Tag Archives: Medal of Honor

Medal of Honor, Airman 1st Class John Lee Levitow, United States Air Force

A1C John Lee Levitow, United States Air Force. (United States Air Force 120517-F-DW547-010)

Medal of Honor

Levitow, John L.

Rank: Sergeant
Organization: U.S. Air Force
Company: 3d Special Operations Squadron
Division:
Born: 1 November 1945, Hartford, Conn.
Departed: Yes
Entered Service At: New Haven, Conn.
G.O. Number: Department of the Air Force, GB-476
Date of Issue: 23 June 1970
Accredited To: Washington
Place / Date: Long Binh Army post, Republic of Vietnam, 24 February 1969

Citation:

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. Sgt. Levitow (then A1c.), U.S. Air Force, distinguished himself by exceptional heroism while assigned as a loadmaster aboard an AC-47 aircraft flying a night mission in support of Long Binh Army post. Sgt. Levitow’s aircraft was struck by a hostile mortar round. The resulting explosion ripped a hole 2 feet in diameter through the wing and fragments made over 3,500 holes in the fuselage. All occupants of the cargo compartment were wounded and helplessly slammed against the floor and fuselage. The explosion tore an activated flare from the grasp of a crewmember who had been launching flares to provide illumination for Army ground troops engaged in combat. Sgt. Levitow, though stunned by the concussion of the blast and suffering from over 40 fragment wounds in the back and legs, staggered to his feet and turned to assist the man nearest to him who had been knocked down and was bleeding heavily. As he was moving his wounded comrade forward and away from the opened cargo compartment door, he saw the smoking flare ahead of him in the aisle. Realizing the danger involved and completely disregarding his own wounds, Sgt. Levitow started toward the burning flare. The aircraft was partially out of control and the flare was rolling wildly from side to side. Sgt. Levitow struggled forward despite the loss of blood from his many wounds and the partial loss of feeling in his right leg. Unable to grasp the rolling flare with his hands, he threw himself bodily upon the burning flare. Hugging the deadly device to his body, he dragged himself back to the rear of the aircraft and hurled the flare through the open cargo door. At that instant the flare separated and ignited in the air, but clear of the aircraft. Sgt. Levitow, by his selfless and heroic actions, saved the aircraft and its entire crew from certain death and destruction. Sgt. Levitow’s gallantry, his profound concern for his fellowmen, at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty are in keeping with the highest traditions of the U.S. Air Force and reflect great credit upon himself and the Armed Forces of his country.

Spooky 71, a Douglas AC-47D gunship, U.S. Air Force serial number 43-49770, at Bien Hoa Air Base, RVN, 24 February 1969. (U.S. Air Force 120517-F-DW547-011)

John Lee Levitow was born 1 November 1945 at Hartford, Connecticut. He was the the first of two children of Lee Tobias Levitow and Marion V. Winialski Levitow.

Levitow attended Glastonbury High School, in Hartford, graduating in 1965. He then studied at the Porter School of Engineering and Design, Hartford.

John Lee Levitow enlisted in the United States Air Force on 6 June 1966. He went through basic military training at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas. He was initially trained as a power line specialist, but cross-trained as an aircraft loadmaster. Airman Levitow was then assigned to the 3d Special Operations Squadron.

The flight on the night of 24 February 1969 was Levitow’s 181st combat mission.

A1C Levitow married Miss Barbara Ann Corbeil, at St. Augustine’s Church, Glastonbury, Connecticut, 19 July 1969. They resided near Norton AFB in Southern California. They would have two children. They later divorced.

President Nixon presented the Medal of Honor to Sergeant Levitow in a ceremony at The White house, 14 May 1970.

President Richard M. Nixon awards the Medal of Honor to Sergeant John Lee Levitow at The White House, 14 May 1970. At left, behind the President, is Captain James P. Fleming, USAF. (The White House)

In January 1998, a McDonnell Douglas C-17A Globemaster III, 96-0005, was named The Spirit of Sgt. John L. Levitow in his honor.

The U.S. Air Force McDonnell Douglas C-17A Globemaster III 96-0005, “Spirit of Sgt. John L. Levitow,” at Rhein-Main Air Base, Germany, 20 May 2005 (Raimund Stehmann/Wikipedia)

John Lee Levitow died of cancer at his home in Rocky Hill, Connecticut, 8 November 2000. He was buried with full honors at the Arlington National Cemetery.

The Connecticut Department of Veterans Affairs named its skilled nursing facility at Rocky Hill The Sgt. John L. Levitow Healthcare Center.

Sergeant John Lee Levitow, United States Air Force. (U.S. Air Force 050406-F-1234P-084)

¹ https://www.af.mil/Medal-of-Honor/Levitow/

© 2021, Bryan R. Swopes

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Medal of Honor, Captain Hilliard Almond Wilbanks, United States Air Force.

Captain Hilliard Almond Wilbanks, United States Air Force (26 July 1933–24 February 1967)
Captain Hilliard Almond Wilbanks, United States Air Force.

