Albert Lossen Lane, Jr.
Lieutenant Colonel, United States Air Force
of his classmates, United States Military Academy:
Albert Lossen Lane, Jr.
Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue
— Pilot Officer John Gillespie Magee, Jr.,
The above poem, written by an American who was killed while flying with the Royal Canadian Air Force, typically expresses how our Jim felt about flying. He read these lines some years ago in a newspaper and clipped the article to keep in his billfold so he could gain new inspiration from re-reading its eloquent impressions of flight. It was still in his wallet when he “touched the face of God” in his final flight on 19 March 1954 four miles from Chanute Air Force Base. I know that he would like to have these lines quoted here so that they might give the same inspiration that he found in them to anyone who loved flying as he did.
"Jimmie” was born at Iowa City, Iowa, on 23
May 1920. He was the only son of Colonel and Mrs. Albert L. Lane, Sr. Although
he was christened Albert, Jr., he was known to all by the nicknames “Jim”
or “Jimmie.” Like most service youngsters, he spent his days dreaming and
talking of the time when he could go to West Point. Most of his early education
was attained in Army post schools at Fort Belvoir, Virginia; Fort Hancock,
New Jersey; and Fort Logan, Colorado. He
After high school, Jim, in company with many of his future classmates, prepped for West Point at “Beanie” Millard’s in Washington, DC. His childhood dream became a reality when he entered the Academy in July 1939. Beneath his picture in the January 1943 Howitzer is written:
“When the going gets difficult, then it’s time
to smile and pitch in the harder. With this rule and the will to strive
for the top, Jimmie spent four years at West Point
The above lines express what were perhaps his most outstanding qualities. His intense desire to excel was evident early in his boyhood. It was demonstrated in one instance that occurred when he was eleven years old. I took him and his older sister for a climb to the top of Long’s Peak in Colorado. After we returned, he told us that he had been higher than anyone else and explained that while he had been resting at the top of the peak he had climbed atop the highest boulder. This same determination to excel was demonstrated in his work in the Boy Scouts. In two years he advanced from Tenderfoot to Eagle Scout.
His West Point classmates tell of his true
sportsmanship and his natural athletic ability while at the Academy. He
started out in his plebe year on the swimming team and was doing fine in
that sport when, because of the natural ability he displayed during Billy
Cavanaugh’s required plebe boxing classes, he was asked to transfer to
the boxing team. Although he had had no previous boxing experience, he
made the boxing team and represented the Academy for two years in the 165-pound
weight class. His classmates state that no one who saw the bout will ever
The good humor, good disposition, and determination which he always displayed when faced with adversity and hardship was perhaps best demonstrated during his sixteen months as a German prisoner of war. Jim’s prison camp comrades invariably tell about his fine sense of humor, his good spirits, and his fine leadership qualities, which helped them immensely during their many dreary months of prison life. While in prison, he organized and taught calculus classes to those whose education had been interrupted by the war.
One of his characteristics, which, as his father,
I cherished, was his humility. He never to my memory told the family of
any awards or decorations that he had received. During his recent tour
in Germany, he won a plaque for taking first place in the all-around rifle
and pistol matches at the Landsthul Rod and Gun Club, and another plaque
for taking first place in the pistol match. When he was a boy, we spent
many happy hours hunting and shooting together. He accompanied me to
Jim summarized his Air Force career for the Tenth Anniversary Howitzer of his class as follows:
“Lane, Albert L., Jr., (Lt Col USAF). After
convincing southern belle Ann Grimes it twarn’t so ‘about the ways of the
Air Force men,’ we joined forces Feb ’43.
In September 1953, Jim was transferred back to the U.S. for duty with the War Plans Division, HQ, USAF.
While Jim had a great variety of assignments
in the service, his great love was always to fly fighters. After the war,
even though his wartime training had been in bombers, he requested and
was assigned to the 4th Fighter Group, one of the first USAF fighter groups
to get jets. The staff assignments that followed his service in the 4th
Group were spent in anticipation of returning to jetfighters. In Germany,
again upon his request, he was assigned to the 86th Fighter-Bomber Group,
and his last assignment in the Group as Commanding Officer of the 525th
The esteem with which Jim was held in his more recent assignments and the contribution that he made to his service is best described by some of his fellow workers and commanders.
His classmate, “B-Ball” Harrington, who worked with Jim during his 1948–1949 Pentagon assignment, wrote:
“Knowing Jimmy Lane has been the finest thing I have derived from the service. His memory is locked in my heart where it shall make me ever mindful of the finest of qualities of human dignity, selflessness, humility, honesty, and forbearance in the years that lie ahead. He was a genuine friend who shall never be replaced. I feel that he shall always be with me.”
Liutenant Colonel McLaughlin, under whom Jim served in the 86th Fighter-Bomber Wing, had this to say about his recent service in Germany:
"Jim was, without doubt, the finest officer I have ever known. He was my operations officer when I commanded the 525th Fighter-Bomber Squadron, and we continued to work closely together when he took command of the squadron and I became group operations officer. He cherished his command and took to heart the problems of each and every man. From the first moment he joined this organization, he was admired by everyone and his leadership and influence were felt, not only in his own unit, but throughout the wing.”
Brigadier General Harvey T. Alness, Chief of the War Plans Division, Headquarters USAF, under whom Jim served on his most recent assignment, said:
“Jim seemed to embody all the fine qualities
that West Point tries to build into its
Although alert and sensitive to the demands of military duty, Jim nevertheless made it a point and found time to be a good husband and loving father. He loved his family as they loved him. His devoted wife, Ann, shared almost his entire commissioned service with him. Ann’s brother, Chuck, whom they adopted; their daughter Ann, who was born while Jim was a prisoner of war; and their young son, Albert III, shared in a happy and companionable home life. Jim’s family enjoyment was found in the little things — the simple pleasure of taking the family to the swimming pool, a trek through the woods, a game with the children, or a camping trip — all these typify the days he so enjoyed with his family.
Our Jim is gone, but he will not be forgotten. While his untimely death has left us filled with sadness, our sorrow is eased by the knowledge that he lived his short span fully and well, and that he fulfilled every ambition that we ever held for him. Also, his passing has given us new faith and inspiration and resolve to live by those principles to which he was so dedicated: Duty, Honor, Country.
— A.L.L., Sr.
Posted: 14 May 2002
Updated: 8 July 2003
Photo By M. R. Patterson, 27 June 2003