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 Texas : Features : Columns : Lone Star Diary

"The Greatest Generation"
1st Lt. Loye James Lauraine, Jr.

Introduced by Murray Montgomery
Murray Montgomery
WWII hero Lt. Loye Lauraine
A "Gentleman from Hell" who also happened to be from Texas.
The Word Hero has been cheapened with use.
Here you can read the old definition.


1st Lt. Loye James Lauraine, Jr.
Photo Courtesy Gonzales Inquirer

He was young, only 26 years old, when he gave up his life to save others.

An honored member of a group that has recently become known as "The Greatest Generation," 1st Lt. Loye James Lauraine, Jr. made the ultimate sacrifice during World War II. He was a hero and was posthumously awarded this nation's second highest honor, the Distinguished Service Cross.

Lauraine had roots in Gonzales, Texas, his parents Lt. Col. and Mrs. L.J. Lauraine lived there. And on May 31, 1945, The Gonzales Inquirer contained an article that described the courageous exploits of Lt. Lauraine, and how he won the DSC.

Young Lauraine was a member of the 487th Bomb Group and frequently flew his B-17 Flying Fortress, named "The Tweacheous Wabbit," on missions into Germany. According to information found on the internet, the 487th, its men known as the "Gentlemen from Hell," was based at Station 137 in Lavenham, England. Part of the famous Eighth Air Force, the 487th flew 185 missions from May of 1944 to April of 1945. It was on one of those missions that Lt. Lauraine lost his life, while saving the lives of his crew and avoiding a crash into populated areas on the ground.

According to the Inquirer article, Lt. Lauraine's plane had just finished dropping it's bombs on an oil refinery in Merseburgh, Germany, when it was hit by a burst of flak from enemy anti-aircraft guns. The newspaper piece contained the following: "With masterful airmanship, the Texan piloted the crippled bomber back to England and ordered his crew to bail out."

Loye Lauraine had brought his crippled ship all the way back from Germany and across the English Channel, but there it ended and the massive bomber was destined to crash.

As Lauraine prepared to bail out, the plane went into a steep dive and was headed toward a densely populated military installation. Instead of jumping out, which he could have done, the brave pilot went back to the controls and regained altitude. By his actions Lt. Lauraine saved the lives of many on the ground but he lost his own, as the B-17 went into a violent spin and crashed in an open field.

Lt. Loye James Lauraine, Jr. was typical of the men and women who served in World War II. It seems as if they were always looking out for one another, without regard for their own safety. Lauraine's DSC citation put it this way; "The extraordinary heroism and devotion to duty displayed by Lt. Lauraine on this occasion reflect highest credit upon himself and the Armed Forces of the United States."

The DFC wasn't the only honor won by Lauraine. He also held the Air Medal with three Oak Leaf Clusters. Toward the end of the Inquirer article, a little background information was included about Lt. Lauraine. It said that he was married to the former Miss Evelyn Francis McKinney and her residence was given as Mount Calm, Texas. The story also stated that Lauraine was a graduate of the Schreiner Military Institute at Kerrville, Texas, and he joined the Army Air Force in 1942.


After reading the story of the extreme bravery displayed by Lt. Lauraine, I wanted to know more about where he was based and the plane that he flew. It is interesting to note that during the war many things were censored. Correspondents were often times not allowed to say where the military units were located. In the Inquirer story, the location was given simply as, "an Eighth Air Force Bomber Station, England."

Thanks to the vast resources of the internet (the 487th has a web site) I was able to learn that Lt. Lauraine's group flew from a base at Lavenham, England. That community also has a web site and it was there that I found information stating that Lavenham is restoring part of the old World War II base and using it as a tourist attraction.

The plane that Lt. Lauraine flew was indeed a flying fortress. Built by Boeing, the aircraft mounted 13 .50-caliber machine guns with 6,380 rounds of ammunition. It also carried a maximum bomb load of 6,000 pounds. Four supercharged 1,200 horsepower Wright Cyclone engines powered the B-17. It had a crew of 10.

Lt. Lauraine's fortress, "The Tweachous Wabbit," was one of 12,725 B-17s manufactured during the war. It could fly at 35,600 feet and had a range of 3,400 miles. The bomber could cruise at 182 mph.

It's amazing when you think about it. A young man from Texas, probably the "old man" of the crew at the age of 26, flying this massive bomber into Germany and then giving up his life while saving so many others.

Lt. Lauraine and his comrades, from World War II, are well named; they are indeed, "The Greatest Generation."

Lone Star Diary
April, 2001
Published with author's permission.


More WWII

 
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