MEDAL OF HONOR

CAPTAIN HILLIARD A. WILBANKS

The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress, March 3, 1896, in the name of Congress, has awarded in the name of The Congress, the Medal of Honor, posthumously, to CAPTAIN HILLIARD A. WILBANKS, UNITED STATES AIR FORCE, for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty:

As a forward air controller near Dalat, Republic of Vietnam, on 24 February 1967, Captain Wilbanks was pilot of an unarmed, light aircraft flying visual reconnaissance ahead of a South Vietnam Army Ranger Battalion. His intensive search revealed a well-concealed and numerically superior hostile force poised to ambush the advancing rangers. The Viet Cong, realizing that Captain Wilbanks’ discovery had compromised their position and ability to launch a surprise attack, immediately fired on the small aircraft with all available firepower. The enemy then began advancing against the exposed forward elements of the Ranger force which were pinned down by devastating fire. Captain Wilbanks recognized that close support aircraft could not arrive in time to enable the Rangers to withstand the advancing enemy onslaught. With full knowledge of the limitations of his unarmed, unarmored, light reconnaissance aircraft, and the great danger imposed by the enemy’s vast firepower, he unhesitatingly assumed a covering, close support role. Flying through a hail of withering fire at treetop level, Captain Wilbanks passed directly over the advancing enemy and inflicted many casualties by firing his rifle out of the side window of his aircraft. Despite increasingly intense anti-aircraft fire, Captain Wilbanks continued to completely disregard his own safety and made repeated low passes over the enemy to divert their fire away from the Rangers. His daring tactics successfully interrupted the enemy advance, allowing the Rangers to withdraw to safety from their perilous position. During his final courageous attack to protect the withdrawing forces, Captain Wilbanks was mortally wounded and his bullet-riddled aircraft crashed between the opposing forces. Captain Wilbanks’ magnificent action saved numerous friendly personnel from certain injury or death. His unparalleled concern for his fellowman and his extraordinary heroism were in the highest traditions of the military service, and have reflected great credit upon himself and the United States Air Force.

General Orders: GB-50, February 8, 1968

Action Date: 24-Feb-67

Service: Air Force Reserve

Rank: Captain

Company: 21st Tactical Air Support Squadron

Regiment: 21st Tactical Air Support Group

Division: Nha Trang Air Force Base, Vietnam

Captain Hilliard A. Wilbanks' widow was present this Medal of Honor. It is on display at the Museum of Aviation, Robins Air Force Base, Warner Robins, Georgia.
Captain Hilliard A. Wilbanks’ widow was presented this Medal of Honor. It is on display at the Museum of Aviation, Robins Air Force Base, Warner Robins, Georgia.

Hilliard Almond Wilbanks was born at Cornelia, Georgia, 26 July 1933. He was the first of four children of Travis O’Neal Wilbanks, a farm equipment salesman, and Ruby Lea Wilkinson Wilbanks. He attended Cornelia High School, graduating in 1950

On 8 August 1950, Wilbanks enlisted in the United States Air Force. He served as an air policeman. In 1954, Airman 1st Class Wilbanks was selected for Air Cadet–Officer Candidate School. He was a Distinguished Graduate, and on 15 June 1955, he was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force Reserve and awarded his pilot’s wings.

He was then assigned as a flight instructor in the Lockheed T-33A Shooting Star. Wilbanks was promoted to first lieutenant, 15 December 1956.

Also in 1956, Lieutenant Wilbanks married Miss Rosemary Arnold at Greenville, Mississippi. They would have four children.

Lieutenant Wilbanks attended the Maintenance Officer School at Chanute Air Force Base, Illinois, and was then assigned as a maintenance test pilot for the North American Aviation F-86 Sabre at Eielson Air Force Base, Anchorage, Alaska. He was promoted the rank of  captain in 1961.

Captain Wilbanks was next assigned to Nellis Air Force Base, Las Vegas, Nevada, where he was a maintenance officer for the Republic F-105 Thunderchief.

In 1966, Captain Wilbanks attended the Forward Air Controller school at Hurlburt Field, Florida. He deployed to the Republic of South Vietnam in March 1966. He was assigned to the 21st Tactical Air Support Squadron. He used the call sign, “Walt 51,” and flew 487 combat missions before his final flight, 24 February 1967.

In addition to the Medal of Honor, Captain Hilliard Almond Wilbanks, United States Air Force Reserve, had been awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, Purple Heart, Air Medal with nineteen oak leaf clusters (twenty awards), the Air Force Commendation Medal, Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal with bronze star (for service during the Korean War and Vietnam War), the Vietnam Service Medal, and the Air Force Reserve Medal. The Republic of Vietnam awarded him its Anh Dũng Bội Tinh (the Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross) with silver star, and Chiến Dịch Bội Tinh (Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal).

Captain Wilbanks’ remains were recovered and returned to the United States. He was buried at the Fayette Cemetery, Fayette, Mississippi.

