Capt Francis Joseph “Fran” Lent

Capt Francis Joseph “Fran” Lent

Birth
Saint Paul, Ramsey County, Minnesota, USA
Death 1 Dec 1944 (aged 27)
Papua New Guinea
Burial Melrose, Stearns County, Minnesota, USA
Plot Section C, Row 5
Memorial ID 69756035 · View Source
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THIS IS A MEMORIAL ONLY AND NOT
THE LOCATION OF FINAL INTERNMENT.
CAPTAIN LENT'S BODY WAS NEVER FOUND.
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Captain Francis J. Lent
October 1917 - December 1944

Francis Joseph "Fran" Lent was born on 26 October 1917 in St. Paul, Ramsey County, Minnesota, to Earl and Mayme (Waldorf) Lent. In 1918, Francis Lent, his parents and two brothers, Gordon and Mortimer, left the Twin Cities and jouneyed 100 miles northwest to the small central Minnesota town of Melrose in western Stearns County. This move brought them closer to their Lent and Waldorf relatives in the area.

A Dark 1918
Frances Lent was just 11 months old when his 34 year old father, Earl V. Lent, died in a train accident on September 8 1918.

Two months later, on Novemeber 8, 1918, his 2 1/2 year old brother, Gordon Lent, died from pnuemonia as a complication associated with the 1918 Influenza Epidemic, which peaked throughout the nation in November & December 1918. Gordon and his father, Earl, are both buried in the Waldorf Family Plot - Row 4 of Section C - in St. Mary's Cemetery in Melrose, Minn.

The influenza outbreak also took the life of another relative - Alois Helsper - the 15 year old cousin of Francis' mother, Mayme (Waldorf) Lent, and the son of J.W. Helsper and Bernadine (Roering) Helsper.

Extended Family
The tragic events in 1918 placed a heavy emotional and financial burden on the 32 year old widow with 2 young sons. Young Francis went to lived with his aunt & uncle, William & Gertrude (Waldorf) Stern. This arrangement is confirmed in the 1920 US Census for the city of Melrose, Minn.

His Aunt Gertrude Stern died in 1924, age 38 years. The 7 year old Francis returned to live with his mother. The City of Melrose section in the 1930 and 1940 US Census shows that Francis and his mother Mayme (Waldorf) Lent lived in the Melrose household of his maternal grandfather, Frank Waldorf.

Entrepreneur
In January 1939, at the age of 21, Francis purchased the grocery store where he had been the store manager the prior years. The grocery store at 407 Main Street in Melrose was purchased from the Martin family and Lent operated under the Jack Sprat franchise. The 1940 US Census confirms this ownership, showing Francis Lent as owner of a grocery store and his mother is listed as a clerk at the store. The June 13, 1957 issue of the Melrose Beacon did a recap of commercial activities in Melrose for 40 years (1917-1957) and the first entry under 1939 states that Lent purchased Martin Grocery.

On November 30, 1940, Mayme (Waldorf) Lent died from cancer and was buried in the Waldorf family plot. Francis remained in the grocery business for nearly 2 more years, until he enlisted in the United States Army Air Force.

U.S. Air Force
In April 1942, Lent sold his grocery store to Bill and Mary (Helsper) Gieske. Lent left the business world to join the Army Air Forces and do his part to support his country. He was sent to Thunderbird Field, Arizona for primary flight training. He received his wings and commission at Luke Field, Arizona, graduating on March 10, 1943 with Class 43-C, a class that also produced fellow Ace Charles E. "Chuck" Yeager - who would be the first pilot to exceed the speed of sound in 1954.

Following graduation, Lt. Francis Lent was sent to Glendale, California where he received fighter transition with the 329th Fighter Group.

On 9 July 1943 he was assigned to the 431st Fighter Squadron, 475th Fighter Group, "Satan's Angels", in New Guinea. There he flew wing for top scoring fighter ACE pilot Lieutenant Thomas B. McGuire and began to learn the fighter trade.

Ace Fighter Pilot
On 18 August 1943 he downed his first Japanese aircraft - a Hap - near Wewak and destroyed two more Japanese fighters three days later.

Fifteen Japanese Val dive bombers, escorted by 39 Zekes, attacked Allied shipping in Oro Bay on 15 October 1943. Scrambling to intercept the Japanese raid, the 475th claimed 36 aircraft destroyed. Lent accounted for three of these: two Zekes and a Val, to achieve the status of Ace Bomber.

Nine days later, on the 24 October 1943, Lent downed a Tony over Rabaul and on 2 November 1943, claimed one Zeke destroyed and another as a probable in the same area. Adding a Betty on 16 December 1943, he completed his scoring on 31 March 1944 with two Zekes shot down 30 miles south of Hollandia.

