ITHACA, N.Y. (AP) — A western New York native who became a fighter plane ace during World War II is being awarded a posthumous honor from Cornell University.
John O’Neill grew up in Niagara County and enrolled in Cornell’s College of Agriculture in 1939. Two years later he enlisted in the U.S. Army and became a fighter pilot.
Sent to the Southwest Pacific, he downed eight Japanese planes to become an ace. O’Neill returned home after the war and resettled in Florida, where he died from leukemia in 1966.
Earlier this spring his son, Jon O’Neill of DeLand, Florida, traveled to Papua New Guinea to retrace his father’s wartime steps.
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On Saturday, the son will receive a Certificate of Acknowledgement from Cornell’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences in his father’s honor, making the elder O’Neill a non-degreed alumnus.