June 05, 1944

A crew flying a North American B-25 Mitchell, approaching a target over Wimereaux, France, is hit repeatedly by anti-aircraft fire that seriously cripples the bomber, kills the pilot, and wounds several crew members including Lt. Col. Leon R. Vance Jr., whose right foot is nearly severed. Despite his injury and with three engines lost to the flak, he leads his formation over the target, bombing it successfully. He realizes the bomber is approaching a stall with the last engine failing, so he cuts the power, feathers the engine, and puts the aircraft in a steep glide to maintain airspeed. As they reach the English coast, he orders the crew to bail out, knowing they will reach land safely. However, he receives an interphone message that leads him to believe one injured crew member was unable to jump; he decides to ditch the ship in the channel to give the crew member a chance of survival. Vance, after being pinned in the wreckage as it begins to sink, is then thrown clear by an explosion. After clinging to a piece of floating wreckage and inflating his life vest, he begins to search for the crew member whom he believed to be aboard. Failing to find anyone, he begins swimming and is rescued within an hour by an air-sea rescue craft. Vance was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions. Later, while being evacuated to the US, his aircraft went down without a trace between Iceland and Newfoundland. In 1949, Enid Army Air Base, Okla., is redesignated Vance AFB in his honor.