On July 17, 1944, Lt Francis Lent was promoted to the rank of Captain. He was with the 5th Air Force which operated out of Australia and New Guinea.

Lent's Aircraft Disappears
In December 1944 Captain Lent was scheduled to returning to his hometown of Melrose, Minnesota for a well deserved leave and to fulfill his promise of marriage to his fiance', Miss Delores Herges. Delores is the daughter of Alwina Herges & Peter Herges of Melrose, Minn.

On December 1, 1944, Captain Lent failed to return from his mission and is believed to have crashed into the ocean off Lae during a test flight of an F-6D, the photo-reconnaissance version of the P-51.

After Captain Francis Lent's family had not received any communication from him, they suspected bad news was forthcoming. The American Red Cross was required to wait 90 days before they could investigate further. However, the March 30, 1945 letter from the Army Air Force Headquarters in Washington D.C. to Francis Lent's older brother, Mortimer C. Lent, on Minneahaha Ave S, Minneapolis, Minn., provided the Lent family with additional details of Francis' death.

On May 21, 1946, Mortimer C Lent received a letter of condolence for the death of his brother and that there was an ongoing search for his remains. This letter was signed:

Very faithfully,
General Douglas McArthur

Funeral and Memorial
There was a funeral mass at St. Boniface Catholic Church in Melrose, Minnesota on July 7, 1945 for friends & relatives to memorialize their local hero. The service was well attended by the whole of the Melrose community. Those in attendance were friends and family of the Lent, Waldorf and Roering families, as well as former grocery store customers and the full military honor guard. (St. Boniface Church was changed to St. Mary's Catholic Church in 1958)

A memorial marker for Captain Francis J. Lent was placed at the base of the Waldorf Family gravestone - Row 5 of Section C. The graves of his parents, brother, maternal grandparents, Frank & Anna Waldorf, are also in the Waldorf Family Plot - Row 4 of Section C.

Francis Lent was survived by his brother, Mortimer (Hazel) Lent and daughter Barbara of Minneapolis, Minn; fiance' Delores Herges of Melrose,Minn; maternal grandfather, Frank Waldorf of Melrose, Minn and numerous aunts, uncles and cousins. He was preceeded in death by his parents, Earl and Mayme (Waldorf) Lent; brother Gordon, and grandmother, Anna (Roering) Waldorf.


Accomplishments
- Tally Record: 11 Confirmed, 1 Probable

Decorations:
- Silver Star with one Oak Leaf Cluster
- Distinguished Flying Cross
- Air Medal with 6 Oak Leaf Clusters


Remember to click the PHOTO tab above to view all images in this record, including a 1945 article in his hometown newspapaer regarding the memorial service held for Captain Francis J. Lent.


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Resources:
- www.475th.org
- The Melrose Area History Muesum web site, Melrose Minn
- 1940 U.S. Census, City of Melrose, Stearns County, Minnesota - page 73-32, Lines 11-13.
- 1940 U.S. Census, Ward 13, City of Minneapolis, Hennepin County, Minnesota, - page 27, Lines 29-32.
- Numerous documents & newpaper articles at the American Fighter Ace Association, Kenneth Dahlberg Research Center, Seattle Washington
- Articles from US Air Force Communications, "YANK Down Under," published by the American Forces in the Southwest Pacific area: Cpl. Chuck Rathe (see note below).
- Minnesota Dept of Health: MN Birth Cert: 1917-53299 for Francis J Lent shows birth on 26 Oct....all other sources state birth on 20 Oct.


NOTE: The frequent articles in the Melrose Beacon announcing Captain Lent's accomplishments were official releases by the YANK Down Under - a paper published by the American Armed Forces in the Southwest Pacific area. Most were written by Cpl Chuck Rathe.

Before entering the Armed Services, Cpl Chuck Rathe was the associate editor of the Sauk Centre Herold, Sauk Centre, Stearns County, Minnesota - 6 miles from Lent's home town of Melrose, Minnesota. Cpt Rathe's father, Ed Rathe, was the owner and editor of the local newspaper, the Sauk Centre Herald.

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Family Members

Parents
Siblings

Inscription

NOTE: This is only a memorial marker. Capt Lent is not interred here. His remains were never found.

Gravesite Details MN Birth Cert: 1917-53299 states he was born Oct 26 while all other sources state Oct 20.

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  • Created by: Quincy Stroeing
  • Added: 13 May 2011
  • Find A Grave Memorial 69756035
  • Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for Capt Francis Joseph “Fran” Lent (26 Oct 1917–1 Dec 1944), Find A Grave Memorial no. 69756035, citing Saint Marys Cemetery, Melrose, Stearns County, Minnesota, USA ; Maintained by Quincy Stroeing (contributor 46842658) .