Jon Thomas Little
Updated: Aug 23, 2022
Lt. Col Jon “Jack” Thomas Little (November 13, 1942 - May 24, 1987)
Lt. Col. Jon Little was my father’s cousin. His mother, Evelyn Calbert, and my grandmother Rose Calbert were sisters. He grew up in Plainfield, Indiana and would move to Kentucky in high school. I have met Jon Little, whom we called Jack just once. It was at a Bombei family reunion in Portland, Texas while Jack was stationed in Texas.
Jack went to West Point after high school and went on to be a pilot in the United States Air Force. Jack served in Vietnam where he served with distinction. He would go on to direct air strikes on North Vietnamese troops and trucks along the infamous Ho Chi Minh Trail in Laos. He was awarded a Distinguished Flying Cross and 16 Air Medals for 240 missions. Jack would go on to fly the U-2R, which is a single-seat, single-engine, high-altitude/near space reconnaissance and surveillance aircraft.
One August night Lt. Jon “Jack” Little was on patrol over the Gulf of Siam at 60,000 feet when his aircraft malfunctioned, and Jack had to punch out over the Gulf of Siam. Three Thai family fisherman picked Jack out of his life raft in the Gulf of Siam.
The villagers helped Jack spread his parachute in a rice paddy to help signal US search teams that would rescue him. The villagers stared at Jack as if some stranger from outer space in his pressure suit. The citizens of Pattani, the village just north of the Malaysian border waved at Jack as the chopper finally arrived to take him home.
There was a celebration at Jack’s return as friends and comrades cheered his return to the Royal Navy Base in U-Tapao, Thailand, where his failed U-2R flight began.
I first heard of Jack’s story from his parents as they would visit my parent’s home when growing up at family dinners. It is a fascinating story of a relative who served our country.
Jack has gone home to be with the Lord along with his parents and several of his cousins.
Jon’s final resting place is on the plains of the United States Military Academy, he lived by 3 simple words. Duty, Honor, Country.