State military heroes, including two Medal of Honor recipients closely tied
to Barksdale Air Force Base, will be inducted into the next class of heroes at
the Louisiana Military Hall of Fame and Museum in Abbeville.
The Nov. 13 ceremony will bring into hall membership the late Col. John Riley
Kane, a former Shreveporter who was awarded a Medal of Honor for his leadership
during one of the most harrowing aerial attacks of World War II, an almost
suicidal attack on Nazi-controlled oil refineries at Ploesti, Romania.
Kane, the son of respected Cedar Grove Baptist minister John Franklin Kane,
joined the Air Force in Shreveport and was stationed at Barksdale in the late
1930s, when it was an Army airfield.
A second honoree in the ceremony will be Capt. Lloyd H. Hughes, who died in
the same Aug. 1, 1943, raid in which Kane earned his Medal of Honor.
Flying in the last formation to attack the target, Hughes flew his bomber
through intense and accurate antiaircraft fire and balloon barrages at low
altitude, with his plane getting numerous direct hits that caused sheets of
high-octane gasoline to stream from the bomb bay and left wing. Though he could
have made a forced landing on nearby grain fields, he chose instead to fly into
the inferno of the target, his aircraft emerging with its left wing aflame and
Hughes was born in Alexandria and lived there briefly before his mother
returned to her native Texas, where Hughes was reared. He also was awarded a
Medal of Honor, though posthumously, for his heroism in that mission. He was 22
years old when he died.
Organizers have been able to reach relatives of Hughes to represent him at
the ceremony, but have been unable to reach any of Kane's family. His first
wife, former Shreveport Pansy Inabnett, had one child, John Franklin Kane II. He
was last known to be living in Pennsylvania.
"We are searching for family," said museum spokeswoman Paula Finley, adding
Kane's image will be carved into granite with the text from his Medal of Honor
citation. "We would love to invite his family and friends to the event."
Kane, who died in 1996 at age 89, led the 98th Bomb Group, the Pyramidiers,
in the Ploesti raid. Almost 200 B-24 bombers flew a low-level attack from
airfields in North Africa over the Mediterranean Sea and on treetop-level runs
over the Balkan countryside. Thoroughly alerted German fighter defenses swarmed
the bombers, downing more than a third of the force and killing hundreds of
fliers. In all, five Medals of Honor were earned that day, the most ever awarded
for a single military action.
Aside from Kane, at least two other recipients of the Medal from that mission
had ties to Barksdale. The other living recipient, Col. Leon Johnson, also was
stationed here and later was promoted to four-star general. Major John Jerstad,
who like Hughes was killed in the raid, underwent B-24 pilot training at
Other honorees in the Nov. 13 event will be James H. Diamond and Edward R.
Schowalter Jr., both of New Orleans.
Schowalter, who died in late November 2003 at age 75, was awarded the Medal
of Honor for heroism on Oct. 14, 1952, in the Korean War. When his platoon came
under vicious small-arms, grenade, and though wounded, he continued to spearhead
the assault. Refusing medical aid, he led his men into the trenches and began
routing the enemy from the bunkers with grenades. Though wounded again and
again, he refused to relinquish command and continued issuing orders and
encouraging his men.
Diamond also was a Medal of Honor recipient, but received his award
posthumously. He was killed while in the Army in the Philippine Islands in May
1945. Over several days, he led charges on Japanese pillboxes, took on snipers
and intentionally drew fire away from his patrol by charging a Japanese machine
gun, suffering mortal wounds.