John Lyle Hughes was born January 17, 1925 in Huntsville, Madison County, Alabama to Henry Mason Hughes and Margaret (Staples) Hughes. Both of his parents were born in Alabama. John had two older stepsisters, one older stepbrother, and one older brother. In 1930 the family was living on East Holmes Street in Huntsville and his father was employed as a retail merchant. By 1940, the family had relocated to a house on Blue Spring Road in Huntsville. When John registered for the draft in January 1943, he was attending St. Andrews School, a private high school in Sewanee, Tennessee.
John was inducted into the US Army on 15 June 1943 at Fort McClellan, Alabama. He served as a Private First Class in Troop H of the 7th Cavalry Regiment of the 1st Cavalry Division. The 7th Cavalry traces its heritage back to the American Indian wars of the late 19th century and was still horse-mounted at the time of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. At that time, US war planners realized that horse-mounted cavalry were outdated in modern warfare and the cavalry was finally dismounted in February 1943, trading in their horses for tanks, armored cars, trucks, and scout cars. In June 1943 the 7th Cavalry Regiment was sent to fight in the Pacific Theater, arriving in Australia on 26 July 1943, where they underwent six months of intensive jungle warfare and amphibious assault training.
On 15 January 1944, Private Hughes departed San Francisco, California aboard the troop transport USS Monticello, presumably to Oro Bay, New Guinea where the 1st Cavalry Division had moved earlier that month. Over the next several months, the 7th Cavalry took part in the Admiralty Islands Campaign, assaulting and capturing Los Negros and Manus islands. The regiment then underwent a period of 5 months to refit and undergo additional combat training in preparation for the amphibious assault of Leyte Island in the Philippines.
The Battle of Leyte began on 20 October 1944 when the first waves of the 7th Cavalry Regiment stormed ashore and were met with enemy small arms and machine gun fire. The 7th Cavalry, along with other elements of the 1st Cavalry Division, battled the Japanese defenders on the island until the island was secured and they were relieved on 31 December 1944. The division next took part in the Battle of Luzon, the main island of the Philippines, landing in Lingayen Gulf on 27 January 1945. Over the next several months, the division fought its way to the outskirts of the capital city of Manila. PFC Hughes was wounded in battle at some point and died of his wounds on 1 March 1945. The application for his headstone indicates that he was awarded the Bronze Star.
John Lyle Hughes was initially buried in the Philippines and in 1948 was reinterred in Maple Hill Cemetery in Huntsville, Alabama. He is also memorialized at the Huntsville Madison County Veterans Memorial.