George John Laben was born in March 1919 in Santa Anna, Illinois. He spent his childhood on Southwest Indian reservations as his parents were in medical services there. After Laben’s father died when he was 13, he and his mother moved to Indiana.
Laben was attending Purdue University when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. He enlisted in the U.S. Army Ordinance Department in 1942 but found himself unsatisfied with it. Laben then tested for the Army Air Forces. He completed almost ten months of pilot training and courses on meteorology and navigation before receiving his wings.
In September 1943, Laben took his twin-engine Douglas C-47 Skytrain from Fort Wayne, Indiana, to Assam, India, in the China-Burma-India (CBI) Theater. Laben then served with the 2nd Troop Carrier Squadron, 343rd Group, 10th Air Force. Over the course of 18 months in the CBI, he flew 245 combat missions, each lasting three to four hours. Even though he did not fly a combat aircraft, instead piloting the C-47 transport plane, he sometimes flew night missions undercover for the Office of Strategic Service (OSS), dropping off men and supplies. He recalled a memorable occasion where he dropped off a half-dozen unauthorized bombs out of the back of his aircraft on Japanese Northern Headquarters. Laben was not reprimanded for the record for this, but he was denied a Silver Star Medal.
Laben completed his overseas service with five Air Medals and five Distinguished Flying Crosses. His last assignment was with the Civil Air Patrol in New Mexico, where he served as state coordinator for Reserve officers. He retired from the Air Force in 1969 as a lieutenant colonel, concluding his 27 years in the service.
Other awards that Laben earned in the service include two Presidential Commendation Medals, an Army Commendation Medal and several stars and campaign medals from the Chinese.
We honor his service.
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Veterans History Project
This #VeteranOfTheDay profile was created with interviews submitted to the Veterans History Project. The project collects, preserves, and makes accessible the personal accounts of American war Veterans so that future generations may hear directly from Veterans and better understand the realities of war. Find out more at http://www.loc.gov/vets/.
Editor: Chiara Hampton
Fact checker: Kinsley Ballas