Tester presents medals to family of fallen WWII pilot
Billings teen discovered his great-grandfather never received the recognition he deserved
(BILLINGS, Mont.) – Surrounded by a military honor guard, Senator Jon Tester today presented three World War II medals to the family of a pilot who died in service to his country nearly 70 years ago.
Tester secured the medals from the U.S. Army after receiving a letter from 14-year old James Simpson, a student at Billings Senior High School. Simpson told Tester that his great grandfather, Lt. Jay Frederick Simpson, died at the age of 27 when the P-47 Thunderbolt he was test-flying crashed in England on January 9, 1944.
Residents of Moreton, England considered Lt. Simpson a hero. When his plane suddenly burst into flames and flipped over in the air, Lt. Simpson prevented the aircraft from hitting several homes before it crash landed in a nearby field. Today a monument marks the site of the crash.
In a speech submitted for the Congressional Record, Tester said Lt. Simpson’s heroism was “overlooked by his own country” until his great grandson James started doing some research.
With help from his father and his grandfather, James Simpson discovered that his great grandfather never received the medals he earned. Simpson then reached out to Tester, saying “proper recognition of his service and sacrifice to our great country would bring about closure for our family.”
Tester agreed and armed with James’ research, he secured for Lt. Simpson the World War II Victory Medal, the European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal and the Honorable Service pin.
“Honoring our heroes brings about much needed closure for all Americans,” Tester told the Simpson family today. “Let these medals be family treasures that remind you—and all of us—that this nation will never forget Jay’s heroism. And we will never forget all Americans—known or unknown, celebrated or overlooked—who paid the ultimate price in service to the United States.”
Tester’s statement for the Congressional Record appears below.
Statement honoring Lt. Jay F. Simpson
Senator Jon Tester
March 17, 2011
Mr. TESTER. I rise today in honor of a man who gave his life serving the United States of America in World War II.
Lieutenant Jay Frederick Simpson was a pilot with the “Mighty Eighth” Air Force of the U.S. Army Air Corps.
On January 9, 1944, Lieutenant Simpson’s mission was to test fly a Thunderbolt P-47 over Moreton, England. But something went wrong. His plane caught fire and flipped over in the air. As the P-47 hurtled to the ground, witnesses say Lieutenant Simpson managed to guide it away from nearby homes, avoiding certain casualties. Instead that P-47 crashed in a nearby field, killing the 27-year old pilot.
Today, Lieutenant Jay Simpson is still celebrated as a hero in England. In fact, you can find a memorial to him in that grassy field.
But for three generations following Lieutenant Simpson’s death, his heroism was overlooked by his own country.
Until a year and a half ago.
That’s when a young man in Billings, Montana, started doing some research. With help from his father and his grandfather, 14-year old James Simpson discovered that his great grandfather Jay never received the recognition he earned as a fallen American hero.
Young Jim Simpson wrote me a letter, saying proper recognition of his great grandfather’s service and sacrifice would bring about much needed closure for his family.
Indeed, honoring our heroes brings about much needed closure for all Americans. On behalf of a grateful nation, it is my tremendous honor to present Lieutenant Jay Simpson’s medals to his great grandson.
To Jim and all the Simpson family: Let these medals be family treasures that remind you—and all of us—that this nation will never forget Jay’s heroism. And we will never forget all Americans—known or unknown, celebrated or overlooked—who paid the ultimate price in service to the United States.
It is said that Lieutenant Simpson was a member of the Greatest Generation. But thanks to people like young Jim Simpson, I am reminded that there is greatness in all generations.
Thank you, Jim, for your hard work in allowing us to honor your great grandfather. God bless you and your family.