After waiting 67 years, World War II pilot Terrell E. Yon, age 92, of Blountstown, is about to receive a coveted French combat medal.
In 1944, shortly after Yon returned to the States, the government of France announced that he had been awarded the Croix de Guerre medal for his aerial combat heroics in the Mediterranean. But he never actually received the medal – until now.
French Brigadier General Bruno Caitucoli will formally present the medal to Yon in a special ceremony on Friday, November 4, at the Southwood Golf Club in Tallahassee. Family and friends, along with U.S. Senator Bill Nelson, will attend. Nelson worked closely with the French government to make the belated presentation possible.
The recipient of many honors for his combat missions, Yon was cited by the French for his actions in December 1943, while piloting a British-made Spitfire IX fighter over the island of Corsica. They noted that he intercepted and shot down a German reconnaissance aircraft attempting to return to the Italian mainland. Among the more notable of many other honors he received were the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Purple Heart and the Air Medal with 12 Oak Leaf Clusters.
Yon left the University of Florida during his senior year in early 1942 to begin his military service in the U.S. Army Air Corps and soon was commissioned a Second Lieutenant. He received subsequent wartime promotions and retired from active duty in 1947. He remained in the Air Force Reserve and, after a stint as flight instructor for Air Force cadets at Bainbridge (GA) Air Base, he retired with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. Following the war, he had returned to his hometown of Blountstown, where he was married, raised a family and was a successful businessman and civic leader.
Only recently has Yon been inclined to discuss his military experiences. At the urging of his family, last year he wrote a detailed first-person account of his wartime remembrances. His gripping memoirs stretch from the torpedoing and scuttling of his troop ship while en route to England in November 1942 through his return stateside after losing many of his buddies to the ravages of war.
The bravery and actions of Yon and his fellow pilots have been chronicled in the book Spitfires and Yellow Tail Mustangs, the 52nd Fighter Group in World War II, written in 2005 by Tom Ivie and Paul Ludwig.