Skip to main content Skip to search Skip to search results

Archives at The Museum of Flight

Howard, James H. (James Howell), 1913-1995



  • Existence: 1913 April 8 - 1995 March 18

Biographical Note

James H. Howard (1913-1995) was a fighter ace and General in the United States Air Force. He is known for being the only fighter pilot in the European Theater of Operations in World War II to earn the Medal of Honor.

James Howell Howard was born on April 8, 1913 in Canton, China to Harvey J. and Maude I. (Strobel) Howard. By 1930, the Howard family had moved to St. Louis, Missouri. Howard graduated from John Burroughs School in 1932. He then attended Pomona College in Claremont, California and earned a Bachelor of Arts in 1937 with a plan to follow his father into medicine. However, Howard changed his mind and on December 29, 1937 he entered the United States Navy as a naval aviation cadet.

He began flight training in early 1938 at Naval Air Station Pensacola and earned his wings in 1939. Howard was based at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii and assigned as a pilot aboard the USS Enterprise (CV-6). He left the Navy in June 1941 to join the American Volunteer Group (AVG), also known as the Flying Tigers, in Burma as a Curtiss P-40 Warhawk pilot. During his time with the Flying Tigers he flew 56 missions and earned ace status with six aerial victories against Japanese airplanes. After the July 1942 disbandment of the Flying Tigers, he returned to the United States as a Captain in the Army Air Forces where he was checked out in the Lockheed P-38 Lightning and Bell P-39 Aircobra. A year later he was promoted to Major and took command of the 356th Fighter Squadron flying North American P-51 Mustangs in the 354th Fighter Group based in England.

On January 11, 1944, Howard flew his P-51 "Ding Hao" alone into dozens of Luftwaffe fighters that were attacking a formation of 401st Bomb Group flying B-17 Flying Fortresses over Oschersleben, Germany. Howard defended the bombers alone for more than half-an-hour and shot down six enemy aircraft. He continued to dive on enemy planes after his aircraft ran out of ammunition. For his actions, he earned a promotion to Lieutenant Colonel and in June 1944 General Carl Spazt presented him with the Medal of Honor. Howard is the only fighter pilot from the European Theater to win the Medal of Honor. Later that month, Howard helped direct fighter planes providing cover the D-Day landings on Normandy Beach. At the start of 1945, Howard was promoted to Colonel and assigned to base commander of Pinellas Army Air Field, his last assignment prior to leaving regular military service.

Post-war, Howard was the Director of Aeronautics at Lambert Field as well as a Brigadier General in the Air Force Reserve. In 1961 he founded Howard Research. In 1965, he sold his company and retired from the Air Force Reserve. Howard moved to Bellair Bluffs, Florida in the late 1970s. In 1991, he published his autobiography, Roar of the Tiger.

Howard married his first wife, Mary G. Welch, in 1948 although the couple divorced in 1949. In 1953, he married his second wife, Florence Buteau. The couple divorced in 1957. James H. Howard died on March 18, 1995 and is buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

Found in 1 Collection or Record:

James H. Howard Fighter Ace Collection

Identifier: 2021-10-01
Contents of the Collection The James H. Howard Fighter Ace Collection contains textual, photographic, and audiovisual materials in support of James H. Howard's Medal of Honor awarded in June 1944. Materials include military records, clippings, and photographs, among others. Due to the collection's small size, it has been arranged alphabetically. Howard was awarded the Medal of Honor in June 1944 for actions taken on January 11, 1944, the only fighter pilot in the European Theater to earn the distinction....

The Museum of Flight | 9404 E. Marginal Way South | Seattle WA 98108-4097 | 206-764-5874
Contact us with a research request