Rank and organization:   Lieutenant Colonel, U.S. Army Corps, 489th Bomber
Place and date:   Over Wimereaux. France, 5 June 1944.
Entered service at:
Garden City, N.Y.
Birth:   11 August 1916, Enid, Okla .
G.O. No. . 1,
4 January 1 945.
Citation:   For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity above
and beyond the call of duty on 5 June 1944, when he led a Heavy Bombardment
Group, in an attack against defended enemy coastal positions in the vicinity
of Wimereaux, France. Approaching the target, his aircraft was hit repeatedly
by antiaircraft fire which seriously crippled the ship, killed the pilot,
and wounded several members of the crew, including Lt. Col. Vance, whose
right foot was practically severed. In spite of his injury, and with 3
engines lost to the flak, he led his formation over the target, bombing
it successfully. After applying a tourniquet to his leg with the aid of
the radar operator, Lt. Col. Vance, realizing that the ship was approaching
a stall altitude with the 1 remaining engine failing, struggled to a semi-upright
position beside the copilot and took over control of the ship. Cutting
the power and feathering the last engine he put the aircraft in glide sufficiently
steep to maintain his airspeed. Gradually losing altitude, he at last reached
the English coast, whereupon he ordered all members of the crew to bail
out as he knew they would all safely make land. But he received a message
over the interphone system which led him to believe 1 of the crewmembers
was unable to jump due to injuries; so he made the decision to ditch the
ship in the channel, thereby giving this man a chance for life. To add
further to the danger of ditching the ship in his crippled condition, there
was a 500-pound bomb hung up in the bomb bay. Unable to climb into the
seat vacated by the copilot, since his foot, hanging on to his leg by a
few tendons, had become lodged behind the copilot's seat, he nevertheless
made a successful ditching while lying on the floor using only aileron
and elevators for control and the side window of the cockpit for visual
reference. On coming to rest in the water the aircraft commenced to sink
rapidly with Lt. Col. Vance pinned in the cockpit by the upper turret which
had crashed in during the landing. As it was settling beneath the waves
an explosion occurred which threw Lt. Col. Vance clear of the wreckage.
After clinging to a piece of floating wreckage until he could muster enough
strength to inflate his life vest he began searching for the crewmember
whom he believed to be aboard. Failing to find anyone he began swimming
and was found approximately 50 minutes later by an Air-Sea Rescue craft.
By his extraordinary flying skill and gallant leadership, despite his grave
injury, Lt. Col. Vance led his formation to a successful bombing of the
assigned target and returned the crew to a point where they could bail
out with safety. His gallant and valorous decision to ditch the aircraft
in order to give the crewmember he believed to be aboard a chance for life
exemplifies the highest traditions of the U.S. Armed Forces.
This data was extracted from the Committee on Veterans' Affairs, U.S. Senate, Medal of Honor Recipients: 1863-1973 (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1973)