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Leon R Vance Jr


On 5 June 1944, Col. Vance was the command pilot on the 44th BG's B-24' Missori Sue' for this his second mission in the ETO. The plane was severly damaged by flak, Vance's right foot was shot off, but he was so intent on getting the rest of the crew off the plane, he didn't notice it until he was in the channel! With all engines out he stayed with the plane thinking there was still one crew member on board (there was not) and he ended up ditching in the English channel. A Medal of Honor was awarded for his astonishing valour and bravery for his staying with the plane to try and save the crewman. After recouperation in England he was evacuating to the states in TWA C-54A 42-107470 on 1 July 1944 when the plane disappeared with 17 people aboard. It was never recovered.

A command pilot with the 489th BG Col. Vance was flying with 66 Sqdn lead crew on a pre-D-Day raid on the French coast when the plane was subject to a severe bombardment and the pilot Captain Louis Mazure was killed instantly when a piece of shrapnel struck him on the temple. Almost simultaneously Colonel Vance had his left foot severed above the ankle and four other crew members were wounded to varying degrees. The nose of the plane was shattered, fuel leaking everywhere and - when the co-pilot 2nd Lt. Earl Carper took the controls - found they had lost all power. Col. Vance - in spite of his wound - took the co-pilot's position and the plane in a glide managed to reach land. Vance ordered the crew to bail out then turned back out to sea and ditched the plane. He was thrown clear and reportedly swam for three miles with the use of only one leg before being picked up. Sadly the hospital transport plane taking him back to the USA was lost; his widow received his Medal of Honour.

MOH/ AM w 3 Oak Leaf Cluster/ PH


Units served with

  • 8th Air Force

    8th Air Force

    Eighth Air Force Bomber Command became the Eighth Air Force on February 1944, it oversaw bombardment of strategic targets in Europe until 1945. ...

  • 489th Bomb Group

    489th Bomb Group

    The 489th Bomb Group flew B-24 Liberators out of Halesworth, Suffolk, for several months from May 1944 until later in the year. The Group flew tactical missions in support of ground forces in northern France. It was in this tactical role that the crews...

  • Headquarters Squadron (489th Bomb Group)


  • 41-28690 'Missouri Sue'

    B-24 Liberator
    Assigned to 482nd BG, 389th BG, 66BS, 44th BG, 8AF USAAF. Lead ship on 5-Jun-44 mission to Boulogne-Sur-Mer, despite orders to the contrary, led formation back over the target after the bomb release failed during the critical point of the initial pass....

  • 42-94759 'The Sharon D'

    B-24 Liberator
    Assigned to 847BS, 489BG, 8AF USAAF. Transferred to 845BS, 489BG, 8AF USAAF. Transferred to 703BS, 445BG, 8AF USAAF.


  • 392

    5 June 1944

Associated Place

  • Halesworth

    Military site : airfield
    Halesworth was constructed in 1942-1943. Initially planned as a bomber airfield, its location close to the Suffolk coast meant that it was in an ideal position to operate escort fighters, where range was a critical factor. Consequently, the 56th...


Event Location Date
Born Enid, Oklahoma 11 August 1916

Son of Leon R and Nelle D Vance.

Commissioned West Point, NY, USA 1939

U.S. Military Academy

Assigned Halesworth IP19, UK 1944 – 5 June 1944

Assigned to HQ Sqn, 44BG, 8AF USAAF.

Died Off SE shore of Greenland 1 July 1944

Evacuating to the US in TWA C-54A 42-107470 on 1-Jul-44 when the plane disappeared with 17 people aboard.

Buried 1945

Tablets of the Missing.


Date Contributor Update
04 December 2019 14:28:40 general ira snapsorter Changes to biography

Biography completed by historian Helen Millgate. Information sourced from correspondence files and articles related to the service of Leon R. Vance Jr.

Date Contributor Update
04 August 2016 22:15:27 Al_Skiff Changes to biography, awards, events, unit associations and place associations

Date Contributor Update
04 November 2014 02:59:58 jmchristel Changes to awards and events

Date Contributor Update
27 September 2014 18:18:32 AAM AAM ingest

Drawn from the records of the National Museum of the Mighty Eighth Air Force, Savannah, Georgia / Freeman, MOH Citation & Page 430 in the book 2ND AIR DIVISIONby Turner Publishing Company, 1998 edition (D790.A2S45)