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Flight Officer Joseph Beverly Lawhon
U. S. Army Air Forces
Ser. # T-126698

April 7, 1923 - July 9, 1945
Tablets of the Missing
National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific
Honolulu, Hawaii

Gold Star Mother Belle Smith Lawhon

Picture courtesy of Lilly Lawhon Carr.

Flight Officer* Joseph B. Lawhon, U.S. Army Air Forces, [April 7, 1923 - July 9, 1945]  was born to Clifford “Cliff” Eugene Lawhon [September 24, 1894 - January 7, 1941] and Belle (Smith) Lawhon [October 27, 1897 - April 23, 1969] at Matagorda County, Texas.  He graduated from Bay City High School in 1941and was a machinery parts inspector before joining the Army Air Forces in November 1942.  Attending flight training school at Moore Field, Mission, Texas he received his pilots wings and appointment as a Flight Officer on May 23, 1944.  At the 72nd Fighter Wing Base of the 2nd Air Force located at Strother Field, Kansas, Joseph completed his combat instructions in Thunderbolt fighter planes before being assigned to an overseas unit. On December 11, 1944 at Bay City, Texas, he married Miss Lilly Elise Richers of Bay City .  He was assigned to the 464th Squadron, 507th Fighter Group, 20th Air Force located at Ie Shima**, Ruyukia Islands located one/two miles from the island of Okinawa in the western Pacific. Leaving Ie Shima on July 9, 1945 flying a P-47 Thunderbolt (A/C Ser. No. 44-88189), his mission was to serve as a bomber escort,  on a bombing run to Kyushu, Japan.  The weather worsened enroute, and when he was approximately 30 miles south of Suwanose Island (Japanese Island) (this would be about half way to the target area) his aircraft crashed into the sea as a result of the heavy turbulent weather. His remains were not recovered. He was survived by his wife, Lilly***; Mother, Belle and brother Gene.  His son, Joseph “Joe” Beverly Lawhon II was born about two months after his father’s death.  His name is recorded on the Tablets of the Missing at the Honolulu Memorial, National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific,  Honolulu, Hawaii.


*A Flight Officer is an enlisted pilot. 

**War Correspondent Ernie Pyle was killed on Ie Shima on April 18, 1945.

***Lilly remarried to Lee Kirk Carr on March 31, 1951 at Bay City.



Three Bay City Boys Now Air Force Pilots

HEADQUARTERS ARMY AIR FORCES CENTRAL FLYING TRAINING COMMAND, RANDOLPH FIELD, TEX., May 27--Texas led all states of the nation in the number of her native sons who became Army Air Force pilots as the latest class of pilots was graduated at simultaneous graduation exercises at the eleven advanced flying schools of the Central Flying Training Command this week.

There were 332 Texans in the consolidated class which included men from every American state, from Canada, Alaska, Hawaii, Cuba and Brazil.

Fighter pilots were graduated from Eagle Pass, Aloe Field and Foster Field in Victoria, and Moore Field at Mission. Bomber pilots received their wings from Blackland Field in Waco, Ellington in Houston, Brooks in San Antonio, Lubbock and Pampa and from the two Oklahoma schools at Frederick and Altus.

Among the new pilots are three men from the Bay City area. They include: Durward M. Stayton, Alfred Birkner, Joseph Lawhon.

The Daily Tribune, June, 1944

courtesy of Matagorda County Museum.

STROTHER FIELD , Kansas: Flight Officer Joseph B. Lawhon, son of Mrs. C. E. Lawhon of Matagorda, Texas, is among the young pilots now receiving combat instructions in fighter planes at this 72nd Fighter Wing Base of the Second Air Force. After completing training here F/O Lawhon will be assigned to a combat unit for movement overseas to do his part in defeating the enemy. F/O Lawhon is a graduate of Bay City High School and was a machinery parts inspector before entering service in November, 1942. He received his wings and appointments at Moore Field, Texas, on May 23, 1944 and is now flying one of the powerful Thunderbolt fighter planes of the Army Air Forces.

The Daily Tribune, November 1944


Pictures from the
National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific
courtesy of Daniel Davila
Acres of Honor


      Mrs. Joseph B. Lawhon was notified by the War Department Saturday that her husband, Flight Officer Joseph B. Lawhon, has officially been declared dead. F/0 Lawhon has been missing since July 9, 1945 when he failed to return from a mission over the Ruyukiu Islands. Mrs. Lawhon is the former Miss Lilly Richers.

Matagorda County Tribune, Tuesday, April 16, 1946

Photo courtesy of Heather Serrill Janise


Lawhon, Belle S., 72, died at Citizen's Hospital in Victoria on April 23. Services will be held at 3 p.m. Friday at the Episcopal Church in Matagorda. The Rev. James Scott will officiate. Burial will be in Matagorda Cemetery. Mrs. Lawhon is survived by her son, Gene Lawhon of Matagorda; one sister, Lillie Phillips of Freeport; two brothers, Guy Smith of Sargent and Lee Walker of Bay City; three grandchildren and one great grand child. Pallbearers will be Lee Carr, Dr. D. L. Chalmers, Joe Lawhon, Sam Cheek, Roy Traylor, Joe Smith, Jimbo Williams and Bobby B. Watkins. She has been a resident of Matagorda for many years and was born in Sargent. Taylor Brothers Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements.

The Daily Tribune, April 24, 1969

Cliff Lawhon

Mr. Cliff Lawhon, native of Matagorda passed away, Tuesday in Kerrville after a long illness and was buried this afternoon at 3:00 in Matagorda.

Mr. Lawhon is survived by his wife, two sons of Matagorda and his mother in Houston.

The Daily Tribune, January 8, 1941


Copyright 2006 - Present by Carol Sue Gibbs
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National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific Pictures © Daniel Davila

Jan. 30, 2006
Feb. 17, 2009