Lieutenant Commander Lance Edward Massey
Award: Veterans' Hall of Fame
Inductee was nominated by Former Senator James W. Wright
Lance Edward Massey of Watertown is known as one of the most courageous pilots ever to fly for the United States. Mr. Massey, who rose to the rank of Lieutenant Commander during his 10-year career as a Naval Aviator, participated in the first offensive carrier operations against the Japanese when, in February 1942, he led nine Devastator torpedo bombers to sink Japanese ships near the Marshall Islands. For his action during this mission, Mr. Massey was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.
Later, on the fateful morning of June 4, 1942, Mr. Massey led his squadron toward a Japanese carrier task force in what is now known as the Battle of Midway. Flying with little fighter protection, Mr. Massey and his pilots courageously began a futile attack that forced the patrolling Japanese fighters down to their lower altitude. One mile from his target, Mr. Massey was shot down, killing him and his gunner. In all, 21 of the 24 men that comprised his squadron lost their lives in the attack.
History has shown that Mr. Massey and his men did not die in vain. While their planes were tying up the Japanese fighters, U.S. Navy dive bombers came in untouched and mortally wounded three Japanese carriers. The gallantry and sacrifice of Squadron 3 is viewed by historians as the turning point in the Battle of Midway. Mr. Massey was posthumously awarded the Navy Cross and the Purple Heart. In November 1944, a Navy vessel, the USS Massey, was launched in his honor.