Eye of Experience #27:
A Medal for Dad
World War II transformed many men and boys from all across the U.S. into heroes. Most of these heroes were never properly recognized for their bravery and contributions. Others were formally recognized decades later. One such young man was Jerry Stannard, who flew the Republic P-47 Thunderbolt over Europe as part of the 48th Fighter Group. One day in September 1944, he earned the Distinguished Flying Cross. But he didn't receive it until 1993, almost 50 years later. Here's his story.
Jerome C. Stannard was one of the "quiet heroes" to survive the second world war. He completed 76 combat missions flying the Jug (the Republic P-47 Thunderbolt) in the U.S. Army Air Corps (predecessor to the United States Air Force).
When he returned home and separated from the Army like many others he never talked about his accomplishments while in the service of his country, even to his son, Sean. However, Sean did learn about the 76 missions and also learned that his father had been awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, but had never received the medal itself, although he did have the citation and the order awarding the medal.
By 1993 Jerry Stannard had retired from his position as a district manager for the Michigan Bell Telephone Company, was widowed and living in Port St. Lucie, Fla. The second of his six sons, Dr. Sean Stannard, was a dentist living in West Bloomfield, Mich. Without letting his father know that he was doing so, Dr. Stannard embarked on a campaign to see that his father received the medal to which he was entitled. This effort proved to be a monumental task.
After learning that many of the records had been destroyed in a fire at the military records warehouse in St. Louis, Dr. Sean Stannard wrote to then-Senator Connie Mack of Florida:
Sean P. Stannard, D.D.S.
June 9, 1993
Connie Mack, Senator
RE: Jerome C. Stannard, 0-665224, Captain, AC, 48th Fighter Group
Dear Senator Mack and staff:
Please help our family. My father, Jerome C. Stannard, is a WW II Air Force pilot who was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross as per the enclosed orders dated 11 Dec 1944. Due to the large-scale operations at the war's end, my father left military service without ever receiving his medal. My mother very much wanted him to have this honor, yet she passed away recently.
I would like to follow up on this for my mother, my father and all six of his sons. Your assistance in this matter would mean so much to us, as we are unaware of any other avenue to follow.
Please call me at my office number listed above or my home telephone number is 313-XXX-XXXX if you have any further questions. We can get my father to any destination to receive his medal. At this time, my father is not aware that I am pursuing this matter.
If you do need to contact my father his telephone number is 407-XXX-XXXX and his address is XXX XXXXXXXX, Port St. Lucie, FL.
Sean P. Stannard, D.D.S.
Enclosed with Sean's letter was the following item:
R E S T R I C T E D
APO 696, U..S.Army
11 December 1944
SECTION II AWARD OF THE DISTINGUISHED FLYING CROSS
Jerome C. Stannard, 0-671794, Captain, AC, 48th Fighter Group. For extraordinary achievement while participating in aerial flight against the enemy in the European Theater of Operations on 13 September 1944. While leading a flight in a group mission to bomb an important airfield in Germany, Capt. STANNARD assumed leadership of the group when the two senior flight leaders were forced to abandon the mission. Despite unfavorable weather conditions, the expert navigational skill displayed by Capt. STANNARD led the group directly to the target. In spite of the heavy anti-aircraft fire STANNARD led the attack upon the target and inflicted great damage upon the ground installations. The superior flying skill, courageous leadership, and determination displayed by Capt. STANNARD contributed in large measure to the success of the mission and reflect great credit upon himself and the Army Air Forces.
Sean asked if it would be possible to send the medal to him so he could surprise his father, and the nice lady then told Sean that she could send the medal anywhere she wanted to, and Sean requested that it be sent to his home address.
Next, after another series of phone calls, Sean finally was in direct contact with Col. Thomas R. Brown, 927th Air Refueling Group commander at Selfridge Air National Guard Base who was delighted to arrange an impressive award ceremony for Sean's dad, and what a ceremony it was! Dr. Sean Stannard's policy had been to try to get to the top in whatever agency his was dealing with, and it really paid off in the case of Col. Brown.
After the ceremony at which the medal was awarded, Jerry and Sean were invited to the Officer's Club to meet with present-day pilots for a question and answer session. Sean had invited a group of family members to meet with Jerry and him for dinner and this meeting was cancelled so that Sean and Jerry could accept the Col's invitation to the "O Club." Then for several hours Jerry regaled the pilots with stories of how things were and his experiences during World War II.
All in all it was a very touching experience for both Jerome Stannard and his son, Sean. After all these years Jerry finally received the medal that should have been awarded to him way back in 1944, 49 years earlier. The Air Force issued the following News Release regarding the event:
United States Air Force
Release Number 93-15
September 25, 1993
WWII PILOT RECOGNIZED AFTER 49 YEARS
By Capt. Deborah L. Gill, USAFR 927th ARG Public Affairs Officer
SELFRIDGE ANGB, MICH.- It took a while 49 years to be exact but former Capt. Jerome C. Stannard finally received his official recognition for extraordinary aerial flight achievement during World War II. On Sept. 13, 1944, after two senior flight leaders were forced to abandon the mission, Stannard piloted a P-47 Thunderbolt, braved heavy anti-aircraft fire and led a successful group bombing mission over a German airfield.
On Thanksgiving Day, 1944, the captain from the 48th Fighter Group returned to the U.S., and in December, Army Air Forces Headquarters 9th Air Force issued the general order to award him the Distinguished Flying Cross. Stannard's September achievement was just one of several exceptionally dangerous missions they considered recognizing.
Upon return to the U. S., he served as a gunnery instructor at Galveston, Texas, until he separated from the service in September 1945, with 1,200 flying hours and 76 combat missions to his credit. His duty fulfilled, he returned to Michigan where he later retired from Michigan Bell Telephone Company after 37 years.
"With the moving, I didn't give much thought to it," 76-year-old Stannard said, of those sons referring to previously not receiving his award. And that's how it was left through the years, as Stannard, now a resident of Port St. Lucie, Fla., and his wife, the former Patricia Adeil Brady, raised six sons.
In 1992 one of those sons, Dr. Seam Stannard, a West Bloomfield, Mich., resident, decided to see his father appropriately recognized. After many inquiries and much persistence, the son's efforts were rewarded. "The medal came in the same day my father returned to Michigan," he said, regarding the perfect timing of his father's visit. Stannard's son didn't stop there, though. Medal in hand, he requested the assistance of the 927th Air Refueling Group at Selfridge ANGB, Mich., to arrange a presentation ceremony.
On Sept. 22, the 927th ARG did just that. Col Thomas R. Brown, 927th ARG commander, presented the award and long overdue official recognition to Stannard during a ceremony to honor him.
Stannard said he was grateful to his son for his initiative and pleased to receive the award after so many years. "I didn't think I'd be nervous, but I guess I am, a bit," he said with good humor. "On that particular mission, there were flack towers, and it was like fireworks with everybody shooting at you," he said. "We lost two men on the way back," Stannard said somberly, referring to the casualties.
Talking about his P-47 aircraft, Stannard said, "That's the reason I'm here I flew the P-47, a very stout aircraft." "But when the plane lost an engine, its glide path was zero," he said good naturedly.
"That was a time of extreme peril where the very existence of the United States was on the line," the 927th ARG commander said, thanking him for his service to the nation. "This country of ours owes a great debt to Capt. Stannard and those who served with him."
Former Capt. Jerome C. Stannard was, as you can well imagine, extremely moved by what his son had don to gain him the recognition he so richly deserved.
Since the his father's death, Sean Stannard has kept the medal, and the memories that accompany it.
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