A Forward Air Controller Cessna O-1G Bird Dog, serial number 51-12824. This is the same type airplane as Captain Wilbanks’ O-1G, 51-5078. (U.S. Air Force)

Captain Wilbank’s airplane was an O-1G Bird Dog, serial number 51-5078 (c/n 21983). It was manufactured as an L-19A by the Cessna Aircraft Company, Inc., at Wichita, Kansas, in 1951. The airplane was later upgraded to the O-1G configuration. It is a single-engine, tandem-seat light airplane which was developed from the company’s 4-place Model 170. The prototype, Cessna Model 305, N41694, made its first flight on 14 December 1949.

The O-1G is 25 feet, 9.5 inches (7.861 meters) long, with a wingspan of 36 feet, 0 inches (10.973 meters), overall height in 3-point position of 9.1 feet (2.8 feet). The airplane has typical empty weight of 1,716 pounds (778 kilograms), depending on installed equipment, and a maximum gross weight of 2,800 pounds (1,270 kilograms).

The O-1G Bird Dog was powered by an air-cooled, normally-aspirated, 471.239-cubic-inch-displacement (7.772 liter) Continental O-470-11 six-cylinder horizontally-opposed direct-drive engine with a compression ratio of 7:1. The O-470-11 was rated at 190 horsepower at 2,300 r.p.m., at Sea Level, and 213 horsepower at 2,600 r.p.m. for take off (5 minute limit). 80/87 octane aviation gasoline was required. The engine had a dry weight of 391 pounds (177 kilograms). The airplane was equipped with a fixed pitch two-blade McCauley propeller with a diameter of 7 feet, 6 inches (2.286 meters).

The O-1G had a maximum cruise speed of 85 knots (98 miles per hour/157 kilometers per hour), and never exceed speed (VNE ) of 165 knots (190 miles per hour/306 kilometers per hour). Its service ceiling was 20,300 feet (6,187 meters).

Cessna built 3,431 Bird Dogs between 1949 and 1959. Only about 300 are believed to remain airworthy today.

A U.S. Air force )-1 Bird Dog Forward Air Controller rolls in on a target. (U.S. Air Force)

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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Medal of Honor, 1st Lieutenant William Robert Lawley, Jr., Air Corps, Army of the United States

First Lieutenant William Robert Lawley, Jr., Air Corps, United States Army. (U.S. Air Force 160510-D-LN615-006)

MEDAL OF HONOR

FIRST LIEUTENANT WILLIAM ROBERT LAWLEY, JR.

The President of the United States of America, in the name of Congress, takes pleasure in presenting the Medal of Honor to First Lieutenant (Air Corps) William Robert Lawley, Jr., United States Army Air Forces, for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action above and beyond the call of duty, 20 February 1944, while serving as pilot of a B-17 aircraft in the 364th Bombardment Squadron, 305th Bombardment Group (H), Eighth Air Force, on a heavy bombardment mission over enemy-occupied continental Europe. Coming off the target he was attacked by approximately 20 enemy fighters, shot out of formation, and his plane severely crippled. Eight crewmembers were wounded, the copilot was killed by a 20-mm shell. One engine was on fire, the controls shot away, and First Lieutenant Lawley seriously and painfully wounded about the face. Forcing the copilot’s body off the controls, he brought the plane out of a steep dive, flying with his left hand only. Blood covered the instruments and windshield and visibility was impossible. With a full bomb load the plane was difficult to maneuver and bombs could not be released because the racks were frozen. After the order to bail out had been given, one of the waist gunners informed the pilot that two crewmembers were so severely wounded that it would be impossible for them to bail out. With the fire in the engine spreading, the danger of an explosion was imminent. Because of the helpless condition of his wounded crewmembers First Lieutenant Lawley elected to remain with the ship and bring them to safety if it was humanly possible, giving the other crewmembers the option of bailing out. Enemy fighters again attacked but by using masterful evasive action he managed to lose them. One engine again caught on fire and was extinguished by skillful flying. First Lieutenant Lawley remained at his post, refusing first aid until he collapsed from sheer exhaustion caused by loss of blood, shock, and the energy he had expended in keeping control of his plane. He was revived by the bombardier and again took over the controls. Coming over the English coast one engine ran out of gasoline and had to be feathered. Another engine started to burn and continued to do so until a successful crash landing was made on a small fighter base. Through his heroism and exceptional flying skill, First Lieutenant Lawley rendered outstanding distinguished and valorous service to our Nation.

General Orders: War Department, General Orders No. 64, August 8, 1944

Action Date: February 20, 1944

Service: United States Army Air Forces

Rank: First Lieutenant

Company: 364th Bombardment Squadron

Regiment: 305th Bombardment Group (H)

Division: 8th Air Force

First Lieutenant William R. Lawley, Jr., is congratulated by Lieutenant General Carl A. Spaatz on the award of the Medal of Honor, 8 August 1944. (Signal Corps, United States Army)

William Robert Lawley, Jr., was born 23 August 1920 at Leeds, Alabama. He was the fourth child of William Robert Lawley, a retired lieutenant colonel and a Baptist minister, and Emma Elizabeth Hazelwood Lawley.

