Eagle Profile

Bomber pilot and combat leader extraordinaire, Eugene B. “Ben” LeBailly earned the title of “Loco Ace” for destroying nine enemy locomotives in North Korea. Born in Shoshone, Idaho, he earned his commission and pilot wings in 1939 and was assigned to the 1st Bombardment Squadron in Trinidad, West Indies as a B-18 Bolo pilot. In 1942, he received orders to the 6th Bombardment Squadron in Ecuador and Peru and later that year was among the first aircrew to check out in the radar-equipped B-17 Flying Fortress. In February 1943, he was named Commander of the 7th Bombardment Squadron at Blythe Field, California, and later became Deputy Commander of the 34th Bombardment Group.

In early 1944, he traveled with the group to England where he became its commander and participated in five of the major air campaigns against Germany. After the war, he served at several stateside air bases until 1948 when he was assigned to Headquarters USAF. He later moved to the Office of the Secretary of Defense where he helped organize the new Department of the Air Force. After graduating from the Air War College, LeBailly received orders to Korea in August 1952 with the 3rd Bombardment Wing flying B-26 Invaders. Under his command, the wing flew missions over some of the bleakest terrain in the world, at night, and often in atrocious weather.

LeBailly flew 50 combat missions himself, destroying vast amounts of supplies, equipment, and transportation assets. After the signing of the truce, he reported to the Far East Air Forces Headquarters in Japan, where he was named Chief of the Air Force Section of the Military Assistance Advisory Group. In this capacity, he was in charge of building the Japan Air Self-Defense Force with 500 aviators who flew in World War II. In 1955, he returned to the States as Chief of Information Services for the Tactical Air Command, and in 1958 became the Deputy Director of the Office of Information under the Office of the Secretary of the Air Force.

He became Commander of US Forces in the Azores in 1961, and then returned to Washington, D.C., in 1964 to become the Director of Information for the USAF. In 1967, General LeBailly was named Commander of the Sixteenth Air Force in Spain with responsibilities for all USAF units in that country as well as Italy, Greece, Turkey, and Libya. In 1970, he served as Chairman of the Inter-American Defense Board, and retired in 1973 as a lieutenant general. Soon thereafter, he joined the Boeing Aircraft Company as a consultant, specializing in commercial aircraft sales to customers in Latin America and the Mediterranean region.

Years Honored:


1990 Lithograph

Lithograph Setting(s):

On 3 February 1953, Colonel Ben LeBailly spotted three North Korean locomotives transporting supplies to Communist ground forces in the South. Despite heavy antiaircraft defenses, he attacked the trio, destroying two and forcing the other into a nearby tunnel. Out of ammunition and low on fuel, he dispatched another 3rd Bombardment Wing B-26 crew. As the locomotive attempted to escape, the relieving crew, making the effort a clean sweep for the 3rd Bombardment Wing annihilated it. For his flying skills and air leadership, Colonel LeBailly was awarded the Silver Star.