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This Day in History: Charles J. Loring's Sacrifice

On this day in 1953, a hero is awarded the Medal of Honor in complete secrecy. No one was then sure if Major Charles Loring, Jr. had survived a plane crash over enemy territory mere months earlier. Thus, the Medal had to remain a secret.

The military obviously wanted to “protect him from enemy reprisal” if he’d survived and been captured.

Loring had already been a prisoner of war once, during World War II, when he was shot down over Belgium. It was then Christmas Eve 1944, and the young pilot was held for several months before he was released.

What a time that must have been? V-E Day was celebrated just a few days after Loring’s release. He returned home, got married, and fathered two daughters. He continued to serve in the U.S. Army Air Corps, then the U.S. Air Force, but he was performing mostly administrative tasks. When the Korean War broke out, he was serving at Air University.

You won’t be surprised to hear that he was ready to go when he was again assigned to active combat duty.

His wife later remembered that Loring’s experiences in World War II had inspired him. “What he saw the Infantry go through in Europe,” she said, “as he flew and fought over their heads and pounded enemies from treetop level in front of them, fired him with ambition to perform feats of courage to match their bravery.”

In the end, Loring more than matched that bravery on November 22, 1952. He had been tasked with leading a flight of F-80s on a close air support mission over North Korea. The jets were to dive-bomb enemy gun positions that were harassing friendly troops on the ground.

The planes took intense fire as they came in, but Loring “aggressively continued to press the attack,” as his citation describes. Finally, he was hit, yet he made no attempt to retreat or to save himself. Instead, he was witnessed deliberately turning his plane at a 45-degree angle. He aimed himself squarely at the enemy guns—and he flew straight towards them.

It was a “deliberate, controlled manuever,” Loring’s citation concludes. He’d sacrificed his life, but he’d also succeeded in completely destroying the enemy emplacements.

“I’ve got a soft spot in my heart for the Infantry,” Loring once told his wife. “I’d do anything for them.” On that November day so long ago, he surely did more for the infantry than anyone ever expected.

For a time, military officials hoped that Loring had miraculously survived. His Medal of Honor was awarded in secret. But by the end of 1953, his status was changed from “missing in action” to “killed in action.”

The Medal was awarded again in April 1954, but with much more fanfare: Loring’s wife and two young daughters were present to receive the Medal. A military parade marched by in salute, as did a flight of jets overhead.

A fitting tribute for a man who gave all that he had to give.

Rest in peace, Major.

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Primary Sources:

  • A.A. Hoehling, Maine's Medal of Honor Winners (Portland Press Herald; May 25, 1958)

  • Congressional Medal Awarded Flyer Killed in Dive on Guns (Evening Star; Dec. 1, 1953) (p. B-14)

  • Elton C. Fay, Congress Medal of Jet Hero Goes to Widow with Salutes (Sacramento Bee; April 17, 1954) (p. 19)

  • Maj. Charles J. Loring Jr. (National Museum of the United States Air Force website)

  • Major Charles J. Loring Jr. (Loring Air Museum website)

  • Major Loring’s Widow to Receive Medal Saturday (Evening Express; April 16, 1954) (p. 9)

  • May Craig, Portland Hero Honored: Widow Receives Medal of Honor (Portland Press Herald; April 18, 1954) (p.1)



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