Jeff DeBlanc to be honored with special flag ceremony

DeBlanc, educator, World War II ace fighter pilot and Medal of Honor recipient, will be honored by St. Martin Parish Government and the parish’s Woodmen of the World lodges with a special and lasting tribute. An American Flag furnished by the Woodmen of the World will be flown at public buildings around the parish, folded in the traditional triangle, and boxed for permanent display at a suitable location.

DeBlanc died on Nov. 22 at the age of 86. He was Louisiana’s last living WWII Medal of Honor recipient.

The St. Martin Parish Council, convening on Jan. 8, adopted a resolution proclaiming Friday, Feb. 15, 2008 — DeBlanc’s birthday — as Colonel Jefferson Joseph DeBlanc Sr. Day. The council urged all parish citizens to “join in a fitting salute to Col. DeBlanc by commemorating this day with the proper observance and public tribute for his dedication to our country.”

DeBlanc’s family recently turned over much of his memorabilia, including his Medal of Honor, to the National World War II Museum in New Orleans.

In recent years he also had a new wing of the Louisiana War Veterans Home at Jennings named after him.

DeBlanc, then a fighter pilot in the Marine Corps Reserve, was cited “For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty” for his actions in a dogfight with Japanese Zeros in the Solomon Islands on Jan. 31, 1943. The leader of a section of six F4F Wildcats serving as escort for a strike force of dive bombers and torpedo planes ordered to attack surface vessels that were resupplying Japanese ground forces. At 14,000 feet, the U.S. strike force encountered a large number of Japanese Zeros protecting the supply ships. Successful in his efforts to protect the bombing run, “DeBlanc courageously remained on the scene despite a rapidly diminishing fuel supply and, boldly challenging the enemy’s superior number of float planes, fought a valiant battle against terrific odds, seizing the tactical advantage and striking repeatedly to destroy three of the hostile aircraft and to disperse the remainder. Prepared to maneuver his damaged plane back to base, he had climbed aloft and set his course when he discovered two Zeros closing in behind. Undaunted, he opened fire and blasted both Zeros from the sky in a short, bitterly fought action which resulted in such hopeless damage to his own plane that he was forced to bail out at a perilously low altitude atop the trees on enemy-held Kolombangara. A gallant officer, a superb airman, and an indomitable fighter, 1st Lt. DeBlanc had rendered decisive assistance during a critical stage of operations, and his unwavering fortitude in the face of overwhelming opposition reflects the highest credit upon himself and adds new luster to the traditions of the U.S. Naval Service.” (Medal of Honor citation)

Like all Woodmen of the World Lodges, No. 134 in St. Martinville and No. 452 in Breaux Bridge supply American flags to fly over local public buildings, and arrange for the proper disposal of worn flags. For more information, call Paul Maraist at 394-3901.

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