Leroy Payne was born in 1922 and lived in Huntsville, Madison County. He enlisted in the US Army in 1937 when he was only 15 years old. PFC Payne was stationed at Fort McClellan at the outset of the war with Japan, but was transferred to San Francisco a few weeks after Pearl Harbor attack. Corporal Payne was then assigned to the 11th Bomb Group as a radio operator aboard a B-17 Flying Fortress aircraft. During a mission over the Japanese occupied Tulagi Island in the southwest Pacific, his bomber was shot down and he was declared mission in action and ultimately declared dead on 4 August 1942. Corporal Payne was posthumously awarded the nation's third highest medal for valor, the Silver Star. The Silver Star was presented to his mother, Mrs. Frank Payne, by Colonel James Duke, commander of the Birmingham Air Base.