Carl Payne was born on January 9, 1921, in Lower Salem, Ohio. He enlisted in the Aviation Cadet Program of the U.S. Army Air Corps on May 31, 1941, and was commissioned a 2d Lt and awarded his pilot wings at Brooks Field, Texas, on January 9, 1942. Lt Payne was assigned as a P-40 Warhawk and P-39 Airacobra pilot with the 309th Fighter Squadron of the 31st Fighter Group at New Orleans Air Base, Louisiana, in February 1942, and deployed with the squadron to England in June 1942 to prepare for combat operations in North Africa. He participated in Operation Torch, the Invasion of North Africa, in November 1942, and served with the 309th Fighter Squadron flying British Spitfire fighters with American markings until returning to the States in October 1943. During this time, Major Payne was credited with the destruction of 5 enemy aircraft in aerial combat, plus 1 probable and 5 damaged, and he also served as the Commanding Officer of the 309th Fighter Squadron from July to October 1943. After returning to the United States, Lt Col Payne converted to the P-47 Thunderbolt and took command of the 34th Fighter Squadron of the 413th Fighter Group at Seymour Johnson Field, North Carolina, in October 1944; deploying with his unit to Ie Shima in May 1945. He was credited with the destruction of 1 enemy fighter before the war ended, giving him a total of 6 destroyed, 1 probable, and 5 damaged during World War II. His is also the only pilot in the Army Air Forces during World War II to shoot down enemy aircraft of 4 different nations - Vichy France, Germany, Italy, and Japan. He remained on active duty after the war, and was killed in a flying accident near St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada, while serving as Commanding Officer of the 6604th Air Base Wing at Pepperrell AFB on January 9, 1956.
Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I've climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds - and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of - wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov'ring there
I've chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air.
Up, up the long delirious, burning blue,
I've topped the windswept heights with easy grace
Where never lark, or even eagle flew -
And, while with silent lifting mind I've trod
The high untresspassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand and touched the face of God.