Thursday, November 22, 2012

TFH 11/22: Major Charles J. Loring, Jr., USAF

Charles Joseph Loring, Jr. was born in Portland, Maine on October 2, 1918. He enlisted in the United States Army in March 1942 for service during the Second World War and joined the Army Air Corps. Loring was selected as an aviation cadet in May 1942 and trained as a fighter pilot.

He spent his early flying years on antisubmarine patrols in the Caribbean Sea and the Panama Canal area until sent to fly with the United States Army Air Forces building in Great Britain for the invasion of Europe, arriving there in March of 1944. Loring flew 55 missions against Nazi Germany and occupied Europe. During his 55th mission on December 24, 1944, he was shot down, captured, and remained a prisoner of war until his liberation two days before V-E Day on May 6, 1945.

Loring stayed in uniform during peacetime and transitioned to the United States Air Force when it became its own service on September 18, 1947. He found himself flying in combat again during the Korean War. Loring flew as an instructor and operations officer with both the 36th and 80th Fighter-Bomber Squadrons equipped with the Lockheed P-80/F-80 Shooting Star, completing another 50 combat missions.

Loring's 51st mission over Korea found him leading a flight of four Shooting Stars for close air support of ground troops. A forward air controller identified an enemy artillery position that was decimating South Korean soldiers. As Loring began his bomb run, his aircraft was hit by Chinese Communist antiaircraft fires. He knew his plane was doomed - and also that his bombs had to be placed on their target and the enemy artillery destroyed, lest the lives of countless friendly soldiers be lost. Major Loring chose to make his plane the bomb, and for his heroic sacrifice, was posthumously awarded our Nation's highest honor.

From Medal of Honor Citations for the Korean War:


Rank and organization: Major, U.S. Air Force, 80th Fighter-Bomber Squadron, 8th Fighter-Bomber Wing. Place and date: Near Sniper Ridge, North Korea, 22 November 1952. Entered service at: Portland, Maine. Born: 2 October 1918, Portland, Maine. Citation: Maj. Loring distinguished himself by conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. While leading a flight of 4 F-80 type aircraft on a close support mission, Maj. Loring was briefed by a controller to dive-bomb enemy gun positions which were harassing friendly ground troops. After verifying the location of the target, Maj. Loring rolled into his dive bomb run. Throughout the run, extremely accurate ground fire was directed on his aircraft. Disregarding the accuracy and intensity of the ground fire, Maj. Loring aggressively continued to press the attack until his aircraft was hit. At approximately 4,000 feet, he deliberately altered his course and aimed his diving aircraft at active gun emplacements concentrated on a ridge northwest of the briefed target, turned his aircraft 45 degrees to the left, pulled up in a deliberate, controlled maneuver, and elected to sacrifice his life by diving his aircraft directly into the midst of the enemy emplacements. His selfless and heroic action completely destroyed the enemy gun emplacement and eliminated a dangerous threat to United Nations ground forces. Maj. Loring's noble spirit, superlative courage, and conspicuous self-sacrifice in inflicting maximum damage on the enemy exemplified valor of the highest degree and his actions were in keeping with the finest traditions of the U.S. Air Force.

Major Loring's remains were never recovered. Cenotaphs in his memory were placed both at the Calvary Cemetery in South Portland, Maine and among our Nation's most honored at Arlington National Cemetery.

When his widow received his Medal of Honor from President Eisenhower at the White House on May 5, 1954 it was also announced that the USAF's newly-opened Limestone Air Force Base in far north Maine would be renamed for Maine's bravest air warrior. Loring Air Force Base was one of the premier facilities of the Strategic Air Command until that force's disbandment in 1992. With the end of the Cold War, the base was deemed extraneous and closed in 1994. The site is presently known as the Loring Commerce Center and hosts approximately 20 employers in aviation and other related businesses.

Both of the squadrons with which Loring flew during the Korean War are active today, flying the General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcon, and are forward deployed in defense of both the United States and our Korean allies. The 36th Fighter Squadron is stationed with the 51st Fighter Wing at Osan Air Base. The 80th Fighter Squadron is part of the 8th Fighter Wing at Kunsan Air Base.

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