Service number 68717.
Lance Wade was born in Broaddus, Texas in 1915, a small farming community near the Texas–Louisiana border. The second son of Bill and Susan Wade, he was actually given the name L.C. at birth. In fact, only after the RAF demanded that he list a name rather than initials -- he called himself Lance Cleo Wade: just to satisfy regulations. In 1922 the family moved to a small farm near Reklaw, Texas, where he went to school and helped with the farm work. Family members recalled that whenever an airplane flew over, Wade would stop whatever he was doing and say, "Someday I will fly." At the age of 17 he and some friends purchased a small aircraft in Tucson, Arizona and began learning to fly, hoping to follow in the footsteps of his father who had flown with the Lafayette Escadrille in World War I. Subsequently he attempted to join the US Army Aviation Cadet Program, but was turned down due to lack of higher education. In 1934 at age 19, Wade travelled to Tucson, to take advantage of a New Deal program, the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), which provided jobs for young men. For Wade, however, the CCC work turned out to be much like the farm work he thought he had left behind -- driving a team of mules, building roads and planting trees in a national forest.
With this experience he probably gained the motivation to follow his dream. So, Wade travelled to Canada with a close friend, Sidney Muhart, and joined the Royal Air Force, arriving in England in 1941. He arrived in Egypt as a Hurricane Mk I pilot September 1941, and was posted to 33 Squadron. His first kills were 2 Fiat CR-42s on 18th November. He made ace on 24th November, 1941. On December 5th, 1941 Wade was shot down by Flak while strafing enemy positions in Agadabia. He managed to survive and after a long walk across the lines he was picked by friendly forces. He had 13 victories as of September 1942.
As he had finished his tour, he spent the next several months back in the US on various RAF projects including evaluating some American fighters at Wright Field. He later reported to the RAF delegation in Washington and was introduced to President Franklin D. Roosevelt at the White House. The Texan RAF pilot's exploits had been widely reported in U.S. newspapers, and now the American press corps clamoured to meet the man who had become a high-scoring ace and also been invited to tea with Britain's royal family. Upon his arrival in New York, he held a press conference at Rockefeller Center and was featured in the October 14, 1942, issue of The New York Times. After touring the big city, Wade returned to east Texas to a hero's welcome. An auto dealership offered him the use of a new car during his leave, which he politely refused, and he also received invitations to speak throughout the region.
He returned to combat in January 1943 as a Flight Leader of No.145 Squadron flying Supermarine Spitfire Mk Vs. Promoted to Squadron Leader, he had a productive 60+ days, as by end of April his score was 21, by then flying Spitfire Mk IXs. His squadron moved to Italy, and Wade got 2 Focke-Wolfe 190s on 2nd October, and his last claims were 3 FW190s damaged 3 Nov, 1943.
Wade became a Wing Commander and joined the staff of the Desert Air Force of Harry Broadhurst
but was there only briefly, as he was killed in a flying accident 12 January 1944 when his Auster Mk III hit ground at Foggia, Italy.
Wade had only recently retired from combat. Some time after the burial, his body was transferred to Reklaw, Texas an reburied in the McKnight Cemetery.
Wing Commander Wade usually is listed with 25 victories but official RAF records show that he had 22 solo victories and half each of two more for a total of 23.00, not counting one probable. Regardless of whether his score is 25, or 23 victories, he is still the leading American fighter ace to serve exclusively in any foreign air force.
Since he never transferred to the USAAF, or any other American Air service, Wade never got the publicity that other American Aces received.
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