James Howell Howard Born was on April 8th, 1913, in Canton (now Guangzhou), China, where his American father worked as a doctor. Initially intending to follow in his father's footsteps into medicine, Howard, shortly before his graduation, decided that the life of a Naval Aviator was more appealing than medical school, and turned his career aspirations skyward.
Howard commenced his flight training in Jan 1938, at Naval Air Station Pensacola, earning his wings a year later. In 1939, he was assigned to the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CV-6) based at Pearl Harbor, until June 1941, when he left the Navy to become a P-40 fighter pilot with the American Volunteer Group (AVG), the famous Flying Tigers in Burma where he flew 56 missions and was credited with downing six Japanese aircraft.
On January 11th, 1944, Howard was escorting a formation of American B-17 Flying Fortress bombers over Oschersleben, Germany in his P-51 Mustang, when a swarm of 30 Luftwaffe fighters were sighted heading inbound for the bomber group.
Without hesitation, and completely alone, James Howell Howard broke off, and away from his bombers, and proceeded to dive straight into the churning mass of oncoming enemy fighters.
For more than 30 minutes Howard single handedly, defended the bomber formation of the 401st Bomb Group against the deadly swarm of Luftwaffe fighters, and managed to take down six Nazi aircraft in his solo offensive against what seemed to be every aircraft the Luftwaffe could throw at him.
Even once Howard had expended every last bullet from his Mustang’s guns, he pushed forward and continued on, utilizing every inch of his P-51’s performance envelope to make repeated runs on the enemy fighters, diving through the very centre of the enemy swarm, time and time again...
The leader of the 401st Bomb Group watched in utter amazement, and later reported, "For sheer determination and guts, it was the greatest exhibition I've ever seen. It was a case of one lone American against what seemed to be the entire Luftwaffe. He was all over the wing, across and around it. They can't give that boy a big enough award."
"An attack by a single fighter on four or five times his own number wasn't uncommon," wrote a fellow World War II fighter pilot in his postwar memoirs of Howard's performance, "but a deliberate attack by a single fighter against thirty-plus enemy fighters without tactical advantage of height or surprise is rare almost to the point of extinction.”
The following month, James Howell Howard was promoted to lieutenant colonel, and in June 1944, he was presented the Medal of Honor by General Carl Spaatz for his incredible valor demonstrated on January 11th 1944