Influences and experiences during John Stemple’s youth engendered a love of aviation and all things nautical. John was born in the city touted as “The Birthplace of Aviation,” and early on he developed a fascination about and love of flying because the local citizens cherished the legacies of the famous powered flight pioneers Wilbur and Orville Wright. An airplane ride arranged by George “Sky King” Vaughn sealed the deal.
The state additionally offered rivers and other bodies of water for exploring. To this day Mr. Stemple vividly recalls cruising the waters of Lake Erie around Put-in-Bay and Pelee, Ontario, during summertime excursions aboard a Sea Cadets boat. Impressionable young John mentally pictured the majestic Royal Navy sloops-of-war HMS Queen Charlotte and HMS Detroit and the U.S. Navy snows USS Niagara and USS Lawrence with their associated squadrons during the bitter September 1813 Battle of Put-in-Bay (aka Battle of Lake Erie). From the deck of the small craft he watched commercial Ford Tri-Motors and general aviation aircraft transiting to and from island airports and Coast Guard cutters on patrol. To the child it was all fascinating.
Adding to the influential mix was that the Stemple residence was near a major air force base and jets passed overhead, some causing sonic booms, daily. Furthermore, John’s father was employed at nearby Gentile Air Force Station, which was a military supply depot named after legendary Ohioan Don Gentile. In the early years of the Second World War, before the United States officially entered the conflict, Gentile had crossed the border and enlisted with the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF). He soon transferred to the Royal Air Force (RAF), became an Eagle Squadron pilot and subsequently a U.S. Army Air Forces (USAAF) ace.
Later, while training as a teenager to earn aircraft maintenance technician ratings, Mr. Stemple was regaled with an instructor’s recollections of Don Gentile flying a North American Mustang fighter around Piqua, Ohio. Notably, by this time John had earnestly commenced study related to the RCAF, RAF and USAAF.
Mr. Stemple, a Commemorative Air Force “colonel” and member of the Honorary Order of Kentucky Colonels, serves 20th Century Aviation Magazine and the affiliated Military Aviation Magazine in the capacities of military aviation historian, photojournalist, and pilot.
John was a primary organizer and sponsor of ceremonies held in January 2016 to belatedly honor Floridians who voluntarily served in the RCAF and RAF during the Second World War. The first event was held at The Royal Canadian Legion Post 144 in Clearwater and the second at Winter Haven Municipal Airport (KGIF). Memorial plaques he designed and obtained for the project are on indefinite display inside the KGIF Terminal. Mr. Stemple continues to promote the legacy of the RCAF/RAF Americans.
You may contact John Stemple via the following e-mail address: 20thCenturyAviationMagazine@Gmail.com