Major James Howard “ONE MAN AIR FORCE”
Medal of Honor Recipient 9thAF, WWII
On January 11, 1944 Major Howard single-handedly flew his P-51 into some thirty Luftwaffe fighters that were attacking a formation of 8th Air Force B-17 Flying Fortress bombers over Oschersleben, Germany.
– P-51 Pilot, “Ding Hao!”
– Commander of the 356th Squadron of the 354nd Fighter Group, 9th Air Force
– P-40 Pilot, Flying Tigers in China/Burma with 6 AirVictories against the Japanese, August 1941-July 1942
– P-51B Pilot, 9th Air Force with 6 Air Victories against the Germans, January 1943-November 1944
– Reporter Andy Rooney called it “the greatest fighter pilot story of World War II”
– Only fighter pilot over Europe awarded the Medal of Honor
– Passed away on December 27, 1998 at the age of 78
BIOGRAPHY: Major James Howard
James Howard graduated from Pomona College in Claremont, California in 1937. He entered military service in December 1937 as an aviation cadet in the Naval Reserve. He completed training and was rated an ensign in August 1939. He served until June 1941. He then joined the American Volunteer Group of the Chinese Air Force, known as The Flying Tigers, serving under General Claire L. Chennault from August 1941 to July 1942. He received promotion to squadron leader and destroyed six enemy Japanese fighter planes and shared in thedestruction of a bomber. In January 1943, Howard entered active service with the Army Air Force as a pilot with rank ofcaptain and command of the 356th Fighter Squadron, 354th Fighter Group in the 9th Air Forcein Europe. He was promoted to major in September 1943, and flew P-51s as cover for heavy bombers. For conspicuous gallantry in combat near Oschersleben, Germany on January 11, 1944, he received the Medal of Honor. He was leading a group of P-51s in support of an 8th AF heavy bomber formation on a long-range mission deep in enemy territory. General Howard was promoted to lieutenant colonel the following month. He returned home in November 1944, to attend the Third Fighter Gunnery School at Pinellas, Florida and for assignment to HQ 3rd AF at Tampa. He was promoted to colonel on Nov. 25, 1945, and relieved from active duty five days later. He was promoted to brigadier general March 22, 1948 in theAir Force Reserve. In addition to the nation’s top decoration, he also earned two Distinguished Flying Crosses, Bronze Star, 10 Air Medals, and decorations from China.
MEDAL OF HONOR CITATION: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond thecall of duty in action with the enemy near Oschersleben, Germany, on 11 January 1944. On that day Major Howard was the leader of a group of P-51 aircraft providing support for a heavy bomber formation on a long-range mission deep in enemy territory. As Major Howard’s group met the bombers in the target area the bomber force was attacked by numerous enemy fighters. Major Howard, with his group, at once engaged the enemy and himself destroyed a German ME 110. As a result of this attack he lost contact with his group and at once returned to the level of the bomber formation. He then saw that the bombers were being heavily attacked by enemy airplanes and that no other friendly fighters were at hand. While Major Howard could have waited to attempt to assemble his group before engaging the enemy, he chose instead to attack single-handed a formation of more than 30 German airplanes. With utter disregard for his own safety he immediately pressed determined attacks for some 30 minutes, during which time he destroyed 3 enemy airplanes and probably destroyed and damaged others. Toward the end of this engagement 3 of his guns went out of action and his fuel supply was becoming dangerously low. Despite these handicaps and the almost insurmountable odds against him, Major Howard continued his aggressive action in an attempt to protect the bombers from the numerous fighters. His skill, courage, and intrepidity on this occasion set an example of heroism which will be an inspiration to the U.S. Armed Forces.
Information courtesy of Air Force Historical Support Division