Jeff DeBlanc became an “ace” in the Pacific during World War II and earned the Medal of Honor! Born in 1921, DeBlanc grew up in St. Martinsville, Louisiana. After high school and three years of university studies, he entered the Naval Aviation Cadet program and in 1942 earned his “wings of gold.” Commissioned in the Marine Corps, he joined Marine Fighter Squadron (VMF) 112 just 10 days before it shipped out to Guadalcanal. With only a few hours flying time in the Grumman F-4F Wildcat, he met the enemy. In an air battle on 12 November 1942, DeBlanc shot down two Japanese bombers and probably a third. On 18 December, he shot a Nakajima Rufe floatplane fighter off the tail of an American dive-bomber. Late in January 1943, on a predawn patrol, the Wildcat’s engine failed, and DeBlanc made a perfect water landing in the phosphorescent wake of the USS Jenkins.
Three hours later he was back with the squadron. On 31 January, DeBlanc was escorting bombers in an attack on a Japanese fleet. During a furious dogfight, he shot down two more floatplane fighters. As the dive-bombers turned toward home, DeBlanc attacked 10 enemy fighters. He downed three, but his Wildcat was hit. As the sun set, he bailed out and landed in the sea. He swam ashore and after three nights, a group of natives found him. They traded the young pilot for a bag of rice to other natives who took him by canoe to a missionary on Vella Lavella. On 12 February, he was picked up by a Navy flying boat escorted by Vought F4U Corsairs.
Upon return to the United States in September 1943, he used his hard-earned combat experience as a fighter instructor. In 1944, he joined VMF-422 in the Marshall Islands. During the invasion of Okinawa, DeBlanc, flying the Corsair, shot down a dive-bomber. Released from active duty in late 1945, he wore the Navy Cross, Distinguished Flying Cross, Purple Heart, and several Air Medals. In 1946, President Truman presented DeBlanc the Medal of Honor for his actions over Kolombangara. In 1947, he earned a bachelor’s degree in science and began a career in teaching.
He taught 25 years in the classroom and served 10 years as a supervisor. He also served in the Marine Corps Reserve and from 1963 to 1966 commanded an air reserve training group. He earned two master’s degrees and after retiring from the reserves, completed a Doctorate in Education. He taught 5 years for the Department of Defense at Brunssum, Netherlands, and worked 10 years for South Central Bell Telephone. Colonel DeBlanc remains active in education, working part time at his old high school. He also is active in finding money to fund programs in math, computers, and astronomy. He and his wife, Louise, live a few blocks from where his French ancestors settled.