Tag Archives: Medal of Honor

6 August 1945

Major Richard Ira Bong, United States Army Air Forces. (U.S. Air Force)

6 August 1945: After serving three combat tours flying the Lockheed P-38 Lightning in the Southwest Pacific, Major Richard Ira Bong, Air Corps, United States Army, was assigned as an Air Force acceptance test pilot for new Lockheed P-80 Shooting Star jet fighters at the Lockheed Air Terminal, Burbank, California.

The P-80A was a brand new jet fighter, and Major Bong had flown just 4 hours, 15 minutes in the type during 12 flights.

Shortly after takeoff in P-80A-1-LO 44-85048, the primary fuel pump for the turbojet engine failed. A back-up fuel pump was not turned on. The Shooting Star rolled upside down and Bong bailed out, but he was too low for his parachute to open and he was killed. The jet crashed at the intersection of Oxnard Street and Satsuma Avenue, North Hollywood, California, and exploded.

Site of the crash of Major Richard I. Bong’s Lockheed P-80A-1-LO fighter, 44-85048, at Oxnard Street and Satsuma Avenue, North Hollywood, California. (Contemporary news photograph)
This graphic appeared in the Los Angles Times, 7 August 1945, at Page 3. (Los Angeles Times)
General Douglas MacArthur with Major Richard I. Bong.
General Douglas MacArthur with Major Richard I. Bong.

Richard I. Bong was known as the “Ace of Aces” for scoring 40 aerial victories over Japanese airplanes between 27 December 1942 and 17 December 1944 while flying the Lockheed P-38 Lightning. He was awarded the Medal of Honor, which was presented by General Douglas MacArthur, 12 December 1944. [The following day, General MacArthur was promoted to General of the Army.]

The citation for Major Bong’s Medal of Honor reads: “For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action above and beyond the call of duty in the Southwest Pacific area from 10 October to 15 November 1944. Though assigned to duty as gunnery instructor and neither required nor expected to perform combat duty, Major Bong voluntarily and at his own urgent request engaged in repeated combat missions, including unusually hazardous sorties over Balikpapan, Borneo, and in the Leyte area of the Philippines. His aggressiveness and daring resulted in his shooting down eight enemy airplanes during this period.”

General of the Army Henry H. (“Hap”) Arnold and Major Richard I. Bong, circa 1945.

The Lockheed P-80-1-LO was the United States’ first operational jet fighter. It was a single-seat, single-engine low-wing monoplane powered by a turbojet engine. The fighter was designed by a team of engineers led by Clarence L. (“Kelly”) Johnson. The prototype XP-80A, 44-83020, nicknamed Lulu-Belle, was first flown by test pilot Tony LeVier at Muroc Army Air Field (now known as Edwards Air Force Base), 8 January 1944.

Lockheed P-80A-1-LO shooting Star 44-85004, similar to the fighter being test flown by Richard I. Bong, 6 August 1945. (U.S. Air Force)

The P-80A was a day fighter, and was not equipped for night or all-weather combat operations. The P-80A was 34 feet, 6 inches (10.516 meters) long with a wingspan of 38 feet, 10.5037 inches (11.84919 meters) ¹ and overall height of 11 feet, 4 inches (3.454 meters).

The leading edges of the P-80A’s wings were swept aft 9° 18′ 33″. They had an angle of incidence of +1° at the root and -0° 30′ at the tip. There was 3° 50′ dihedral. The total wing area was 237.70 square feet (22.083 square meters).

The fighter had an empty weight of 7,920 pounds (3,592 kilograms) and a gross weight of 11,700 pounds (5,307 kilograms). The maximum takeoff weight was 14,000 pounds (6,350 kilograms).

Lockheed P-80 Shooting Star production, alongside P-38 Lightnings. (SDASM)

Early production P-80As were powered by either an Allison J33-A-9 or a General Electric J33-GE-11 turbojet engine. The J33 was a licensed version of the Rolls-Royce Derwent. It was a single-shaft turbojet with a 1-stage centrifugal compressor section and a 1-stage axial-flow turbine. The -9 and -11 engines were rated at 3,825 pounds of thrust (17.014 kilonewtons). The J33s were 8 feet, 6.9 inches (2.614 meters) long, 4 feet, 2.5 inches (1.283 meters) in diameter and weighed 1,775 pounds (805 kilograms).

