“Awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross”
Howard Halla was born in San Francisco at St. Mary’s Hospital on November 2, 1919. Howard was married to his wife Lorraine, who passed away in 1969. Howard and Lorraine had four sons, Howard, David, Christopher, and Jeffrey.
A Veteran of World War II, Howard is a decorated U.S. Army Air Force (USAAF) pilot. Howard volunteered for active duty with the U.S. Army Air Force in 1942. After passing the required flight physicals, he was sent to pilot training locations throughout the country.
In primary and basic training, he learned to fly single-engine aircraft such as the PT-17 (Stearman biplane) and the BT-13 (Vultee vibrator). In advanced training, it was either the multi-engine Beech AT-11 Kansan or the Cessna T-50 Bobcat.
After a little more than one year, he graduated and received both his commission as a second lieutenant and his pilot wings. Thereafter, he was sent to Mather Field in Sacramento, California to learn to fly the B-25 twin-engine medium bomber, (the same design that Jimmy Doolittle and the Tokyo Raiders flew off the aircraft carrier Hornet in April 1942 to bomb Japan).
After completion of this training, he received orders to join General Claire Chennault’s 14th Air Force in China.
NOTE: Prior to taking command of the 14th Air Force, General Chennalt created and led the famous American Volunteer Group (AVG) known as the “Flying Tigers” that saw combat in both China and Burma between December 1941 and July 1942.
Howard, along with other pilots, was sent to Florida and then boarded a C-54 Transport (DC-4) at Homestead Field to begin their long flights to China. They traveled from Homestead to Bermuda, to the Azores, to Casablanca, to Calcutta, to Assam Valley and finally to Kunming, China.
Howard was assigned to the Chinese – American Composite Wing (CACW), a joint United States Army Air Force and Republic of China Air Force organization. Their mission was to “Hold the Line” against the Japanese Army and Air Force which had been attacking China since 1937.
The operational units of the CACW were jointly commanded by both American and Chinese air force officers and the unit’s aircraft were manned by American and Chinese pilots and aircrew members.
While assigned there, Howard, flew over 30 bombing and strafing missions against Japanese held strategic positions.
On one mission, to destroy the railway bridges on the Yellow River (Huang He), Howard had to fly very low, below the level of the surrounding hills, in order to hit his targets. His plane was shot up extensively by enemy antiaircraft guns and ground fire with one of his crew members killed and two others wounded. There was no place to land, so he was forced to fly for one and a half hours back to his base before his crew could be treated for their wounds. Fortunately, both of his wounded crewmembers survived.
In 1944, Howard was awarded one of our Nation’s highest combat awards, the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC).
The Distinguished Flying Cross is awarded to “one who distinguishes himself by heroism or extraordinary achievement while participating in an aerial flight”.
Notable recipients of the DFC are:
- Charles Lindbergh (Aviator)
- Captain John S. McCain III, USN (U.S. Senator)
- First Lieutenant George McGovern, USAAF (U.S. Senator)
- Major General James Stewart, USAAF (Actor)
- Major Clark Gable, USAAF (Actor)
- Colonel John Glenn, USMC (Astronaut and U.S. Senator)
World War II ended in 1945, however, Howard remained on active duty with the USAAF as a pilot until January 1947 and then in the Air Force Reserves until 1957.
(Today, Howard and his good friend Wing Ho, who is also 100-years old and lives in Singapore, are the two remaining members of the Chinese – American Composite Wing (CACW).
At 100-years old, Howard remains very active and he still travels around the world. He traveled to China in 2016 for two weeks with a fellow Veteran.
In 2017, he visited Canada for ten days and then to the World War II museum in Louisiana with fellow Veterans for a celebration sponsored by the Gary Sinise Foundation. He made his third visit of the year to New England for an extended trip.
Howard married Joanne Yates on July 8th 2020. They live in St. Helena, California