Leland Molland – Double Ace
Leland Molland was born in Nome, North Dakota on May 7, 1919. After High School, Leland went to the State Agricultural College in Fargo. When the US entered World War 2, he enlisted, choosing the Army Air Corp.
The first US Army Fighter Group to serve in England was the 31st Fighter Group. They had planned to use the Bell P-39 Airacobra, but this plane was discovered to be wholly inadequate against the superior German Fighters. As a stop-gap measure, the American fighter group was outfitted with British Spitfires. This would be the only time that an American aviation unit used foreign made aircraft. The Spitfires were dressed in American markings, star-n-bars, and first saw action on August 19th 1942 with the 8th Air Force when they supported the Allied raid at Dieppe, France.
Leland Molland was assigned to the 31st Fighter Group, which had moved to North Africa as part of the 12th Air Force in November of 1942. Leland was in the 308th Squadron, and in early 1944 got his own Spitffire. He had the name “Fargo Express” emblazoned on the side of his Spit along with a picture of horses and a stagecoach.
Molland first bloodied the enemy while flying cover over the Anzio, Italy, beachhead in January of ‘44 where he shot down 2 German Focke Wulf fighter-bombers.
On February 6, 1944, the 308th Squadron Commander, Major Virgil Fields, was shot down and killed. Lt. Molland, who became an Ace with his 5th kill in the same engagement, was moved up to command the Squadron.
In April, 1944, the 31st Fighter Group became part of the 15th Air Force and started flying the North American P-51 Mustang. Molland went on to down 6 more German aircraft while flying the Mustang, ending the war on North Dakota’s short list of “Double Aces.”
Leland Molland stayed in the Air Force during the Korean War, and flew the T-33 Shooting Star fighter against the North Korean forces. On this date in 1951, Molland, now a Lt. Colonel, was returning from a weather reconnaissance mission. On the aircraft’s approach to Taeger Airfield in near zero visibility, he crashed into a mountain and was killed. On December 20th, 1951, Leland Molland was interned at Arlington National Cemetery in Washington DC.
Dakota Datebook written by Scott Nelson
"Uncle Sam’s Spitfires" – spitfiresite.com
"Mustang Ace" by Robert Goebel
"Aces Against Germany" by Eric Hammel