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1st Lt. Francis V. Lael
723rd Squadron

Class of 1940
The Citadel, Charleston, S.C.

On 5 April 1944, the target was the M/Y and Oil Refineries at Ploesti, Roumania, The main purpose of this raid was to knock out the transportation system so badly needed fuel could not reach the German line to the east; and they did jut that.
They had a nice bomb run and the bomb pattern covered the adjacent oil refinery doing great damage and starting huge fires.
One hour and ten minutes before target time 2 FW 190's were seen flying in from the south and they stayed with our formation until the first attack was made acting as observers and , without doubt, radioing information as to strength and heading to attacking units.
The first attack come 25 minutes from the target by 10/12 ME 109's who, using cloud cover, made a surprise attack from 12 o'clock high.
These A/C dived through the first attack unit and came up under the second attack unit. Three of the group A/C were shot out of formation with the first pass. Lt. Lael, pilot from the 723rd squadron, was one of the three. The attack was coordinated and the fighters came through in two's, three's and four's. They would rally to the rear, make a side pass, gain altitude and then use the same tactics again.
Nearer to the target, enemy resistance increased and 50/60 ME 109's and FW 190's, 10 ME 110's and 10/15 JU 88's were seen. Attacks were made from all angles singly and by pairs closing to within 50 yards before either pulling up or diving under. Coordinated attacks came from 6 o'clock low in formation of six flying two abreast, closing to 50/100 yards and breaking away on either side in a diving turn followed by a split S and then raking the under side of the attacked A/C. No break off in intensity was noted over the target and enemy fighters flew through to harass our formation. JU 88's stood off at 600/800 yards and fired rockets apparently directing the fire at the lead ships in each attack unit. All attacks were broken off 15 minutes past the target.

The Distinguished Service Cross, the highest award ever earned by a member of the 450th was awarded posthumously to Lt. Lael .
In his attempt to see every member of his crew safely out, the valiant Lieutenant lost his life riding his craft to a crash.

Link To DSC Citation

Picture courtesy of The Citadel Archives & Museum, Charleston, SC

The two pictures above are taken from a Masonic Lodge Bible presented to Lt. Lael.
The bible is a Red Letter Masonic Edition Cyclopedic Indexed, printed by The John A. Hertel Co. of Chicago circa 1943
It was donated to the 450th Memorial Association by Doug Purcell

July 2017 - The two pictures above are of Frances Daily. Reunited with the bible her first husband (Francis Lael) was presented by the Masonic Lodge.

Link To Crew Information

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