Lance C. Wade

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Lance Cleo Wade
Squadron Leader Lance C Wade CNA1979 (detail).jpg
Lance Wade pictured in the cockpit of his Spitfire Mk VIII, Triolo Airfield, Italy, November 1943
Nickname(s) Wildcat
Born (1916-11-18)November 18, 1916
Broaddus, Texas, United States
Died January 12, 1944(1944-01-12) (aged 27)
Foggia, Italy
Allegiance  United Kingdom
Service/branch  Royal Air Force
Years of service 1940–1944
Rank Wing Commander
Service number 68717
Unit No. 33 Squadron RAF
No. 145 Squadron RAF
Battles/wars World War II
Awards Distinguished Service Order
Distinguished Flying Cross & Two Bars

Wing Commander Lance Cleo "Wildcat" Wade DSO, DFC & Two Bars (November 18, 1916[1] – 12 January 1944) was an American pilot who joined the Royal Air Force (RAF) during World War II and became a flying ace. He remained with RAF until his death in a flying accident in 1944 in Italy. He was described as a "distinguished American fighter ace who epitomized perhaps more than any other American airman the wartime accords between Britain and the United States."[2]

Early life

Wade was born in the small farming community of Broaddus, Texas in 1915. He was the second son of Bill and Susan Wade, who named him L.C. (only after the RAF demanded a forename did he call himself Lance Cleo Wade). After the family moved to a farm near Reklaw, Texas in 1922 he worked on the family farm and attended the local school. He was unable to join the US Army Aviation Cadet Program due to a lack of a college education. He began flying at age 17, at Tucson, Arizona.[3] In 1934 at age 19, Wade joined the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in Arizona.[4]

Military career

He joined the RAF in Canada in December 1940 and trained with No. 52 Operational Training Unit (OTU). Wade was then sent to the British aircraft carrier Ark Royal and flew off her deck in Hawker Hurricane to reinforce the depleted ranks of aircraft on the island of Malta. He was then sent to Egypt as a Hawker Hurricane Mk I pilot in September 1941, and was posted to 33 Squadron. The squadron's mission was to provide close air support for Operation Crusader, the British assault launched on November 18, 1941, against the German Afrika Korps. His first kills were two Fiat CR.42s on 18 November. He attained the rank of "ace" on 24 November 1941. On 2 December, his Hurricane was damaged by debris from a bomber that he had just shot down. Wade was forced to land 25 miles behind enemy lines, but evaded capture and returned to British lines on foot.[5] He began flying Hurricane Mk IIs in April 1942, and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC). He had 13 victories as of September 1942.

He spent the next several months back in the US on various RAF projects including evaluating some American fighters at Wright Field. He also sold war bonds, which he disliked. Upon his return to operational duty in the Middle East, Wade reportedly said that this duty was more exhausting than air combat.[6]

Squadron Leader Wade, second from right, with 145 Squadron pilots at Triolo Airfield, Italy

He returned to combat as a Flight Commander in 145 Squadron with a Bar to his DFC, flying Supermarine Spitfire Mk Vs. Promoted to squadron leader, he had a busy 60 days, as by the end of April his score was 21, by then flying Spitfire Mk IXs. His squadron moved to Italy, and as a Spitfire VIII pilot he claimed two Focke-Wulf Fw 190s of Schlachtgeschwader 4 on 2 October 1943. His last claims were three Fw 190s (again of SG 4) damaged on 3 November.

Wade was promoted to wing commander and joined the staff of the Desert Air Force but was there only briefly, as he was killed in a flying accident on 12 January 1944 at Foggia, Italy.

He was credited with 23 victories (including two shared), one probable, and 13 damaged. He is also credited with one destroyed and five damaged on the ground.[citation needed]

Wing Commander Wade is usually listed with 25 victories but official RAF records show that he had 22 solo victories and half each of two more for a total of 23, not counting one probable. Regardless of whether his score is 25, or 23 victories, he is still the leading American fighter ace to serve exclusively in any foreign air force.[citation needed]

Since he never transferred to the USAAF, or any other American Air service, Wade never got the publicity that other American aces received and thus is more obscure than his peers.[7]

Honours and awards

  • Citation for the award of the Distinguished Flying Cross to Pilot Officer Lance Wade (68717), Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, No. 33 Squadron.[8]
  • Citation for the award of Bar to the Distinguished Flying Cross to Acting Flight Lieutenant Lance Wade (68717), Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, No. 33 Squadron.[9]

Since being awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross this officer has destroyed 7 enemy aircraft thus bring his total victories to 15. In September, 1942, during a reconnaissance patrol his aircraft was attacked by some 8 Italian fighters. Flight Lieutenant Wade, however, fought them off. By his skill and determination he contributed materially to the success of the reconnaissance and much valuable information was obtained. Flight Lieutenant Wade's courage and devotion to duty has been an inspiration to all.

  • Citation for the award of a second Bar to the Distinguished Flying Cross to Acting Squadron Leader Lance Wade (68717), Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, No. 145 Squadron.[10]

the leader of a squadron which has achieved much success in recent operations. During March, 1943, the squadron destroyed 21 enemy aircraft, 4 of which were shot down by Squadron Leader Wade. By his great skill and daring, this officer has contributed materially to the high standard of operational efficiency of the squadron he commands. Squadron Leader Wade has destroyed 19 enemy aircraft.

  • Citation for the award of the Distinguished Service Order to Wing Commander Lance Wade DFC (68717), Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, No. 33 Squadron.[11]


  1. ^ Lance C. Wade at Find a Grave
  2. ^ Constable, Trevor J.; Toliver, Raymond F. (1997). Fighter Aces of the U.S.A. West Chester, Penn: Schiffer Publishing. ISBN 0-7643-0348-1.
  3. ^ Associated Press, "Great Ace Dies In Air Accident - Lance Wade Was Real Yank With the R. A. F.", The Spokesman-Review, Spokane, Washington, Thursday 20 January 1944, Volume 61, Number 251, page 2.
  4. ^ "Forgotten RAF Ace - HistoryNet".
  5. ^ Stewart, Adrian (2016). Ten Squadrons of Hurricanes. Pen and Sword. ISBN 9781473848436. Retrieved 14 April 2018.
  6. ^ "Fighter Pilot Quits War Bond Meetings".
  7. ^ Constable, Trevor J.; Toliver, Raymond F. (1997). Fighter Aces of the U.S.A. West Chester, Penn: Schiffer Publishing. ISBN 0-7643-0348-1. Page 137
  8. ^ "No. 35514". The London Gazette (Supplement). 7 April 1942. p. 1557.
  9. ^ "No. 35741". The London Gazette (Supplement). 9 October 1942. p. 4437.
  10. ^ "No. 35992". The London Gazette (Supplement). 27 April 1943. p. 1905.
  11. ^ "No. 36346". The London Gazette (Supplement). 25 January 1944. p. 483.

External links

  • Texas State Legislature bill honoring Lance Wade
  • Commonwealth War Graves Commission
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