Medal of Honor – Lt. Edward Michael

lt edward michaelEdward Michael graduated from Chicago High School in 1936, enlisted in November 1940, and became a B-17 pilot after training at Douglas, AZ. He went to England in 1943, with the 305th Bomb Group and earned a number of decorations for combat missions, including the Distinguished Flying Cross, five Air Medals and the nation’s highest award, the Medal of Honor for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life on a heavy bombing mission to occupied Germany in April 1944. The group Lieutenant Michael was flying with that day was hit by a swarm of enemy fighters who appeared to single out his B-17 which was riddled from nose to tail with exploding cannon shells and knocked out of formation. As LT Michael’s plane lost altitude, enemy fighters followed it down, blasting it with additional fire which wounded the copilot, wrecked the flying instruments, and injured LT Michael seriously and painfully in the right thigh. With smoke filling the cockpit, controls failing to respond and the entire bomb bay in flames and additional explosions imminent, he gave the order to bail out. and seven crew members did. The bombardier remained in the Fortress as his parachute had been riddled. 16_wreckage Medal of Honor Citation:  For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty while serving as pilot of a B17 aircraft on a heavy bombardment mission to Germany, 11 April 1944. The group in which 1st Lt. Michael was flying was attacked by a swarm of fighters. His plane was singled out and the fighters pressed their attacks home recklessly, completely disregarding the Allied fighter escort and their own intense flak. His plane was riddled from nose to tail with exploding cannon shells and knocked out of formation, with a large number of fighters following it down, blasting it with cannon fire as it descended. A cannon shell   exploded in the cockpit, wounded the copilot, wrecked the instruments, and blew out the side window. 1st Lt. Michael was seriously and painfully wounded in the right thigh. Hydraulic fluid filmed over the windshield making visibility impossible, and smoke filled the cockpit. The controls failed to respond and 3,000 feet were lost before he succeeded in leveling off. The radio operator informed him that the whole bomb bay was in flames as a result of the explosion of 3 cannon shells, which had ignited the incendiaries. With a full load of incendiaries in the bomb bay and a considerable gas load in the tanks, the danger of fire enveloping the plane and the tanks exploding seemed imminent. When the emergency release lever failed to function, 1st Lt. Michael at once gave the order to bail out and 7 of the crew left the plane. Seeing the bombardier firing the navigator’s gun at the enemy planes, 1st Lt. Michael ordered him to bail out as the plane was liable to explode any minute. When the bombardier looked for his parachute he found that it had been riddled with 20mm. fragments and was useless. 1st Lt. Michael, seeing the ruined parachute, realized that if the plane was abandoned the bombardier would perish and decided that the only chance would be a crash landing. Completely disregarding his own painful and profusely bleeding wounds, but thinking only of the safety of the remaining crew members, he gallantly evaded the enemy, using violent evasive action despite the battered condition of his plane. After the plane had been under sustained enemy attack for fully 45 minutes, 1st Lt. Michael finally lost the persistent fighters in a cloud bank. Upon emerging, an accurate barrage of flak caused him to come down to treetop level where flak towers poured a continuous rain of fire on the plane. He continued into France, realizing that at any moment a crash landing might have to be attempted, but trying to get as far as possible to increase the escape possibilities if a safe landing could be achieved. 1st Lt. Michael flew the plane until he became exhausted from the loss of blood, which had formed on the floor in pools, and he lost consciousness. The copilot succeeded in reaching England and sighted an RAF field near the coast. 1st Lt. Michael finally regained consciousness and insisted upon taking over the controls to land the plane. The undercarriage was useless; the bomb bay doors were jammed open; the hydraulic system and altimeter were shot out. In addition, there was no airspeed indicator, the ball turret was jammed with the guns pointing downward, and the flaps would not respond. Despite these apparently insurmountable obstacles, he landed the plane without mishap.  

Michael returned to the United States for hospitalization at Bradley Field, CT, and Mitchel Field, N.Y.  As a captain, he returned to duty ferrying aircraft from Love Field, Dallas, Texas, and after the war served at Fort Totten, WA in operations involving cargo and passenger flights. In April 1949, he graduated from Air University and for the next three years was a pilot for MATS’ 1729th Air Transport Squadron at Hill AFB, Utah. Captain Michael went overseas again in September 1952 as Operations Officer for the 1503rd Support Squadron at Guam; then went to Hickam Field, Hawaii, as deputy and finally chief of the Reserve Affairs Branch at Headquarters 1500th Air Base Wing. lt edward michael modernIn June 1955, he returned to the United States to command a recruiting group detachment at Fort Douglas, Utah, and a crew training group at McConnell AFB, KS, now in the rank of major. At McConnell in August 1957, he took  B-47 transition and then became Special Assistant to the Deputy Commander of the 4347th Combat Crew Training Wing. In December 1958, Major Michael went to Travis AFB, Calif. as a Motor Vehicle Officer. Five months later he was assigned to Headquarters 1501st Air Terminal Squadron at Travis, and on Aug. 1, 1963, was promoted to lieutenant colonel.

Article Courtesy of the U.S. Air Force