“W.R.” Lawley attended Leeds High School, where he was considered an average student. He played the position of pitcher on the school’s baseball team. He graduated in 1938, and although he wanted to go on to college, he needed to work to support his family. Lawley drove a truck for the Sinclair Oil Company. His supervisor said, “W.R. drove an oil truck for me in 1941. He was extremely quiet and always very friendly. The most I ever saw him do was to work. He’s worked at something just about all of his life, I reckon.”

Lawley enlisted as a private in the Air Corps, Army of the United States (A.U.S.), at Birmingham, Alabama, 9 April 1942. The young man was 6 feet, 1 inch (1.85 meters) tall, weighed 168 pounds (76.2 kilograms), and had brown hair and hazel eyes.

On 25 August 1942, Private Lawley was appointed an aviation cadet and sent to Altus Army Air Field, Oklahoma, for flight training. On completion of training, 21 April 1943, Aviation Cadet Lawley married Miss Amelia Dodd of Dennison, Texas, in the base chapel at Altus A.A.F. The ceremony was performed by a U.S. Army chaplain. The following day, 22 April 1943, he was commissioned a second lieutenant, Air Corps, A.U.S.

2nd Lieutenant Lawley trained as a B-17 Flying Fortress pilot. In November 1943 he was sent to England with the 364th Bombardment Squadron (Heavy), 305th Bombardment Group (Heavy), based at RAF Chelveston (Air Force Station 105). He was promoted to the rank of first lieutenant, A.U.S., 6 February 1944.

(Left to right) Front row, Sgt. Alfred Wendt, tail gunner; TSgt.Joseph Kobierecki, ball turret gunner; Sgt. Ralph Braswell, waist gunner; Sgt Spears; SSgt Carrol Rowley, top turret gunner; SSgt Thomas Dempsey, radio operator. Back row, 1st Lt. William R. Lawley, Jr., aircraft commander; Lt. Paul Murphy, co-pilot; Lt. Harry Seraphine, navigator; Lt. Harry Mason, bombardier. (Home of the Heroes)

1st Lieutenant Lawley was on his tenth combat mission 20 February 1944. He and his crew were flying a new Douglas-built B-17G-25-DL Flying Fortress, 42-38109, named Cabin in the Sky, after a popular musical of the time.  This was the bombers very first combat mission. It carried the identification letters WF P on its fuselage.

42-38109 had built by the Douglas Aircraft Company at its Long Beach, California, plant. The new airplane was sent to the modification center at Denver, Colorado, 15 December 1943 where the latest combat modifications were installed. It was then sent to the heavy bomber training squadrons at Mitchell Army Air Field, Mitchell, South Dakota, 20 January 1944. Flown across the North Atlantic Ocean, 42-38109 arrived at Chelveston 10 February 1944.

Following the 20 February 1944 mission, 42-38109 never flew again. Damaged beyond repair, it was salvaged by the 2nd Strategic Air Depot, 23 February 1944.

Wreck of Lieutenant Lawley’s Douglas-built B-17G Flying Fortress 42-38109, “Cabin in the Sky,” at RAF Redhill, Surrey, England. (U.S. Air Force, 53958 A.C.)

Lieutenant Lawley flew 14 additional combat missions, He was returned to the United States in September 1944. On 9 January 1945, he was promoted to captain, A.U.S.

Following the end of the War, Captain Lawley remained in the Air Corps. On 5 July 1946, he was appointed to the permanent rank of 1st lieutenant, Air Corps, United States Army (U.S.A.). His rank was retroactive to 22 April 1946.

Captain Lawley was promoted to major in August 1949.

Lawley’s official United States Air Force biography reads:

He returned to the United States in September 1944, serving as a public relations officer at Hendricks Field, Fla. Promoted to captain in January 1945, he completed the public relations course at Craig Field, Ala. and the Air Tactical School at Tyndall AFB, Fla., serving during part of this time as aide to Gen. Muir S. Fairchild at Maxwell Field Ala. He then went to HQ USAF in Washington as administrative assistant to Maj. Gen. David M. Schlatter in a special weapons assignment, with promotion to major in August 1949.

Major Lawley, in February 1950, held special assignments to the CG of ARDC, completing the Navy Language School at Fort Myer, Va., and the Strategic Intelligence School in Washington, D.C. He then went to Brazil, with promotion to lieutenant colonel, as Asst. Air Attache. He served until 1954. Coming home, he attended the Air Command and Staff School at Air University, Maxwell AFB, Ala., and on graduation was assigned as commander of the 55th Air Refueling Squadron at Forbes AFB, Kan. He stayed at Forbes as Aircrew Maintenance Staff Officer for the 21st Air Division, as Deputy Base Commander, and as Deputy Vice Commander of the 815th Combat Support Group. He was promoted to colonel March 27, 1959. In January 1963, he became Assistant Phase Chief. Director of Curricular, at the Air War College at Maxwell AFB.

