With heavy hearts, we announce that Leon Frankel passed away yesterday morning surrounded by his loving family in Minnesota. He was 92. We were all completely charmed by Leon when we filmed his interview for Above and Beyond. We feel so fortunate that we got to know him and bring his story to new generations.
Though Leon was modest about his accomplishments, he was a true hero and a gentleman. A bomber pilot in the Pacific in World War II, Leon flew 25 combined missions while assigned aboard the USS Lexington and the USS Yorktown. On April 7, 1945, Leon’s unit was sent to intercept Japanese forces led by the battleship Yamato. Despite facing intense anti-aircraft fire, Leon scored a direct hit and contributed to the sinking of the hostile cruiser, Yahagi. For his actions, he was awarded the Navy Cross.
In 1948, Leon flew 25 missions for the Israeli Air Force as a member of the 101 Squadron. After he returned home to Minnesota, he joined the Navy Reserve and served until 1959. In addition to receiving the Navy Cross, Leon was awarded two Distinguished Flying Crosses, three Air Medals and two Presidential Citations for his service.
We will miss him.
Nancy Spielberg with Leon Frankel and friends at a 2014 screening of Above and Beyond.