Leon Robert Vance Jr

media-22938.jpeg UPL 22938 Lt Colonel Leon R Vance Jr

Medal of Honor, Purple Heart, World War II Victory Medal, European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with 1 bronze star, American Campaign Medal, American Defense Medal.

Object Number - UPL 22938 - Lt Colonel Leon R Vance Jr Medal of Honor, Purple Heart, World War II Victory Medal, European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with 1 bronze...

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 severely 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 recuperations 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.

Awards: MOH, AM (3OLC), EAME (1 x Battle Star), PH.


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Units served with

The insignia of the 489th Bomb Group.
  • Unit Hierarchy: Group
  • Air Force: Eighth Air Force
  • Type Category: Bombardment


  • Aircraft Type: B-24 Liberator
  • Nicknames: Missouri Sue
  • Unit: 389th Bomb Group 44th Bomb Group 482nd Bomb Group 66th Bomb Squadron
  • Aircraft Type: B-24 Liberator
  • Nicknames: The Sharon D
  • Unit: 445th Bomb Group 489th Bomb Group 703rd Bomb Squadron 845th Bomb Squadron 847th Bomb Squadron


  • Date: 5 June 1944
  • Official Description:



Event Location Date Description


Enid, Oklahoma 11 August 1916 Son of Leon Robert and Edna Josephine [Hannipin] Vance.



5 June 1944 - 1 July 1944 Recuperating from wounds.


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.



West Point, NY, USA U.S. Military Academy


Tablets of the Missing Cambridge American Cemetery Coton, Cambs, UK



Halesworth IP19, UK 5 June 1944 Assigned to HQ Sqn, 44BG, 8AF USAAF.


Date9 Dec 2021 11:51:13
ChangesChanges to middlename, biography, awards and events
Date4 Dec 2019 14:28:40
ChangesChanges to biography

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

Date4 Aug 2016 22:15:27
ChangesChanges to biography, awards, events, unit associations and place associations
Date27 Sep 2014 18:18:32
ChangesAAM 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)

Leon Robert Vance: Gallery (6 items)