24 November 2007

RIP: Col Jefferson DeBlanc, USMCR (ret)

Jefferson J DeBlanc Sr
15 Feb 1921 - 22 Nov 2007

ZUI this article from the Baton Rouge (LA) Advocate:
Retired Marine Col. Jefferson DeBlanc Sr. of St. Martinville, an ace fighter pilot in World War II and winner of the Medal of Honor, died at age 86 Thursday at Lafayette General Medical Center.

DeBlanc was decorated several times for his service in the war before and after the feat that won him the Medal of Honor.

That action occurred on Jan. 31, 1943, according to the citation, when DeBlanc — then a lieutenant — led a six-plane escort for a strike force of dive bombers and torpedo planes over Japenese-held Kolombangara Island in the Solomon Islands.

During the course of the mission, DeBlanc shot down five Japanese warplanes before the damage his plane took became so severe he had to bail out.

And this article from the Lafayette (LA) Daily Advertiser:
The St. Martinville teacher and administrator had received the nation's highest military honor in 1946 for his courage under fire in 1943 as a fighter pilot in the Pacific theater during World War II.

"He was a very unassuming person, very quiet," said Naval Reserve Capt. Gordon J. Delcambre Jr., a St. Martinville native who is on active duty in Washington, D.C. DeBlanc was a friend of Delcambre's family.

"You would never have identified him as being a Marine aviator during the war. He was just a very quiet man," Delcambre said.

A Wikipedia article can be found here.

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Captain, US Marine Corps Reserve; Marine Fighting Squadron 112

Born: 15 February 1921, Lockport, La.

Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty as leader of a section of 6 fighter planes in Marine Fighting Squadron 112, during aerial operations against enemy Japanese forces off Kolombangara Island in the Solomons group, 31 January 1943. Taking off with his section as escort for a strike force of dive bombers and torpedo planes ordered to attack Japanese surface vessels, 1st Lt. DeBlanc led his flight directly to the target area where, at 14,000 feet, our strike force encountered a large number of Japanese Zeros protecting the enemy's surface craft. In company with the other fighters, 1st Lt. DeBlanc instantly engaged the hostile planes and aggressively countered their repeated attempts to drive off our bombers, persevering in his efforts to protect the diving planes and waging fierce combat until, picking up a call for assistance from the dive bombers, under attack by enemy float planes at 1,000 feet, he broke off his engagement with the Zeros, plunged into the formation of float planes and disrupted the savage attack, enabling our dive bombers and torpedo planes to complete their runs on the Japanese surface disposition and withdraw without further incident. Although his escort mission was fulfilled upon the safe retirement of the bombers, 1st Lt. DeBlanc courageously remained on the scene despite a rapidly diminishing fuel supply and, boldly challenging the enemy's superior number of float planes, fought a valiant battle against terrific odds, seizing the tactical advantage and striking repeatedly to destroy 3 of the hostile aircraft and to disperse the remainder. Prepared to maneuver his damaged plane back to base, he had climbed aloft and set his course when he discovered 2 Zeros closing in behind. Undaunted, he opened fire and blasted both Zeros from the sky in a short, bitterly fought action which resulted in such hopeless damage to his own plane that he was forced to bail out at a perilously low altitude atop the trees on enemy-held Kolombangara. A gallant officer, a superb airman, and an indomitable fighter, 1st Lt. DeBlanc had rendered decisive assistance during a critical stage of operations, and his unwavering fortitude in the face of overwhelming opposition reflects the highest credit upon himself and adds new luster to the traditions of the U.S. Naval Service.

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