Airport History

Our History

South St. Paul – Fleming Field is named for Richard Fleming, a Navy pilot during World War II. He was, posthumously, presented the congressional medal of honor for his actions during battle on June 5, 1942. Below is an account of his life and that battle.

For 6 months following the attack on Pearl Harbor, Fleming’s squadrons patrolled the air near the Midway, never making enemy contact. In his letters, Fleming fretted about spending the war in the backwaters.

This would soon change. On June 4, 1942 Fleming’s squadrons were ordered to attack the Japanese Fleet. Scores of American aircraft never returned. Fleming’s commanding officer was killed and Fleming’s aircraft limped back with 171 holes in it after he failed to drop a bomb on the aircraft carrier Akaqi. Fleming received two slight wounds.

The next day prompted the squadron commander , Captain Fleming, and the remnants of his squadrons to return to the battle. Fleming directed his aircraft in a screaming dive at the Japanese cruiser Mikuma. The enemy ship was struck with the bomb, then by Fleming’s plane. A Japanese officer later wrote that it was a suicide bombing.

There was a tremendous blast as the gasoline from Fleming’s plane flowed down into the Mikuma’s engine room where the fumes ignited and exploded, killing the entire engine room crew. The Mikuma, now gutted and helpless, laid wallowing in the water. The following day U.S. bombers found the helpless cruisers and the Mikuma, which later rolled over and sank.

Captain Richard Fleming was the only man to win the Congressional Medal of Honor during this crucial battle.