John Haile Cloe was born in Stafford County, Virginia in 1938. He graduated from the Virginia Military Institute in 1963, and went on to serve 29 years in the U.S. Army. As an infantry officer, he served two tours in Vietnam and was later assigned to the Infantry School at Fort Benning, Georgia. In 1970, he drove to Anchorage, Alaska in search of cooler weather and was assigned as Exercise Plans Officer for the Army. In 1973, John became the civilian Alaska Air Command historian at Elmendorf Air Force Base. He served in this position until his retirement in 2006. He also retired as a colonel in the U.S. Army Reserves in 1992. He served on the boards of the Alaska Humanities Forum and the Alaska Historical Society, and was an elder at St. Mary's Episcopal Church in Anchorage.
John had an encyclopedic knowledge of the military history of Alaska and was the leading expert on World War II in the territory. He worked with the National Park Service to preserve the history of Alaska's war years, and led tours to Attu Island, the site of the land battle between American forces and the Japanese during World War II. John used his knowledge and the detailed records he kept of U.S. military actions in Alaska during World War II and of the Cold War era to produce fastidiously researched books, including Top Cover for America: The Air Force in Alaska (1984); The Aleutian Warriors, a History of the Eleventh Air Force and Fleet Air Wing Four (1992); and Mission to the Kurils, an account of the arduous but little-known World War II air and sea operations by American bomber crews against the Japanese Home Islands from Alaska's Aleutian Islands (2016).
John received the Alaska Historical Society's Alaska Historian of the Year in 1992 and their Pathfinder Award in 1988, and the American Aviation Historical Society's Author of the Year Award in 2004. He won the Air Force Wing Historian of the Year Awards in 1976 and 1994,and was also awarded the Air Force Association's Exceptional Service Award and two Medals of Merit for his documentation of Air Force history in Alaska.
John Cloe passed away on December 26, 2016 at the age of 78 years old. For more about John Cloe, see his obituary in the Alaska Dispatch News.