- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 20, 2005

John O. Wessale, 87, test pilot, engineer

John O. Wessale, a World War II pilot and engineer who resided in Bethesda, died Dec. 17 in Virginia Beach of complications from heart surgery. He was 87.

Born Aug. 30, 1917, in Carver, Minn., he received his pilot’s license at age 17. He got a mechanical engineering degree from the University of Iowa in 1939. He was invited to be a member of Pi Tau Sigma and Tau Beta Pi, two engineering fraternities.

He became a member of the National Aeronautic Association in 1938. He received an aeronautical engineering degree from California Institute of Technology in 1940. Before and right after World War II, he was an experimental test pilot and flight test engineer for North American Aviation Inc. and Northrop. He enjoyed being on the cutting edge and testing aircraft models.

In recent years, he staffed the Retired Activities Office of the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, providing advice to widows and recent retirees.

He had been a staff member of Accuracy in Media, a conservative think tank based in the District, where he maintained a strong interest in political and civic affairs.

He was a past commander of an American Legion post and past president of a Reserve Officers Association chapter. He had a reputation as a successful recruiter for ROA at the Association of Military Surgeons of the U.S. and U.S. Public Health Service commissioned officers’ annual meetings.

During World War II, he joined the Army Air Forces. In 1943, he attended the British Flying School in Miami, Okla., and trained with English and Scottish flyers. He also earned his Royal Air Force pilot wings.

He is survived by his wife, Susanne Caviness; a daughter, Kay Wessale Schnieber of Phoenix; a brother, Robert Wessale of Phoenix; a granddaughter and three great-granddaughters.

He will be buried with honors at Arlington National Cemetery this spring.

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