Engagements: • World War II (1941 - 1945)• Korean War (1950 - 1953)
Louis Joseph "Lou" Sebille
Louis Joseph "Lou" Sebille was born on 21 November 1915 in Harbor Beach, MI. In the 1930s he moved to Chicago, IL, where he worked as a Master of Ceremonies in several Chicago nightclubs under the nickname "Lou Reynolds." He was described as "a handsome glib master of ceremonies who used to wow the customers with his own parody of My Blue Heaven."
World War II
Sebille joined the U.S. Army Air Corps shortly after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941. He began flight training in January 1942, in spite of being two months older than the cutoff age of 26. During that time he was described as an outstanding pilot and leader, and his maturity was helpful for the younger flight trainees. After completing flight training, Sebille was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant and assigned to the 450th Bombardment Squadron, 3rd Bombardment Wing at MacDill Field, FL. Sebille flew B-26 Marauder bombers.
Deployed to England in 1943, Sebille flew bombing missions in the European Theatre. Originally, the squadron flew low-altitude bombing missions against Nazi German targets, but when those flights began producing heavy casualties for Air Force aircrews, they began flying medium-altitude missions. Sebille advanced to flight leader and then was promoted to Squadron Operations Officer with a temporary rank of major. By the end of the war, Sebille had flown 68 combat missions for which he was highly decorated before returning to the U.S. in March 1945.
The Intra-War Period
After the end of the war, Sebille left the Air Force and began work as a commercial airline pilot. However he returned to the Air Force in July 1946 when offered a commission as a First Lieutenant. He held several positions, first working as an F-51 Mustang and F-80 Shooting Star instructor pilot, then attended Air Tactical School at Tyndall Field, FL. He was assigned to Clark Air Base in the Philippines in 1948. During this time, he flew an F-51D named Nancy III (tail number 44-74112). In November 1948, Sebille was once again promoted to Major and made the Commanding Officer of the 67th Fighter-Bomber Squadron, 18th Fighter-Bomber Wing, a component of the Fifth U.S. Air Force stationed in Japan for post-World War II occupation duties. In November 1949, the squadron began receiving new F-80's but continued to fly a mix of F-80 and F-51 aircraft. During this time, Sebille was known to spend time in his squadron's Quonset hut. He frequently discussed fighting and death, including sentiments supporting suicide attack, at one point saying "If you have to die, then take some of the enemy with you."
Sebille married and his wife gave birth to a son in December 1949.
With the outbreak of the Korean War on 25 June 1950, the United Nations voted to send troops into South Korea to aid it against the North Korean Army to prevent the country from collapsing. Sebille's unit was among those sent to assist the UN ground forces operating in Korea. By the end of July, the US had shipped a large number of aircraft of all types to Korea. On 30 July, the Far East Air Forces had 890 planes: 626 F-80's and 264 F-51's, but only 525 of them were in units and available and ready for combat.
Early in the war, these aircraft were used primarily to conduct raids and gather intelligence on North Korean ground targets, focused on disrupting North Korean supply to the front lines. However, as soon as UN forces retreated to Pusan Perimeter following the Battle of Taejon, the Naval aircraft were immediately re-purposed for close-air support and airstrikes against North Korean ground troops on the frontlines. These missions were significantly more risky and the aircraft suffered much higher losses due to North Korean ground fire. On 1 August, Sebille and his squadron moved to Ashiya Air Field and began conducting missions in support of the ground forces in Korea. By 5 August, Sebille had accrued over 3,000 hours of flying time over the course of his career. During this time, the 67th Fighter-Bomber Squadron operated primarily out of Ashiya but also used airfields at Taegu and Pusan.
Action Leading to the Medal of Honor
At the beginning of the Battle of Pusan Perimeter, on the night of 4 September, North Korean troops established a beachhead across the Naktong River and were using it to advance across the river and attack Taegu, where the UN's Eighth U.S. Army was headquartered in defense of the perimeter. A T-6 Mosquito forward air controller spotted a North Korean column advancing through the village of Hamchang the next morning, 5 September. Sebille was ordered to lead a flight of three F-51's on an airstrike against the North Korean troops advancing there.