—Air Force Historical Support Division, Fact Sheets, Lawley—1st Lt William R. Lawley Jr

Colonel William Robert Lawley, Jr., United States Air Force, died  29 May 1999 at Montgomery, Alabama. He remains were interred at Greenwood Serenity memorial Gardens, in Montgomery.

Colonel William Robert Lawley, Jr., United States Air Force. (U.S. Air force)

© 2021, Bryan R. Swopes

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Medal of Honor, 2nd Lieutenant Walter Edward Truemper and Sergeant Archibald Mathies, United States Army Air Forces

Second Lieutenant Walter Edward Truemper, Air Corps, United States Army. (American Air Museum in Britain, Roger Freeman Collection FRE 4732)

MEDAL OF HONOR

TRUEMPER, WALTER E. (Air Mission)

Rank and organization: Second Lieutenant, U.S. Army Air Corps. 510th Bomber Squadron, 351st Bomber Group.

Place and date: Over Europe, 20 February 1944.

Entered service at: Aurora, Ill. Born: 31 October 1918, Aurora, Ill.

G.O. No.: 52, 22 June 1944.

Second Lieutenant Walter Edward Truemper, United States Army Air Forces
Second Lieutenant Walter Edward Truemper, United States Army Air Forces

Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at risk of life above and beyond the call of duty in action against the enemy in connection with a bombing mission over enemy-occupied Europe on 20 February 1944. The aircraft on which 2d Lt. Truemper was serving as navigator was attacked by a squadron of enemy fighters with the result that the copilot was killed outright, the pilot wounded and rendered unconscious, the radio operator wounded and the plane severely damaged Nevertheless, 2d Lt. Truemper and other members of the crew managed to right the plane and fly it back to their home station, where they contacted the control tower and reported the situation. 2d Lt. Truemper and the engineer volunteered to attempt to land the plane. Other members of the crew were ordered to jump, leaving 2d Lt. Truemper and the engineer aboard. After observing the distressed aircraft from another plane, 2d Lt. Truemper’s commanding officer decided the damaged plane could not be landed by the inexperienced crew and ordered them to abandon it and parachute to safety. Demonstrating unsurpassed courage and heroism, 2d Lt. Truemper and the engineer replied that the pilot was still alive but could not be moved and that they would not desert him. They were then told to attempt a landing. After 2 unsuccessful efforts their plane crashed into an open field in a third attempt to land. 2d Lt. Truemper, the engineer, and the wounded pilot were killed.

MEDAL OF HONOR

MATHIES, ARCHIBALD (Air Mission)

Rank and organization: Sergeant, U .S. Army Air Corps, 510th Bomber Squadron, 351st Bomber Group.

Place and date: Over Europe, 20 February 1944.

Entered service at: Pittsburgh, Pa. Born: 3 June 1918, Scotland.

G.O. No.: 52, 22 June 1944.

Staff Sergeant Archibald Mathies, United States Army Air Forces
Staff Sergeant Archibald Mathies, United States Army Air Forces

Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at risk of life above and beyond the call of duty in action against the enemy in connection with a bombing mission over enemy-occupied Europe on 20 February 1944. The aircraft on which Sgt. Mathies was serving as engineer and ball turret gunner was attacked by a squadron of enemy fighters with the result that the copilot was killed outright, the pilot wounded and rendered unconscious, the radio operator wounded and the plane severely damaged. Nevertheless, Sgt. Mathies and other members of the crew managed to right the plane and fly it back to their home station, where they contacted the control tower and reported the situation. Sgt. Mathies and the navigator volunteered to attempt to land the plane. Other members of the crew were ordered to jump, leaving Sgt. Mathies and the navigator aboard. After observing the distressed aircraft from another plane, Sgt. Mathies’ commanding officer decided the damaged plane could not be landed by the inexperienced crew and ordered them to abandon it and parachute to safety. Demonstrating unsurpassed courage and heroism, Sgt. Mathies and the navigator replied that the pilot was still alive but could not be moved and they would not desert him. They were then told to attempt a landing. After two unsuccessful efforts, the plane crashed into an open field in a third attempt to land. Sgt. Mathies, the navigator, and the wounded pilot were killed.

