Medal of Honor Citation
HOWARD, JAMES H. (Air Mission)
Rank and organization: Lieutenant Colonel, U.S. Army Air Corps.
Place and date: Over Oschersleben, Germany, 11 January 1944.
Entered service at: St. Louis, Missouri.
Birth: Canton, China.
G.O. No.: 45, 5 June 1944.
For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty
in action with the enemy near Oschersleben, Germany, on 11 January 1944.
On that day Col. Howard was the leader of a group of P51 aircraft providing
support for a heavy bomber formation on a long-range mission deep in
enemy territory. As Col. Howard’s group met the bombers in the target area
the bomber force was attacked by numerous enemy fighters. Col. Howard,
with his group, and at once engaged the enemy and himself destroyed a
German Me 110. As a result of this attack Col. Howard 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 Col. 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 home 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 insuperable odds against him,
Col. 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.
key, often to the point of generosity. He would
detach a section or flight to attack Luftwaffe
aircraft that he might have taken himself. Pilots in
the 356th Squadron described him as sincere and
sympathetic but not very communicative. Some
friends attributed that trait to his upbringing in
China. Whatever the reason, it produced results
If not for the glowing reports of the bomber
crews, Howard’s Oschersleben action probably
would have been passed over. It was service
politics: the AAF lived and died by the self-defending bomber, and Medals of Honor to “little
friends” might draw attention away from the “big
friends.” But the B- 17 crews were so enthused
that Eighth Air Force orthodoxy was reversed
for once. Lt. Gen. Carl Spaatz, commander of
U.S. strategic air forces, presented now-Colonel
Howard with the Medal of Honor in Britain on
June 27. It remained the only “Congressional”
awarded a fighter pilot in the European Theater
of Operations and one of merely two for a
“pursuiter” flying against Germany. (In contrast,
the Fifth Air Force in the Pacific awarded the
Medal of Honor to four fighter aces.)
A reporter visiting Boxted got to know Howard
reasonably well. The writer observed, “When he
puts on wings, he takes off his cloak of restraint.”
That was not unusual. Jim Howard was fairly
representative of the breed. There are not many
chest-thumpers among the aces. Gabby Gabreski
was gregarious without being egotistical. Marion
Carl and Bob Galer were quiet almost to the
point of shyness—not what people expect of
Marine general aces. Alexander Vraciu had a
Lt. Col. Jim Howard is
congratulated by Assistant
Secretary of War R. M.
Lovett, after receiving
the Medal of Honor from
Gen. Carl A. Spaatz. (Photo
courtesy of Stan Piet)