Captain Francis J. "Fran" Lent
Francis J. "Fran" Lent
In St. Paul Minnesota, Francis Joseph "Fran" Lent was born on 20 October 1917, and he grew up in the town of Melrose, Minnesota. After the death of his mother when he was 18, Lent bought the grocery store where he was working and remained in the business until the outbreak of the war
In 1942 Lent joined the Army Air Forces and was sent to Thunderbird Field, Arizona for primary flight training. He received his wings and commission at Luke Field, Arizona, graduating on 10 March 1943 with Class 43-C, a class that also produced fellow ace Charles E. "Chuck" Yeager.
Following graduation, Lieutenant Lent was sent to Glendale, California where he received fighter transition with the 329th Fighter Group. On 9 July 1943 he was assigned to the 431st Fighter Squadron, 475th Fighter Group, "Satan's Angels", in New Guinea. There he flew wing for top scoring fighter ace Lieutenant Thomas B. McGuire and began to learn the fighter trade. On 18 August 1943 he downed a Hamp near Wewak and destroyed two more Japanese fighters three days later.
Fifteen Japanese Val dive bombers, escorted by 39 Zekes, attacked Allied shipping in Oro Bay on 15 October. Scrambling to intercept the Japanese raid, the 475th claimed 36 aircraft destroyed. Lent accounted for three: two Zekes and a Val, to become an ace..
Nine days later, on the 24th Lent downed a Tony over Rabaul and on 2 November claimed one Zeke destroyed and another as a probable in the same area. Adding a Betty on 16 December, he completed his scoring on 31 March 1944 with two Zekes shot down 30 miles south of Hollandia.
On 1 December 1944, just prior to returning to Minnesota for a well earned leave and a marriage ceremony, Lieutenant Lent crashed into the ocean off Lae during a test flight of an F-6D, the photo-recon version of the P-51.
Silver Star with one Oak Leaf Cluster
Distinguished Flying Cross
Air Medal with 6 Oak Leaf Clusters