Sebille flew a P-51 (tail number 44-74394) loaded with two 500 pound bombs, six rockets, and six M2 Browning .50 caliber machine guns. He and his wingmen approached the village at an altitude of 5,000 feet and spotted a North Korean armored column crossing the river in a shallow area. Sebille positioned himself for a medium-angle dive bomb run, planning to drop both of his bombs on his first attack. Diving, he held steady until about 2,500 feet. When he spotted a target column of trucks, artillery guns and armored cars, led by a North Korean Armored Personnel Carrier, he hit the bomb release button on his control stick, and then made a sharp pull-up to the left to stay away from his bomb blast. However, only one of his bombs had released, and the 500 pounds of unbalanced weight under his left wing may have contributed to his near miss on the first run.
North Korean anti aircraft fire struck Sebille's P-51 as he turned to make a second run, heavily damaging the aircraft and it began trailing smoke and coolant. Sebille had intended to release his second bomb, but he radioed one of his wingmen that he had been hit and injured, probably fatally. His wingman radioed back that Sebille should try to head for a U.S. emergency landing strip in Taegu a short distance away, but Sebille responded with his last known words, "No, I'll never make it. I'm going back and get that bastard (sic)." He dove straight toward the APC that was his target. He fired his six rockets in salvo, but instead of pulling up to the regular 2,000 feet, he deliberately continued to dive his airplane and the remaining bomb straight into the target, firing his six machine guns. His plane sustained even heavier damage, and he crashed into the North Korean convoy destroying a large contingent of North Korean ground troops and vehicles though being killed instantly himself.
For his heroic actions and self-sacrifice, he was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.
Medal of Honor
Rank and organization: Major, U.S. Air Force, 67th Fighter-Bomber Squadron, 18th Fighter-Bomber Group, 5th Air Force.
Place and date: Near Hanchang, Korea, 5 August 1950.
Maj. Sebille, distinguished himself by conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. During an attack on a camouflaged area containing a concentration of enemy troops, artillery, and armored vehicles, Maj. Sebille's F-51 aircraft was severely damaged by antiaircraft fire. Although fully cognizant of the short period he could remain airborne, he deliberately ignored the possibility of survival by abandoning the aircraft or by crash landing, and continued his attack against the enemy forces threatening the security of friendly ground troops. In his determination to inflict maximum damage upon the enemy, Maj. Sebille again exposed himself to the intense fire of enemy gun batteries and dived on the target to his death. The superior leadership, daring, and selfless devotion to duty which he displayed in the execution of an extremely dangerous mission were an inspiration to both his subordinates and superiors and reflect the highest credit upon himself, the U.S. Air Force, and the armed forces of the United Nations.
In late August 1951, Air Force Chief of Staff General Hoyt Vandenberg presented the Medal of Honor to Sebille's widowed wife and their son, who was 19 months old at the time. Sebille was the first person in the Air Force to be awarded the Medal of Honor since the branch's creation in 1947, and the 31st to win the Medal in Korea. Only four Air Force personnel would win the Medal in Korea, all of them posthumous awards.
Other Medals and Awards
In addition to the Medal of Honor, Major Sebille was awarded the following:
Distinguished Flying Cross with Oak Leaf Cluster
A short obituary for Major Sebille appeared in Time Magazine.
The United States Air Force Academy created a memorial to Sebille in Harmon Hall, the Academy's administration building.
Death and Burial
Major Louis Joseph "Lou" Sebille was killed in action on 5 August 1950. He is buried at Forest Home Cemetery in Forest Park, Chicago, IL.
|Origin of Nickname/Handle:|
Lou is an abbreviated version of his first name.
|Honoree ID: 29||Created by: MHOH|