Howard P. French

  • First Lieutenant
  • WW II


Howard Paul French was born in Windham, Connecticut on 23 June 1918. He was the son of Louis B. and Dora French. Howard attended local schools in Windham and entered Rhode Island State College (RISC) in September 1939 with the Class of 1943. He was a member of Lambda Chi Alpha Fraternity (Vice-President), Sachems (Moderator), RI Club, participated in basketball, football and was President of the Class of 1943. He participated in the Army ROTC program for two years. Howard graduate from RISC in 1943 with a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture/Chemistry and enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Force shortly after graduation.

Private Howard P. French graduated from the ten-week U.S. Army Air Force preflight training program, a combination of enlisted basic training and officer candidate school. He was assigned as a cadet at The Flying/Aviation Cadet Training Program, U.S. Army Air Force Training Center, Duncan Field, Alabama. Upon completion of flight school, he was awarded his pilot’s wings and was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant and assigned to the 499th Bombardment Group, Davis-Monthan Field, Arizona.

The 499th Bombardment Group deployed to the Pacific Theater of Operations in September 1944, where it became part of the 21st Bomber Command in the Northern Mariana Islands at Isely Field, Saipan. The 499th Group entered combat in October 1944 with attacks in the Truk Islands and on Iwo Jima. The 499th took part in the first attack on Japan by US Army Air Force planes based in the Marianas. The 499th Group flew numerous missions in daylight, operating from high altitude to bomb strategic targets in Japan.

The 499th received a Distinguished Unit Citation for striking the Mitsubishi Aircraft Engine Plant at Nagoya on 23 January 1945. In March 1945, the 499th began to conduct night attacks, flying at low altitudes to drop incendiaries on area targets. On 7 April 1945, with 1LT French at the controls of his B-29 Superfortress, the 499th mission was to destroy enemy targets over Japan. 1LT French’s B-29 was hit by anti-aircraft fire and crashed, killing the entire crew.

For his actions, First Lieutenant Howard Paul French, U.S. Army Air Force was cited for Gallantry in Action and Bravery and awarded the Air Medal and Purple Heart (Posthumously). His body was later recovered; and First Lieutenant Howard P. French was buried with full military honors at the Long Island National Cemetery, East Farmingdale, New York, on 18 October 1949.

Lieutenant French’s courage and devotion to duty contributed to the success of our forces in defeating the Japanese and were in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Army Air Force. He was a son of Rhode Island State College who answered the call to service during World War II and gave his life in service to the State of Rhode Island and our country. He was another member of the “Greatest Generation.”