Mon, Jan 11, 2010
AL Hall Of Fame Pilot Played A Vital Role In The Bay Of
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
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.
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