forced to eject over North Vietnam and was taken as a Prisoner of War after his F-105 Thunderchief was hit by a surface to air missile on October 27, 1967. Col Flynn was the highest ranking Prisoner of War held in North Vietnam and he created the 4th Allied POW Wing, which was made up of all the POWs being held captive by the North Vietnamese. After spending 1,966 days in captivity, Col Flynn was released during Operation Homecoming on March 14, 1973. He was briefly hospitalized to recover from his injuries at Keesler AFB, Mississippi, and then became Vice Commandant of the Air War College at Maxwell AFB, Alabama, where he served from July 1973 to February 1974. Gen Flynn became Commandant of Air Command and Staff College, also at Maxwell AFB, in February 1974, and Commander of the Air Force Military Training Center at Lackland AFB, Texas, where he served from August 1974 to September 1976. His final assignment was as Inspector General of the U.S. Air Force from September 1976 until his retirement from the Air Force on October 1, 1978. Gen Flynn was a Command Pilot with over 4,500 flying hours in his Air Force Career. He was married to the former Mary Margaret Sullivan of Cleveland, Ohio, until his death on March 5, 1997, and they have five children-Sheila, Michaela, Bridget, Sean, and Kevin. Mary Margaret passed away on August 26, 1999, and was buried with her husband at the Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery in San Antonio, Texas.
His Air Force Cross Citation reads:
The President of the United States of America, authorized by Section 8742, Title 10, United States Code, awards the Air Force Cross to Major General John P. Flynn for extraordinary heroism in military operations against an opposing armed force as a Prisoner of War in North Vietnam from 27 October 1967 to 10 November 1967. Captured at the height of the air war, General Flynn, the most senior officer in captivity, was exposed to forceful interrogation, intimidation, and brutal treatment because the enemy believed he was withholding invaluable tactical information. Although suffering severe injuries, he was beaten and tortured for military information which, if obtained by the Vietnamese, would clearly have jeopardized the lives of those still flying. By his display of heroic resistance through this ordeal of extreme cruelties, General Flynn reflected the highest credit upon himself and the United States Air Force.