Just in time for the Fourth of July, let us salute pilot and patriot James A. Logan of Somerville, Massachusetts. Winner of the Purple Heart and the Distinguished Flying Cross with oak leaf clusters, Logan flew to his death on a mission over France when he was only 23 years old.
We learned about Lieutenant Logan at the Veterans’ Memorial Cemetery in Somerville, a carefully-tended two-acre plot on the city’s west side. A Somerville boy, Logan earned his wings in the Air Corps in 1943, and began training with his team in a B-24 bomber in Arizona that December. He was sent to England in March of 1944 as part of the 487th Bomb Group.
A month later, Lt. Logan celebrated his 23rd birthday. Three months after that, and less than a month after the D-Day invasion, he piloted one of a dozen B-24s sent on a mission to bomb German V-weapon emplacements near Belloy-Sur-Somme in northern France.
Logan reached his target, but his plane was hit by anti-aircraft fire. The citation from his DFC tells the rest of the story:
Near the target his aircraft was severely damaged and set on fire by anti-aircraft fire, causing it to veer sharply toward other aircraft in the formation, in a moment of great peril to himself and his crew, Lieutenant Logan, remained at the controls and skillfully maneuvered the burning aircraft out of the formation in order to prevent damage to other aircraft and injury to his fellow airmen.
The Find-A-Grave site for Logan’s co-pilot, Texan Bruno Matika, adds a bit of detail:
After the aircraft was hit and on fire, Lt. Logan pulled up to avoid colliding with another aircraft in the formation. The aircraft then went down in flames and crashed 3.5 kilometers west of Saint-Pol-sur-Ternoise, and 2 kilometers east of Siracourt. Three men survived and became prisoners of war.
Saint-Pol-sur-Ternoise is only about 50 miles from the safety of the English Channel — about 10 minutes or so at the B-24’s top speed of 290 MPH. Logan’s plane was the squadron’s only loss that day.
Today the VFW Hall in Somerville, just two blocks from our house, is known as Lt. James A. Logan Post No. 6800. That’s who put the statue of Logan up in the Veteran’s Cemetery, just next to his grave.
In case you’re wondering, James Logan is not the Logan of Boston’s Logan International Airport. That’s Major General Edward L. Logan of the Spanish-American War and World War I.
But Jimmy Logan can hold his own with Edward L. Logan, and also with George Dilboy, Somerville’s own Medal of Honor winner. As Lt. Logan’s DFC citation notes: “He stands in the unbroken line of patriots who have dared to die that freedom might live and grow and increase its blessings. Freedom lives and through it, lives in a way that humbles the undertakings of most men.”