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John Loehrke

 

Date and Place of Birth: March 29, 1915 Mayville, WI
Date and Place of Death:    December 26, 1941 Macon, GA
Baseball Experience: Semi-Pro
Position: Pitcher
Rank: Second Lieutenant
Military Unit: USAAF
Area Served: United States

"On the 26th day of December, 1941, Lieutenant John E Loehrke, a respected and honored citizen of our community, was summoned to his death while in the service of his government, the United States of America ... unselfishly devoting his time and efforts to the defense of our Nation's citizens, and, as such, has brought great honor and distinction to our community. I hereby claim that all business in this city be suspended between the hours of one and two o'clock on said date, and request that each citizen of Mayville devote such hour towards honoring the deceased, Lieutenant John E Loehrke."
Proclamation of Mayor Walter Schellpfeffer of Mayville, Wisconsin, December 31, 1941.

John E. Loehrke was born at Mayville, Wisconsin on March 29, 1915. His father, John - who ran the Beaumont Hotel in Mayville - died the year after his son was born and Mrs Loehrke moved the family to Burnett. Seven years later they returned to Mayville.

Loehrke was an outstanding student and athlete at Mayville High School. He won the silver cup given by the Junior Association of Commerce for excellence in studies and outside activities. He graduated in 1932 and became a star end on the University of Wisconsin football team. Loehrke also pitched for the Mayville baseball team and played basketball on the city squad.

Loehrke joined the Army Air Corps in 1940. He completed his pilot training at Randolph Field and Kelly Field in Texas, and was commissioned as a lieutenant on December 20, 1940. On May 5, 1941, Second Lieutenant Loehrke began work as an instructor at Cochran Field near Macon, Georgia.

At the beginning of December 1941, Loehrke became squadron commander at Cochran Field, with 14 officer instructors and 50 cadets, mostly from the British Royal Air Force, under his command. His role was primarily administrative but still allowed him the opportunity to fly - something he loved to do.

On December 26, 1941, Second Lieutenant Loehrke was substituting for another instructor on a training flight with Royal Air Force cadet John K. Briers. Briers was from Derby, England and had 60 hours of flying in the primary course plus seven hours of instruction at Cochran. Loehrke had logged 900 hours of flying time.

They were practicing forced landings in a Vultee BT-13 Valiant when the engine gave out and the airplane crashed into a small field 13 miles from the airfield and burst into flames. John Loehrke and John Briers were both killed.

John Loehrke was Mayville's first casualty of WWII. His remains were returned to the town, and on December 31, 1941, funeral services were held at St. Paul's Lutheran church. The mayor of the city, Walter Schellpfeffer, issued a proclamation asking "that all business in this city be suspended between the hours of one and two o'clock ... and that each citizen of Mayville devote such hour towards honoring the deceased, Lieutenant John E. Loehrke." In attendance was his best friend from the service, Second Lieutenant Robert Martens of Clairmont, California. John Loehrke is buried in the Graceland Cemetery in Mayville.

John Briers is buried in the Annexe of Oakwood Cemetery in Montgomery, Alabama.  "I have been told that the Loehrke family tended John's grave for many years and made regular trips to Oakwood," says Dave Briers, nephew of John Briers.

John Loehrke Grave

John Loehrke's grave at Graceland Cemetery, Mayville, Wisconsin

Thanks to Alixe M. Bielot, Director, Mayville Public Library and Dave Briers. Thanks also to Astrid van Erp, for help with photos for this biography.

Date Added June 4, 2012 Updated July 30, 2017

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