Bio / Text:
Lance Cleo Wade was born 1915 in Broddus Texas, a small rural farming town in East Texas. Wade learned to fly crop dusters at a young age. Wade applied to be a pilot in the USAAF but was rejected due to not having a college degree. He joined the RAF in Canada in December 1940 and trained with No. 52 Operational Training Unit (OTU). Wade was then sent to the British aircraft carrier Ark Royal and flew off her deck in Hawker Hurricane to reinforce the depleted ranks of aircraft on the island of Malta. He was then sent to Egypt as a Hawker Hurricane Mk I pilot in September 1941, and was posted to 33 Squadron.
The squadron's mission was to provide close air support for Operation Crusader, the British assault launched on November 18, 1941, against the German Afrika Korps. His first kills were two Fiat CR.42s on 18 November. He attained the rank of "ace" on 24 November 1941. He began flying Hurricane Mk IIs in April 1942, and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC). He had 13 victories as of September 1942.
He spent the next several months back in the US on various RAF projects including evaluating some American fighters at Wright Field.He returned to combat as a Flight Commander in 145 Squadron with a Bar to his DFC, flying Supermarine Spitfire Mk Vs. Promoted to squadron leader, he had a busy 60 days, as by the end of April his score was 21, by then flying Spitfire Mk IXs. His squadron moved to Italy, and as a Spitfire VIII pilot he claimed two Focke-Wulf Fw 190s of Schlachtgeschwader 4 on 2 October 1943. His last claims were three FW 190s (again of SG 4) damaged on 3 November.
Wade became a wing commander and joined the staff of the Desert Air Force but was there only briefly, as he was killed in a flying accident on 12 January 1944 at Foggia, Italy.
In 30 fights for which he made claims he was credited with 23 victories (including two shared), one probable, and 13 damaged. He is also credited with one destroyed and five damaged on the ground.
Wing Commander Wade is usually listed with 25 victories but official RAF records show that he had 22 solo victories and half each of two more for a total of 23, not counting one probable. Regardless of whether his score is 25, or 23 victories, he is still the leading American fighter ace to serve exclusively in any foreign air force.
Since he never transferred to the USAAF, or any other American Air service, Wade never got the publicity that other American aces received and thus is more obscure than his peers.