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John 'Jack' Bolt, 83; Double Ace Fought in WWII, Korean War

September 14, 2004|From The Washington Post

Lt. Col. John F. "Jack" Bolt, a Marine fighter pilot who was one of the last surviving American double aces, having shot down at least five enemy airplanes in both World War II and the Korean War, died Wednesday. He was 83.

A resident of New Smyrna Beach, Fla., where he had practiced law since the 1970s, Bolt died of acute leukemia in Tampa, Fla., after fleeing the approaching Hurricane Frances.

During the Second World War, Bolt was a member of Marine Fighter Squadron 214, nicknamed the "Black Sheep Squadron," led by Maj. Gregory "Pappy" Boyington. The squadron was credited with shooting down 97 Japanese airplanes in 1943 and 1944.

Bolt, who flew 94 missions in an F-4U Corsair fighter during the Solomon Islands campaign, was credited with six kills, all Japanese fighters. Once, in defiance of orders, he single-handedly launched an attack on a Japanese convoy of barges and troop ships, sinking several vessels. Though he earned the wrath of Boyington, Bolt was praised by Adm. William F. Halsey Jr., commander of the Pacific Fleet, for his "one-man war on Japanese shipping."

After learning to fly jet fighters after World War II, Bolt was assigned to fly with the Air Force during the Korean War. In a three-month period in 1953, flying F-86 Sabre jets, he shot down six Russian-built MIG-15s. He was the only Marine ace of the Korean War and one of only seven Americans to be an ace in both wars.

In addition to three awards of the Distinguished Flying Cross, Bolt received the Navy Cross "for extraordinary heroism" for his actions on July 11, 1953, "when he led a flight low on fuel, in an attack on four enemy planes and personally downed two of them."

A native of South Carolina, Bolt grew up in the farming community of Sanford, Fla. After two years of college, he joined the Marines in the summer of 1941, training to be a naval pilot.

He was one of only 21 pilots to serve two tours of duty with Boyington's Black Sheep in World War II. Based on the New Hebrides island of Espiritu Santo, the unit was famous for its unruly nature, hard drinking and deadly skill in aerial combat. The charismatic Boyington, who shot down 22 Japanese planes before he was shot down and captured, later wrote an autobiographical account of his unit's exploits, "Baa Baa Black Sheep," that formed the basis of the NBC television series of the 1970s "Black Sheep Squadron."

On leave between the two wars, Bolt was diving in Florida's Tampa Bay when he set a world spearfishing record, taking in a goliath grouper weighing hundreds of pounds. After the Korean War, he worked at the Pentagon as an analyst of Marine tactics, before retiring in 1962 as a lieutenant colonel.

At age 47, Bolt then enrolled in the University of Florida's law school, where his son also was a student. The two formed a champion handball team, winning several tournaments. After graduating, Bolt was an associate dean of the law school before entering private practice in New Smyrna Beach, specializing in real estate law. He was the attorney for the city's utilities commission for 13 years. He retired in 1991.

In addition to his son Robert of Tampa, Bolt is survived by his wife of 60 years, Dorothy W. Bolt; daughter Barbara Bolt, of Tampa; and two grandchildren.

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