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Mon, Jan 11, 2010

Gone West: Joe Shannon

AL Hall Of Fame Pilot Played A Vital Role In The Bay Of Pigs

Joe Shannon,88, ended a 70-year career in aviation on Tuesday after a brief illness.  He was an aircraft mechanic, tactical fighter pilot, air show performer, corporate pilot and civil aviation enthusiast that was inducted into the Alabama Aviation Hall of Fame in 1999. 


A young Joe Shannon is shown in the cockpit of a P-38 - courtesy of AL.com

"He was a remarkable individual," Hall of Fame Chairman Billy J. Singleton told the AP. "He knew anything and everything about aviation."

Shannon started his career in the Army National Guard, enlisting while still a high school student.  He shipped out to England in 1940 and trained in British Spitfires.  Shannon survived 50 combat missions in Africa and Europe against Germany's Luftwaffe.  He also trained in the B-25 bomber before participating in the China/Burma/India Theater of Operations.

Shannon was most famous for training Cuban Liberation Air Force pilots and participating in the Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba.  The director of the Southern Museum of Flight in Birmingham, Jim Griffin, said Shannon was the last surviving Alabama Guard pilot who flew in the invasion. 

The CIA recruited Shannon in 1961 to participate in their covert operations in Cuba.  According to his son Lewis Shannon "it was a defining point of his life."

Shannon was awarded numerous commendations including the Seal Medallion for his role in the Bay of Pigs operation, the Distinguished Flying Cross, an Air Medal with 14 Oak Leaf clusters, the Distinguished Unit Citation, the Chinese Air Medal, the Cuban Liberation Air Force Medal for Valor, and the state of Alabama's Distinguished Service Medal.

FMI: http://www.alabamaaviationhalloffame.com/

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