The P-80A had a cruising speed of 445 miles per hour (716 kilometers per hour) at 20,000 feet (6,096 meters). Its maximum speed was 548 miles per hour (882 kilometers per hour) at 2,700 feet (823 meters) and and 501 miles per hour (806 kilometers per hour) at 34,700 feet (10,577 meters).² The service ceiling was 45,000 feet (13,716 meters).

Lockheed P-80A-1-LO Shooting Star 44-85155, similar to the jet fighter which Major Bong was flying, 6 August 1945. (U.S. Air Force)

The P-80A Shooting Star was armed with six air-cooled Browning AN-M2 .50-caliber aircraft machine guns mounted in the nose.

Dick Bong poses with “Marge,” his Lockheed P-38J Lightning. A large photograph of his fiancee, Miss Marjorie Vattendahl, is glued to the fighter’s nose.

¹ Wing span with rounded wing tips. P-80As with squared (“clipped”) tips had a wing span of 37 feet, 7.5037 inches (11.46819 meters).

² Several hundred of the early production P-80 Shooting stars had all of their surface seams filled, and the airplanes were primed and painted. Although this process added 60 pounds (27.2 kilograms) to the empty weight, the decrease in drag allowed a 10 mile per hour (16 kilometers per hour) increase in top speed. The painted surface was difficult to maintain in the field and the process was discontinued.

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

Medal of Honor, Major Joseph Louis Sebille, United States Air Force

Major Louis Joseph Sebille, United States Air Force.

Medal of Honor

Major Louis J. Sebille

Rank and Organization: Major, U.S. Air Force, 67th Fighter-Bomber Squadron, 18th Fighter-Bomber Group, 5th Air Force.
Place and Date: Near Hanchang, Korea, August 5, 1950.
Entered Service At: Chicago, Ill.
Born: November 21, 1915, Harbor Beach. Mich.

Citation:

The President of the United States of America, in the name of Congress, takes pride in presenting the Medal of Honor (Posthumously) to Major Louis Joseph Sebille, United States Air Force, for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving with the 67th Fighter-Bomber Squadron, 18th Fighter-Bomber Wing, Fifth Air Force in action against enemy forces near Hanchang, Korea.

During an attack on a camouflaged area containing a concentration of enemy troops, artillery, and armored vehicles, Major Sebille’s F-51 aircraft was severely damaged by anti-aircraft fire. Although fully cognizant of the short period he could remain airborne, he deliberately ignored the possibility of survival by abandoning the aircraft or by crash landing, and continued his attack against the enemy forces threatening the security of friendly ground troops. In his determination to inflict maximum damage upon the enemy, Major Sebille again exposed himself to the intense fire of enemy gun batteries and dived on the target to his death.

The superior leadership, daring, and selfless devotion to duty which he displayed in the execution of an extremely dangerous mission were an inspiration to both his subordinates and superiors and reflect the highest credit upon himself, the U.S. Air Force, and the armed forces of the United Nations.

Major Louis J. Sebille, U.S. Air Force, with a Lockheed F-80C-10-LO Shooting Star, 49-590. (U.S. Air Force)

Louis Joseph Sebille was born at Harbor Beach, Michigan, 21 November 1915. He was the son of Louis Joseph August Sebille, M.D., a physician, and Edna I. DeLish Sebille. In 1934, Sebille attended Wayne State University, Detroit, Michigan, where he was a member of the Gamma Phi Delta (ΓΦΔ) fraternity. He was also a member of the drama club.

Sebille enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps as an aviation cadet, 19 December 1941. Cadet Sebille underwent flight training at at Tulsa, Oklahoma, Perrin Field, Texas, and Lake Charles, Louisiana. He was commissioned a Second Lieutenant, Air Corps Reserve, 10 July 1942. He then was assigned to MacDill Field, Florida, for advanced training as a Martin B-26 Marauder medium bomber pilot.

Lieutenant Sebille married Miss Elizabeth Jane Young of Chicago, Illinois, at Barton, Florida, 26 September 1942. W.F. Hutchinson, a notary public, officiated at the civil ceremony. They would have a son, Louis Joseph (“Flip”) Seville III, born in 1950.

