Jesse Pettey grew up in Nacogdoches, Texas during the 1930s depression and after graduating from Nacogdoches High School in the spring of 1941, enrolled at Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches. Within a few months of Pearl Harbor and the advent of World War II, he volunteered for pilot training in the Army Air Corps. He graduated from flight school in March 1944, class 44-C, as a Lieutenant and flew 35 missions over Europe as a B-24 pilot with the 461st Bomb Group. During his tour of combat, he was awarded a Distinguished Flying Cross, four Air Medals, and a French Citation for the Invasion of Southern France.
After completing his tour of duty flying combat missions, Pettey volunteered to remain in Italy with the Mediterranean Allied Transport Service (MATS) flying cargo in C-47s and C-46s to various Allied air fields in Europe and the Middle East. It was while stationed at Capodichino Air Base in Naples that he met and fell in love with an Italian girl. They were married in a Chapel at Capodichino by a military chaplain.
Returning to Texas after the war, both Jesse Pettey and his wife graduated from Stephen F. Austin State University in 1948 and taught school in East Texas for several years. Pettey joined Prudential Insurance Company in 1957 where he was employed as a manager and later a vice-president while raising a family of four children. In 1980 he retired from Prudential and moved with his wife to Italy where they lived seven years traveling over Europe.
Upon returning to Las Vegas in 1987, Mr. Pettey returned to some of his favorite activities: playing in instrumental musical groups, painting and writing. He has played saxophone in jazz bands during his entire life time and although inactive at the present time, still retains a passion for music.
In December 2001 Jesse Pettey published a 426 page autobiography entitled, ONE MORE MISSION: A JOURNEY FROM CHILDHOOD TO WAR, about his memories of growing up in Nacogdoches during the depression and his experiences flying with the 461st Bomb Group as combat pilot during WWII. A description of the book may be found on the author’s website: One More Mission.
In addition to being awarded World War II combat medals, Jesse Pettey earned a Bachelors degree in 1948, a Masters degree in 1954 from Stephen F. Austin State University, and a Certified Life Underwriter (CLU) in 1968 from the American College of Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania.
In November 2002, he was designated A DISTINGUISHED ALUMNUS of the Nacogdoches High School Alumni Association and an OUTSTANDING ALUMNUS of the Nacogdoches High School Band Alumni Association. Jesse Pettey now lives in Houston, Texas.