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Veterans Stories

Lieutenant Colonel Leon R Vance jr.

Lt Col Leon Vance JrLt Col Leon Vance Jr - awarded posthumously Medal of Honour for bravery

Lieutenant Colonel Vance was awarded the United States highest honour for bravery. The following Citation shows:


The President of the United States takes pride in awarding the MEDAL of HONOR posthumously to


for service as set forth in the following


“For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty on 5 June 1944 when he led the 489th Bombardment Group (H) in an attack against defended enemy coastal positions in the vicinity of Wimereaux, France. Approaching the target his aircraft was hit repeatedly by antiaircraft fire which seriously crippled the ship, killed the pilot, and wounded several members of the crew including Lieutenant Colonel Vance, whose right foot was practically severed. In spite of his injury, and with three engines lost to the flak, he led his formation over the target, bombing it successfully. After applying a tourniquet to his leg, with the aid of the Radar Operator, Lieutenant Colonel Vance, realizing that the ship was approaching a stall altitude with the one remaining engine failing, struggled to a semi upright position beside the co-pilot and took over control of the ship. Cutting the power and feathering the last engine he put the aircraft in a glide sufficiently steep to maintain his airspeed. Gradually losing altitude he at last reached the English coast whereupon he ordered all members of the crew to bail out as he knew they would all safely make land, but he had received a message over the interphone system which led him to believe that one of the crew members was unable to jump due to injuries; so he made the decision to ditch the ship in the channel, thereby giving this man a chance for life. To further add to the danger of ditching the ship in his crippled condition there was a five hundred pound bomb hung up in the bomb bay. Unable to climb into the seat vacated by the co-pilot as his foot, hanging on to his leg by a few tendons, had become lodged behind the co-pilot’s seat, he nevertheless made a successful ditching while lying on the floor using only aileron and elevators for control and the side window of the cockpit for visual reference. On coming to rest in the water the aircraft commenced to sink rapidly with Lieutenant Colonel Vance pinned in the cockpit by the upper turret which had crashed in during the landing. As it was settling beneath the waves an explosion occurred which threw Lieutenant Colonel Vance clear of the wreckage. After clinging to a piece of floating wreckage until he could muster sufficient strength to inflate his life vest, he began a search for the crew member whom he believed to be aboard. Failing to find anyone he began swimming and was found approximately fifty minutes later by an Air Sea Rescue craft. By his extraordinary flying skill and gallant leadership despite his grave injury Lieutenant Colonel Vance led his formation to a successful bombing of the assigned target and returned the crew to a point where they could bail out with safety. His gallant and valorous decision to ditch the aircraft in order to give the crew member he believed to be aboard a chance for life exemplifies the highest traditions of the armed forces of the United States.”

Franklin D Roosevelt

The Medal of Honor was awarded posthumously to Lieutenant Colonel Vance. It was received by his daughter at a special ceremony held at Enid Army Air Field, Enid, Oklahoma on October 11th, 1946. Sharon D Vance was just six years old.

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