“Lou” Sebille deployed to Europe with the 450th Bombardment Squadron (Medium), 322nd Bombardment Group (Medium), based at RAF Bury St. Edmunds. He was appointed a First Lieutenant, Army of the United States, 13 January 1943. The group flew the first B-26 mission from England, 14 May 1943, making a low-level attack against a power station at Ilmuiden, Holland, in enemy-occupied Europe. Lieutenant Sebille flew that first mission. The 322nd’s commanding officer, Lieutenant Colonel Robert M. Stillam, was killed when his B-26 was shot down. On 17 May, eleven B-26 bombers from the 322nd flew another low-level mission over Holland. Ten airplanes were shot down by antiaircraft artillery, and 60 airmen were lost. After that, the group concentrated on medium altitude attacks.

Martin B-26 Marauder medium bombers of the 322nd Bombardment Group (Medium) at Andrews Field (RAF Great Saling), circa 1944.

Sebille was promoted to Captain, A.U.S., 17 August 17 August 1943, and to Major, A.U.S., 7 September 1944. After 68 combat missions, Major Sebille returned to the United States.

In April 1945, Major Sebille attended the Airborne Radar Familiarization Course at Orlando, Florida. He was released from active duty 5 August 1945. His permanent rank was First Lieutenant, Air Corps, with date of rank retroactive to 21 November 1943. In September 1945, Major Sebille went to the Command and General Staff School, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.

Major Sebille was recalled to active duty in July 1946. He held several staff assignments, before being assigned to the Air Tactical School at Tyndall Field, Florida.

In September 1948, Major Seville took command of the 67th Squadron, Jet, 18th Fighter-Bomber Group, stationed Clark Air Base in the Philippines. At the outbreak of the Korean War, the 67th was transferred to Ashiya, Japan.

(Mrs. Sebille and Flip were returned from the Philippines to the United States aboard the troop ship USNS General Simon B. Buckner. They arrived at San Francisco, California, on 4 August 1950—5 August in Korea.)

Louis Joseph (“Flip”) Sebille III, with Mrs. Elizabeth J. Sebille and General Hoyt S. Vandenburg, Chief of Staff, United States Air Force, at March AFB, California, 24 August 1951. (University of Southern California Libraries, Los Angeles Examiner Negatives Collection)

The aircraft flown by Major Sebille on 5 August 1950 was a North American F-51D-25-NA Mustang, serial number 44-74394.

In a ceremony at March Air Force Base, Riverside, California, 24 August 1951, General Hoyt S. Vandenburg, Chief of Staff, United States Air Force, presented the Medal of Honor to Mrs. Elizabeth J. Sebille, Major Sebille’s widow, and their 17-month-old son, Louis Joseph (“Flip”) Sebille III.

Major Sebille was the first member of the United States Air Force to be awarded the Medal of Honor since its establishment as a separate military service, 18 September 1947. In addition to the Medal of Honor, during his military career Major Sebille had been awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross with one oak leaf cluster (two awards), the Air Medal with two silver and one bronze oak leaf cluster (twelve awards), and the Purple Heart.

Major Sebille’s remains are buried at Forest Home Cemetery, Forest Park, Illinois.

North American Aviation F-51D-25-NA Mustang of the 67th Fighter Bomber Squadron, 18th Fighter Bomber Group, Republic of South Korea, 1950. (U.S. Air Force)

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

Medal of Honor, Second Lieutenant Lloyd Herbert Hughes, United States Army Air Corps

Second Lieutenant Lloyd herber Hughes, United States Army Air Corps.
Second Lieutenant Lloyd Herbert Hughes, United States Army Air Corps.

Medal of Honor

Lloyd H. Hughes (Air Mission)

Rank and Organization: Second Lieutenant, U.S Army Air Corps, 564th Bombardment Squadron (Heavy), 389th Bombardment Group (Heavy), 9th Air Force.
Place and Date: Ploetsi Raid, Rumania, 1 Aug 1943.
Entered Service At: San Antonio, Tex.
Born: Alexandria, La.
G.O. Number 17, 26 February 1944.

