The sixth child of Homer and Nettie Hudson Vail preferred the nickname "Jimmy" (a character in his favorite cartoon) to his birth name Wayne Homer. As a teenager, Jimmy worked in construction and played high school basketball. He graduated May 29, 1931, from Canton [Fillmore County, Minnesota] High School May 29, 1931 as class president. In 1937, Jimmy graduated from Luther College with a BA degree. There, he was active in athletics and music. Before his enlistment in the Air Force, Jimmy worked in Preston, Minnesota with the Government Agency AAA.
In 1941, the reader of family letters (saved by Jimmy's sister Marjorie) finds Jimmy in his first three weeks in the US Army--in 3rd Coast Artillery B, at Fort Mac Arthur, San Pedro, California. Because of his talent in music, he originally was assigned to the 3rd Coast Artillery Experimental Band. Soon he was classified as an "airplane mechanic" but eligible for re-enlistment and membership in the Flying Cadets. After grappling with the enormous choices, he is admitted to this group just before he's 27--the cut-off age. Nextm Jimmy is writing from Barksdale Field in Louisiana. On November 29, 1941, he graduated from The Air Corps Advanced Flying School as an Aerial Bomber and is headed for Hawaii. His letters indicate both a strength of conviction as to his choices and a heavy degree of grappling with the speed in which his life has so drastically changed. Every letter shows how much he misses his ordinary Minnesota life with his girlfriend and his relatives.
In turn, the family letters reveal the anguish of the family and his friend Borghild as, from a distance, they hope he makes the right choices.
The following two articles sum up the wrenching culmination.
Missing Canton Pilot Cited for Gallantry
Unreported after Solomons Fight
Second Lieutenant Homer Vail, Canton, Minn. has been awarded the silver star for gallantry in action in the Solomon Islands, the War department announced Tuesday.
The young man, whose mother is Mrs. Annette Vail, Canton, is listed as missing in action on August 4, 1942. The citation said he was a member of the crew of a bomber which fell into the sea after a Japanese fighter plane had crashed into it in combat.
The Canton soldier is one of 76 members of the army air force awarded air medals for meritorious achievements in the South Pacific and 15 awarded the silver star for gallantry in action in the Solomon islands.
The citation reads:
"For gallantry on August 4, 1942, in the Solomon islands. Lieutenant Vail, as a member of the crew of a plane in a three-bomber formation, proceeded on a mission to bomb enemy installations in the Tulagi area. As the flight approached the target, it was attacked by seven float-type Zero fighters, the first of which was shot down. A second enemy fighter was hit heavily, broke into flames and crashed into the bomber carrying Lieutenant Vail. It exploded and fell into the sea with the enemy plane, carrying down the entire crew."
Canton School Auditorium
Memorial Day, 1995
Today we remember Second Lieutenant Wayne Homer Vail, a lifelong resident of Canton.
Wayne Vail was born April 11th, 1914, of Homer and Nettie Vail. Nettie's maiden name was Hudson. Lt. Vail was one of nine children, the others named Lyle, Marion, Merle, Marjorie, Dorothy, Howard, Eunice, and Betty.
He graduated from Canton High School in 1931 and attended Luther College in Decorah, Iowa, graduating in December 1937.
During his student days Wayne participated in both athletics and the fine arts, playing the cornet at both the high school and college level. He was a member of the Military Band at Luther.
Wayne joined the United Stated Army November 29th, 1941, and went to flight school at Barksdale Field, Louisiana. He served in the South Pacific in the battle for The Solomon Islands, logging over 100 hours of flight, much of it exposed to enemy fire in combat.
Lt. Wayne Vail's last flight was August 4th, 1942, as a member of a three-bomber mission to attack enemy-held Tulagi. As they approached their target, they were attacked by seven Japanese Zero fighter plans. They shot down the first, but the second burst into flames and crashed into his bomber. Exploding, Wayne's plane crashed into the ocean.
Lt. Vail was officially proclaimed killed in action in April of 1944 and was awarded the Silver Star, the Distinguished Flying Cross, and the Purple Heart.
Lt. Wayne Vail, Army of the United States, was a lifelong resident of Canton and gave his "last full measure of devotion" to his country. We should be very proud of him and must never forget what he did for us.
Jimmy received four awards: Silver Star, Air Medal of Honor, Distinguished Flying Cross, Purple Heart.
His cousin, Virginia Hudson Young
---sorry that the original finder's name was lost--
Bio by: Janet Stephenson
Entered the service from Minnesota.