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Early Life and Education
A member of a squadron based on the flagship U.S.S. Bunker Hill, he had a Hellcat practically shot out from underneath him during a sunrise attack on Tinian near Saipan on February 22, 1944. One of the four “Black Chickens” sent to open “the day of devastation” on Japan’s medium bomber base in the Mariana Islands, his squad flew through a rain squall emerging to find themselves wing to wing as much as three deep in Japanese Zeros.
Only three “Black Chickens” returned to the carrier, but five Zeros ended their careers that day thanks to the squad. Ensign Bertie was the outstanding Ace of the day, bringing down three enemy aircraft himself, despite extensive damage to his fighter from Zero fire and Japanese anti-aircraft guns, and sustaining as many as twenty-two bullet wounds in his left arm and leg. Although wounded and without a compass, he managed to navigate 130 miles back to his ship by means of the sun. With an incapacitated left arm, he managed to manually lower his flaps and wheels, put his guns on safety and land safely. His unsalvageable plane was pushed over the side of the ship.
Betired from the Naval Reserve in 1983. On November 29, 1952, he married Joan B. Loiselle, of Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin and they lived in the Twin Cities. They have two children, Eileen Anne, of Superior, Arizona and John Christopher of St. Paul. Co-founder of Bertie and Bettenburg, Attorneys at Law, Jack graduated from the College of St. Thomas and St. Paul College of Law (now William Mitchell) following his military service. He was a lifelong member of the Midway Kiwanis Club, the Knights of Columbus, Veterans of Foreign Wars, the American Legion, and the Military order of the Purple Heart.
Honors and Awards
“For heroic conduct, superior airmanship, combat readiness, gallant fortitude and utter disregard for personal safety,” Jack was awarded the Navy Cross, the highest possible military honor other than the Congressional Medal of Honor. He also received the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Purple Heart, and eight other honors.
His award citation reads:
- The President of the United States of America takes pleasure in presenting the Navy Cross to Ensign John Robert Bertie (NSN: 0-263654), United States Naval (Reserve), for heroic conduct, superior airmanship, and utter disregard of personal safety in the execution of his mission as Pilot of a carrier-Based Navy Fighting Plane in Night Fighting Squadron SEVENTY-SIX (VFN-76), assigned to destroy enemy aircraft at Tinian and Saipan Islands, on 22 February 1944. After participating in four strafing runs on enemy airfields, Ensign Bertie destroyed an enemy airborne ZEKE-Type fighter plane. Then, despite wounds in the left arm and left leg from airborne fire and anti-aircraft fire, and in spite of damage to his plane, he engaged and shot down a formation of two more ZEKE-Type fighter planes. He then, without compass, navigated his plane 130 miles back to base by means of the sun. Although weak from loss of blood, and with his left arm incapacitated, he succeeded in manually lowering his flaps and wheels, putting his guns on safety, and landing aboard. His superior airmanship, his aggressiveness and unswerving devotion to duty, and his disregard of personal safety in the execution of his mission were in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.