The combat flight crew of the Boeing B-17G-30-BO Flying Fortress, 42-31763, “Ten Horsepower.” Front row, left to right: 1/LT Clarence R. Nelson, aircraft commander; Flight Officer Ronald Bartley, co-pilot; 2/LT Walter E. Truemper, navigator; 2/LT Joseph Martin, bombardier. Back row, left to right: SSGT Archibald Mathies, flight engineer and top turret gunner; SGT Joseph Rex, radio operator/gunner; SGT Carl Moore, waist gunner; SGT Russell Robinson, ball turret gunner; SGT Thomas Sowell, waist gunner; SGT Magnus Hagbo, tail gunner. (American Air Museum in Britain UPL 34945)
“Ten Horsepower,” B-17G 42-31763 (top), escorted by “My Princess,” B-17F 42-30499), 24 February 1944. (American Air Museum in Britain, Roger Freeman Collection FRE 004724)
Boeing B-17F-105-BO 43-30499, RQ-Q, My Princess. (American Air Museum in Britain, Roger Freeman Collection FRE 010730)
Walter E. Truemper, 1938. (The Speculum)

Walter Edward Truemper was born 31 October 1918 at Aurora, Illinois. He was the eighth of ten children of Henry Edward Truemper, a cigar maker, and Friedericke Engel Truemper, both immigrants from Hesse, Germany.

Walter attended East Aurora High School. He was on the Honor Roll for four consecutive years. He was also a member of the Deutsche Verein (the German Club) and the Debate Team. He graduated in 1938. Truemper then attended Northwestern University at Evanston, Illinois.

Truemper enlisted in the Air Corps, United States Army, at Chicago, Illinois, 23 June 1942. He was described as being 5 feet, 9 inches (1.75 meters) tall and weighed 143 pounds (64.9 kilograms). Selected as an aviation cadet, he attended a navigator training course and aerial gunnery training at Harlingen Army Air Field, Texas. On completion, Truemper was commissioned as a second lieutenant, Army of the United States (A.U.S.). 26 August 1943. He was then assigned to the 796th Bombardment Squadron, 496th Bombardment Group at Alexandria, Louisiana, for combat crew training.

Lieutenant Truemper deployed to England in December 1943, and joined the 510th Bombardment Squadron (Heavy), 351st Bombardment Group (Heavy), based at RAF Polebrook (USAAF Station110) in Northamptonshire, England.

The Medal of Honor was presented to Lieutenant Truemper’s mother by Brigadier General R. E. O’Neill at the Truemper family’s home, 4 July 1944.

Second Lieutenant Walter Edward Truemper’s remains were returned to the United States and interred at St. Paul’s Lutheran cemetery, Aurora, Illinois.

Valor at Polebrook, by David Poole, depicts the B-17G Flying Fortress, Ten Horsepower, flown by 2/LT Walter E. Truemper and SSGT Mathies, being escorted by Major Elzia Ladoux, commanding officer 509th Bombardment Squadron, aboard My Princess. Major Ladoux tried to assist the crew to land their bomber at RAF Polebrook.
Private Archibald Mathies, circa 1941.

Archibald Collins Hamilton was born 3 June 1918 in Stonehouse, Lanarkshire, Scotland. He was the second of two sons of William Young Muir Hamilton and Mary Scott Collins Hamilton. Mr. Hamilton died in 1919. Mrs. Hamilton married William James Mathies in 1921. The new family emigrated to the United States, sailing from Glasgow aboard R.M.S. Cameronia 6 October 1921, and arriving at the port of New York, 16 October 1921.

Archie Mathies ¹ attended Monongahela High School, graduating in 1937.

By 1940, Archie was using his step-father’s name. He worked for the Pittsburgh Coal Company at Finleyville, Pennsylvania. Archibald Mathies enlisted in the United States army at Pittsburgh, 30 December 1940. He was blond with gray eyes. He was 5 feet, 4 inches (1.63 meters) tall and weighed 150 pounds (68 kilograms).

Staff Sergeant Archibald Hamilton Mathies’ remains were returned to the United States and interred at the Finleyville Cemetery.

A gunner fires the two Browning .50 caliber machine guns of his ball turret.

¹ When he arrived at the Port of New York, Sergeant Mathies, along with his brother, was identified by the surname Hamilton. It is not known if his name was ever legally changed to Mathies.

© 2019, Bryan R. Swopes

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20 February 1942

Lieutenant Edward H. O'Hare, United States Navy. A Grumman F4F Wildcat is in the background. (LIFE Magazine)
Lieutenant Edward H. O’Hare, United States Navy. A Grumman F4F Wildcat is in the background. (LIFE Magazine)

20 February 1942: During the early months of World War II, a task force centered around the United States aircraft carrier USS Lexington (CV-2) was intruding into Japanese-held waters north of New Ireland in the Bismarck Archipelago. In the afternoon, the carrier came under attack by several flights of enemy Mitsubishi G4M “Betty” bombers.

USS Lexington (CV-2) October 1941

Lexington‘s fighters, Grumman F4F-3 Wildcats, were launched in defense and an air battle ensued. Another flight of nine Bettys approached from the undefended side, and Lieutenant (junior grade) Edward H. “Butch” O’Hare, U.S.N. and his wingman were the only fighter pilots available to intercept.

At 1700 hours, O’Hare arrived over the nine incoming bombers and attacked. His wingman’s guns failed, so O’Hare fought on alone. In the air battle, he is credited with having shot down five of the Japanese bombers and damaging a sixth.

