Vance, Leon Robert, Jr., Lt Col

 Service Photo   Service Details
172 kb
View Time Line
Last Rank
Lieutenant Colonel
Last Primary AFSC/MOS
M 1060-Bombardment Unit Commander
Last AFSC Group
Primary Unit
1944-1944, M 1060, 847th Bombardment Squadron, Heavy
Service Years
1939 - 1944
Lieutenant Colonel

 Last Photo   Personal Details 

28 kb

Home State
Year of Birth
This Military Service Page was created/owned by SSgt Robert Bruce McClelland, Jr. to remember Vance, Leon Robert, Jr., Lt Col.

If you knew or served with this Airman and have additional information or photos to support this Page, please leave a message for the Page Administrator(s) HERE.
Contact Info
Home Town
Enid, Oklahoma & Garden City, New York
Last Address
RAF Halesworth (USAAF 365), Suffolk, England

Date of Passing
Jul 26, 1944
Location of Interment
American Cemetery - Cambridge, United Kingdom
Wall/Plot Coordinates
Tablets of the Missing

 Official Badges 

 Unofficial Badges 

 Military Association Memberships
In the Line of DutyAir Force Memorial (AFM)
  2015, In the Line of Duty
  2016, Air Force Memorial (AFM) [Verified] - Assoc. Page

 Photo Album   (More...

 Ribbon Bar

Pilot Badge

 Unit Assignments
Aviation Cadet Flight SchoolUS Air Force489th Bombardment Group, Heavy
  1939-1940, M 0770, Aviation Cadet Flight School
  1939-1940, M 0770, Aviation Cadet Flight School
  1940-1941, Army Air Forces Central Instructors School (CIS)
  1943-1944, M 1060, 489th Bombardment Group, Heavy
  1944-1944, M 1060, 847th Bombardment Squadron, Heavy
 Combat and Non-Combat Operations
  1941-1944 World War II
  1944-1944 World War II/European-African-Middle Eastern Theater/Air Offensive, Europe Campaign (1942-44)
  1944-1944 World War II/European-African-Middle Eastern Theater/Normandy Campaign (1944)
 Colleges Attended 
University of OklahomaUnited States Military Academy
  1933-1935, University of Oklahoma
  1935-1939, United States Military Academy
 My Aircraft/Missiles
P-39 Airacobra  B-24 Liberator  C-54 Skymaster  
  1943-1943, P-39 Airacobra
  1943-1944, B-24 Liberator
  1944-1944, C-54 Skymaster
 Additional Information
Last Known Activity
He was with the 847th Bombardment Squadron, 489th Bombardment Group (Heavy), 20th Bombardment Wing, 2nd Bombardment Division, 8th Air Force. The name of his B-24H (#42-94759) was "The Sharon D." named after his daughter.
(Background and training at: )

On the the mission for which he was awarded the Medal of Honor, he was flying another aircraft, the "Missouri Belle"(# 128690) which was ditched in the North Sea. All crew (10) returned with the exception of the pilot, Captain Louis Mazure KIA.

Colonel Vance was later lost at sea aboard a C-54 (#41-107470) on his return home, somewhere between Iceland and Newfoundland, with loss of radio contact 3 hours after departing Keflavik. The transport had taken off from Scotland bound for Mitchel Field, New York with military (15 Army and 3 Navy stretcher cases) patients on board. This loss was the first casualty of the newly formed Army Evacuation Program.

He was awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously.
Medal of Honor  Citation

Awarded posthumously for actions during World War II

The President of the United States of America, in the name of Congress, takes pride in presenting the Medal of Honor (Posthumously) to Lieutenant Colonel (Air Corps) Leon Robert Vance, Jr., United States Army Air Forces, for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty on 5 June 1944, when he led the 489th Bombardment Group (H), Eighth Air Force, in an attack against defended enemy coastal positions in the vicinity of Wimereaux, France.

Approaching the target, his aircraft was hit repeatedly by anti-aircraft 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 copilot and took over control of the ship. Cutting the power and feathering the last engine he put the aircraft in 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 received a message over the interphone system which led him to believe one of the crewmembers 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 add further to the danger of ditching the ship in his crippled condition, there was a 500-pound bomb hung up in the bomb bay. Unable to climb into the seat vacated by the copilot, since his foot, hanging on to his leg by a few tendons, had become lodged behind the copilot'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 enough strength to inflate his life vest he began searching for the crewmember whom he believed to be aboard. Failing to find anyone he began swimming and was found approximately 50 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 crewmember he believed to be aboard a chance for life exemplifies the highest traditions of the U.S. Armed Forces.
General Orders: War Department, General Orders No. 1 (January 4, 1945)
Action Date: June 5, 1944
Service: Army Air Forces
Rank: Lieutenant Colonel
Regiment: 489th Bombardment Group (H)
Division: 8th Air Force 

Other Comments:
Sources: Book: "Mission to Berlin", by Robert F. Dorr, Zenith Press, 2011, pp 141-47.
Copyright Inc 2003-2011