Medal of Honor Winner Jefferson J. DeBlanc Passes Away
We owe men like Jefferson J. DeBlanc a debt that can never be repaid. WW2 Pilot, shot down and was about to be eaten by tribesman...From The NY Times
Jefferson J. DeBlanc, a World War II fighter pilot who was awarded the Medal of Honor for shooting down five Japanese planes on a single day while running out of fuel, died Nov. 22 in Lafayette, La. He was 86 and lived St. Martinville, La..
The cause was complications of pneumonia, said his daughter, Barbara DeBlanc Romero.
On Jan. 31, 1943, Mr. DeBlanc, then a lieutenant in the Marines, took off from Guadalcanal in his Wildcat fighter, leading a six-plane section of Marine Fighting Squadron 112. They were assigned to protect dive bombers and torpedo planes attacking Japanese ships off the island of Kolombangara, in the Solomons chain.
Mr. DeBlanc became embroiled in a furious air battle as Japanese planes pounced on the American aircraft. His fighter was using fuel at an unexpectedly rapid rate and he could have returned to his base, but he pressed his attacks.
“We needed all the guns we could get up there to escort those dive bombers,” he told The Times-Picayune in New Orleans in a 1999 interview. “I figured if I run out of gas, I run out of gas. I figured I could survive a bailout. You’ve got to live with your conscience. And my conscience told me to go ahead.”
In the span of a few minutes, he shot down five Japanese planes, but soon afterward his fighter was hit by enemy aircraft fire that knocked his watch from his wrist, peppered him with shrapnel and set his plane afire.
He parachuted into the ocean, then swam for some six hours, making it ashore at Japanese-occupied Kolombangara. He hoped to steal a Japanese Zero fighter and fly it to Guadalcanal, but after resting for several days in an abandoned hut, he was seized by a group of tribesmen....
“I could see myself in the pot,” he recalled long afterward.