A Mitsubishi G4M “Betty” medium bomber photographed from the flight deck of USS Lexington, 20 February 1942. (U.S. Navy)

For his bravery, Butch O’Hare was promoted to lieutenant commander and awarded the Medal of Honor.

An airport in Chicago, O’Hare International Airport (ORD), the busiest airport in the world, is named in his honor. A Gearing-class destroyer, USS O’Hare (DD-889), was also named after the fighter pilot.

Lieutenant "Butch" O'Hare in teh cockpit of his Grumman F4F-3 Wildcat fighter. The "Felix the Cat" insignia represents the Fighter Squadron. The five flags signify the enemy airplanes destroyed in combat 20 February 1942. (LIFE Magazine)
Lieutenant “Butch” O’Hare in the cockpit of his Grumman F4F-3 Wildcat fighter. The “Felix the Cat” insignia represents Fighter Squadron 3 (VF-3). The five flags, the ensign of the Imperial Japanese Navy, signify the enemy airplanes destroyed in the action of 20 February 1942. (LIFE Magazine)

LIEUTENANT EDWARD HENRY O’HARE
UNITED STATES NAVY

Medal of Honor – Navy

“The President takes pleasure in presenting the Congressional Medal of Honor to Lieutenant Edward H. O’Hare, U.S. Navy, for services as set forth in the following Citation:

” ‘For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in aerial combat, at grave risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty, as section leader and pilot of Fighting Squadron 3, when on February 20, 1942, having lost the assistance of his teammates, he interposed his plane between his ship and an advancing enemy formation of nine attacking twin-engined heavy bombers. Without hesitation, alone and unaided he repeatedly attacked this enemy formation at close range in the face of their intense combined machine-gun and cannon fire, and despite this concentrated opposition, he, by his gallant and courageous action, his extremely skillful marksmanship, making the most of every shot of his limited amount of ammunition, shot down five enemy bombers and severely damaged a sixth before they reached the bomb release point.

” ‘As a result of his gallant action, one of the most daring, if not the most daring single action in the history of combat aviation, he undoubtedly saved his carrier from serious damage.’ “

—Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Thirty-third President of the United States, his remarks on the presentation of the Medal of Honor, 21 April 1942, at the White House, Washington, D.C. The American Presidency Project

President Franklin D. Roosevelt presents the Medal of Honor to Lieutenant (j.g.) Edward H. O'Hare, United States Navy, at teh White House, Washington, D.C., 21 April 1942. (U.S. Navy)
President Franklin D. Roosevelt congratulates Lieutenant (j.g.) Edward H. O’Hare, United States Navy, on being presented the Medal of Honor at the White House, Washington, D.C., 21 April 1942. Also present are Secretary of the Navy William Franklin Knox, Admiral Ernest J. King, U.S. Navy, Chief of Naval Operations, and Mrs. O’Hare. (U.S. Navy)

Edward Henry O’Hare was born at St. Louis, Missouri, United States of America, 13 March 1914. He was one of three children of Edward Joseph O’Hare and Selma Anna Lauth O’Hare. He attended the Western Military Academy, Alton, Illinois, along with his friend, Paul Warfield Tibbetts (who would later command the Army Air Forces’ 509th Composite Group, and fly the B-29 Superfortress, Enola Gay). O’Hare graduated in 1932.

Butch O’Hare was appointed a midshipman at the United States Naval Academy, Annapolis, Maryland, and entered 24 July 1933. He graduated 3 June 1937 and was commissioned as an ensign, United States Navy. Ensign O’Hare was then assigned to sea duty aboard the class-leading battleship USS New Mexico (BB-40).

Ensign Edward Henry O’Hare, United States Navy, 30 June 1939. (U.S. Navy)

In 1939, Ensign O’Hare was ordered to NAS Pensacola, Florida, for primary flight training. On 3 June 1940, he was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant (Junior Grade). He completed flight training 2 May 1940.

Lieutenant (j.g.) O’Hare was next assigned to Fighting Squadron THREE (VF-3), a fighter squadron based at San Diego, California, and assigned as part of the air group of the Lexington-class aircraft carrier, USS Saratoga (CV-3).

Lieutenant (j.g.) Edward H. O’Hare married Miss Rita Grace Wooster, a nurse at DePaul Hospital, St. Louis, Missouri, 6 September 1941. The marriage was performed by Rev. Patrick Joseph Murphy at the Church of the Immaculate Conception (St. Mary’s Church) in Phoenix, Arizona. They would have a daughter, Kathleen.

USS Saratoga was damaged by a torpedo southwest of the Hawaiian Islands, 11 January 1942. While the carrier was under repair, VF-3 was transferred to USS Lexington.

In a ceremony at the White House, Washington, D.C., at 10:45 a.m., 21 April 1942, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt presented the Medal of Honor to Lieutenant Commander O’Hare. Lieutenant (j.g.) O’Hare was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant Commander (temporary) with date of rank 8 April 1942.

