Born: August 29, 1920; Hammond, IN
Died: September 1, 1944; Gael, France (ALG #31)
On the eve of "D-Day",
Lt. Bakalar was assigned to the 9th Air Force's 353rd Fighter
Squadron of the 354th Fighter Group. The 354th FG became known
as the "Pioneer Mustang Group", the first such
group to receive the powerful P-51D. Lt. Bakalar participated
in dive bombing and strafing missions in support of Allied ground
troops in France. He was awarded the Air Medal with three oak-leaf
clusters for successfully completing 45 combat missions, and
his Fighter Squadron received the Presidential Unit Citation.
Lt. Bakalar was credited with three aerial victories on his first
ever combat sortie on August 16, 1944.
On September 1, 1944, Lt. Bakalar
prepared for take-off on an operational mission from Gael, France.
Shortly after the aircraft cleared the end of the runway the
engine failed and the aircraft crashed into a grove of trees. Lt.
Bakalar did not survive. The cause of the crash was
determined to be a faulty casting on the first stage supercharger
housing that allowed engine coolant to enter
the induction system.