1stLt Francis V. Lael USAAF

Class of 1940

On 5 Apr 1944 Lt. Lael was the pilot on a B-24 making a bomb run on the most heavily defended target in all of WW11, the Polesti Oil Fields, Rumania. German fighters intercepted his aircraft, inflicting fatal damage and causing Lael to order his 9 crewmembers to bail out. Lael stayed at the controls attempting to keep a stable platform while the surviving (7) crewmembers exited the a/c. Lael was unable to bail out himself thus sacrificing his own life for that of his crew. He was awarded the nations 2nd highest combat award, the Distinguished Service Cross, for \extraordinary heroism\ and he is recognized as the highest decorated officer in the 450 Bomb Group during WW11. Lael attended The Citadel from 1936-1937 before enlisting in the US Army. He attended no other college. To view photo and mission brief click here.