Lieutenant Commander Edward Henry O’Hare, United States Navy, commanding Air Group 6 from USS Enterprise (CV-6), was killed in action on the night of 27 November 1944, when his Grumman F6F-3 Hellcat was shot down by a Mitsubishi G4M bomber. He was posthumously awarded the Navy Cross for his actions during Operation Galvanic, 26 November 1943.

This Grumman F4F-3 Wildcat is marked F-15, as was the fighter flown by Butch O’Hare on 20 February 1942. The definition of this image is insufficient to read the fighter’s “Bu. No.” TDiA is unable to determine if this is the same airplane, or another with the same squadron markings. Compare this image to the photo of Thach and O’Hare’s Wildcats in the photograph below. The national insignia on this airplane’s fuselage is larger and the red center has been removed. The alternating red and white stripes on the rudder have been deleted. These changes took place very early in World War II. (Cropped detail from a United States Navy photograph.)

The fighter flown Lieutenant O’Hare on 20 February 1942 was a Grumman F4F-3 Wildcat, Bureau Number 4031, with fuselage identification markings F-15. The Wildcat was designed by Robert Leicester Hall as a carrier-based fighter for the United States Navy. It was a single-place, single-engine, mid-wing monoplane with retractable landing gear, designed to operate from land bases or U.S. Navy aircraft carriers.

Grumman F4F-3 Wildcat. (Grumman Aircraft Engineering Corporation)

The F4F-3 was 28 feet, 10½ inches (8.801 meters) long, with a wingspan of 38 feet, 0 inches (11.582 meters) and overall height of 11 feet, 9 inches (3.581 meters) in three-point position. The empty weight of the basic F4F-3 was 5,238 pounds (2,376 kilograms), and the gross weight was 7,065 pounds (3,205 kilograms).

Unlike the subsequent F4F-4, which had folding wings for storage aboard aircraft carriers, the F4F-3 had fixed wings. The wings had s total area of 260.0 square feet (24.2 square meters). They had an angle of incidence of 0°, with 5° dihedral. The horizontal stabilizer span was 13 feet, 8 inches (4.166 meters) with 1½° incidence.

Grumman F4F-3 Wildcat, (Grumman Aircraft Engineering Corporation)

The F4F-3 was powered by an air-cooled, supercharged, 1,829.39-cubic-inch-displacement (29.978 liter) Pratt & Whitney Twin Wasp SSC5-G (R-1830-76) two-row, 14-cylinder radial engine with a compression ratio of 6.7:1. The R-1830-76 had a normal power rating of 1,100 at 2,550 r.p.m., from Sea Level to 3,500 feet (1,067 meters), and 1,000 horsepower at 2,550 r.p.m. at 19,000 feet (5,791 meters). It was rated at 1,200 horsepower at 2,700 r.p.m. for takeoff. The engine turned a three-bladed Curtiss Electric propeller with a diameter of 9 feet, 9 inches (2.972 meters) through a 3:2 gear reduction. The R-1830-76 was 4 feet, 0.6 inches (1.221 meters) in diameter, 5 feet, 11.31 inches (1.811 meters) long, and weighed 1,550 pounds (703 kilograms).

The F4F-3 had a maximum speed of 278 miles per hour (447 kilometers per hour) at Sea Level, and 331 miles per hour (533 kilometers per hour) at 21,300 feet (6,492 meters). Its service ceiling was 37,000 feet (11,228 meters). Its maximum range was 880 miles (1,416 kilometers)

The F4F-3 Wildcat was armed with four air-cooled Browning AN-M2 .50-caliber machine guns with 450 rounds of ammunition per gun.

Grumman F4F-3 Wildcat, circa 1942. (U.S. Navy)

The prototype XF4F-1 made its first flight in 1935. It was substantially improved as the XF4F-2. The first production F4F-3 Wildcat was built in February 1940. The airplane remained in production through World War II, with 7,860 built by Grumman and General Motors Eastern Aircraft Division (FM-1 Wildcat).

According to the National Naval Aviation Museum, F4F Wildcats held a 9:1 ratio of victories over Japanese aircraft, with 1,006 enemy airplanes destroyed in combat.

Bu. No. 4031 was struck off charge 29 July 1944.

Two Grumman F4F-3 Wildcats of VF-3, assigned to Fighting Three (VF-3), near NAS Kaneohe, Oahu, Hawaiian Islands, 10 April 1942. Lieutenant Commander John Smith Thach, U.S.N., VF-3 squadron commander, is flying the Wildcat marked F-1 (Bu. No. 3976). The second F4F, marked F-13 (Bu. No. 3986), is flown by Lieutenant (j.g.) Edward Henry O’Hare, U.S.N. Both of these Wildcats were lost in the sinking of USS Lexington (CV-2) during the Battle of the Coral Sea, 8 May 1942. (PhoM2c Harold S. Fawcett, United States Navy 80-G-10613)

© 2019, Bryan R. Swopes

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