Medal, Medal of Honor, United States Army, largeCitation: For conspicuous gallantry in action and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. On August 1943, 2d Lt. Hughes served in the capacity of pilot of a heavy bombardment aircraft participating in a long and hazardous minimum-altitude attack against the Axis oil refineries of Ploesti, Rumania, launched from the northern shores of Africa. Flying in the last formation to attack the target, he arrived in the target area after previous flights had thoroughly alerted the enemy defenses. Approaching the target through intense and accurate antiaircraft fire and dense balloon barrages at dangerously low altitude, his plane received several direct hits from both large and small caliber antiaircraft guns which seriously damaged his aircraft, causing sheets of escaping gasoline to stream from the bomb bay and from the left wing. This damage was inflicted at a time prior to reaching the target when 2d Lt. Hughes could have made a forced landing in any of the grain fields readily available at that time. The target area was blazing with burning oil tanks and damaged refinery installations from which flames leaped high above the bombing level of the formation. With full knowledge of the consequences of entering this blazing inferno when his airplane was profusely leaking gasoline in two separate locations, 2d Lt. Hughes, motivated only by his high conception of duty which called for the destruction of his assigned target at any cost, did not elect to make a forced landing or turn back from the attack. Instead, rather than jeopardize the formation and the success of the attack, he unhesitatingly entered the blazing area and dropped his bomb load with great precision. After successfully bombing the objective, his aircraft emerged from the conflagration with the left wing aflame. Only then did he attempt a forced landing, but because of the advanced stage of the fire enveloping his aircraft the plane crashed and was consumed. By 2d Lt. Hughes’ heroic decision to complete his mission regardless of the consequences in utter disregard of his own life, and by his gallant and valorous execution of this decision, he has rendered a service to our country in the defeat of our enemies which will everlastingly be outstanding in the annals of our Nation’s history.

Medal of Honor, Major John Louis Jerstad, United States Army Air Corps

Major John Louis Jerstad, United States Army Air Corps. (U.S. Air Force)
Major John Louis Jerstad, United States Army Air Corps.

Medal of Honor

John L.  Jerstad (Air Mission)

Rank and organization: Major, U.S. Army Air Corps, 9th Air Force.
Action: Ploesti Raid, Rumania, 1 August 1943.
Entered service at: Racine, Wis.
Born: 12 February 1918, Racine, Wis.
G.O. No: 72, 28 October 1943.

Medal, Medal of Honor, United States Army, largeCitation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty. On 1 August 1943, he served as pilot of the lead aircraft in his group in a daring low-level attack against enemy oil refineries and installations at Ploesti, Rumania. Although he had completed more than his share of missions and was no longer connected with this group, so high was his conception of duty that he volunteered to lead the formation in the correct belief that his participation would contribute materially to success in this attack. Maj. Jerstad led the formation into attack with full realization of the extreme hazards involved and despite withering fire from heavy and light antiaircraft guns. Three miles from the target his airplane was hit, badly damaged, and set on fire. Ignoring the fact that he was flying over a field suitable for a forced landing, he kept on the course. After the bombs of his aircraft were released on the target, the fire in his ship became so intense as to make further progress impossible and he crashed into the target area. By his voluntary acceptance of a mission he knew was extremely hazardous, and his assumption of an intrepid course of action at the risk of life over and above the call of duty, Maj. Jerstad set an example of heroism which will be an inspiration to the U.S. Armed Forces.

Medal of Honor, Lieutenant Colonel Addison Earl Baker, United States Army Air Corps

Lieutenant Colonel Addison L. Baker, United States Army Air Corps
Lieutenant Colonel Addison Earl Baker, United States Army Air Corps

Medal of Honor

Addison L. Baker

Rank and Organization: Lieutenant Colonel, U.S Army Air Corps, 93d Bombardment Group (Heavy), 9th Air Force.
Place and Date: Ploetsi Raid, Rumania, 1 Aug 1943.
Entered Service at: Akron, Ohio.
Born: Chicago, Ill.
G.O. No. 20: March 11, 1944.

Medal, Medal of Honor, United States Army, largeCitation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty in action with the enemy on 1 August 1943. On this date he led his command, the 93d Heavy Bombardment Group, on a daring low-level attack against enemy oil refineries and installations at Ploesti, Rumania. Approaching the target, his aircraft was hit by a large caliber antiaircraft shell, seriously damaged and set on fire. Ignoring the fact he was flying over terrain suitable for safe landing, he refused to jeopardize the mission by breaking up the lead formation and continued unswervingly to lead his group to the target upon which he dropped his bombs with devastating effect. Only then did he leave formation, but his valiant attempts to gain sufficient altitude for the crew to escape by parachute were unavailing and his aircraft crashed in flames after his successful efforts to avoid other planes in formation. By extraordinary flying skill, gallant leadership and intrepidity, Lt. Col. Baker rendered outstanding, distinguished, and valorous service to our Nation.