First Lieutenant John E. Bakalar, USAAF

First Lieutenant John E. Bakalar, USAAF

John Edmond Bakalar was born in 1920 and was raised in Hammond, Indiana. He enlisted in the United States Army Air Corps as an Aviation Cadet on January 27, 1942. About a month later he married the former Dorothea Jean Daily.

Bakalar received his pilot’s wings and an officer’s commission in October of 1942, and was assigned to a training unit.

He arrived in England in May 1944 and was assigned to the 353rd Fighter Squadron, flying the P-51 Mustang – just in time to fly combat missions in support of the invasion of Europe.

On August 16, 1944 in the skies over France, Lieutenant Bakalar engaged and destroyed three enemy planes even though he was outnumbered. For his heroism, he was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross.

John Edmond Bakalar
Image credit: Fold3

From Military Times’ Hall of Valor:

The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress, July 9, 1918, takes pride in presenting the Distinguished Service Cross (Posthumously) to First Lieutenant (Air Corps) John Edmond Bakalar (ASN: 0-732120), United States Army Air Forces, for extraordinary heroism in connection with military operations against an armed enemy while serving as Pilot of a P-51 Fighter Airplane in the 353d Fighter Squadron, 354th Fighter Group, NINTH Air Force, in aerial combat against enemy forces on 16 August 1944, while participating in a controlled area sweep over enemy occupied territory. On this date, Lieutenant Bakalar took part in a diving attack upon a numerically superior enemy formation. Attacked constantly by the enemy who all but encircled him, and despite the fact that he had become separated from his wingman just after the initial dive, he fearlessly engaged one enemy aircraft after another and destroyed three of them. The outstanding heroism and complete disregard for personal safety displayed by Lieutenant Bakalar on this occasion reflect highest credit upon himself and the Armed Forces of the United States.

As Bakalar’s citation notes, he did not live to receive his medal. He was shot down and killed over France on September 1, 1944. His three victories of August 16 were the only “kills” of his service.

In 1954, the United States Air Force renamed Atterbury Air Base in Columbus, Indiana for this fallen flyer. The base closed in 1972, but is still in use today as Columbus Municipal Airport.

Bakalar rests in peace beside 4,408 of his comrades in the Brittany American Cemetery and Memorial in France.

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