Monday, August 06, 2012

TFH 8/6-7: Captain Harl Pease, Jr., USAAC

Harl Pease, Jr. was born on April 10, 1917 in Plymouth, New Hampshire. He enlisted in the United States Army Air Corps in 1939, and received a commission as a Second Lieutenant and received his pilot's wings in 1940.

At the beginning of the United States' involvement in World War II, he was flying the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress with the 93d Bombardment Squadron of the 19th Bomb Group. He flew missions as part of the Far East Air Force first from the Philippines and then Australia. Among the actions that Pease participated in was the Battle of the Coral Sea.

After a mission on August 6, 1942, Pease's aircraft was so badly damaged it was counted out for a "maximum effort" to be launched against Rabaul the next day. He and his entire crew volunteered to take the most serviceable plane available, readied it for combat, and joined the mission.

En route to the target, they penetrated through heavy fighter opposition, destroying several enemy aircraft in the process. Pease and his crew unloaded their bombs on target, and headed for home. Sadly, their plane was too badly damaged to keep up with the other aircraft and was shot down by the Japanese.

Pease and one of his crew mates were able to bail out and were captured by the Japanese. He was imprisoned on Rabaul until October 8, 1942 when, along with other American and Australian prisoners, he was forced to dig his own grave before he was beheaded.

On December 2, 1942, Captain Pease's parents were presented with the Medal of Honor their son so assuredly deserved by President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

From Medal of Honor Citations for World War II (M-S):

*PEASE, HARL, JR. (Air Mission)

Rank and organization: Captain, U.S. Army Air Corps, Heavy Bombardment Squadron. Place and date: Near Rabaul, New Britain, 6-7 August 1942. Entered service at: Plymouth, N.H. Birth: Plymouth, N.H. G.O. No.: 59, 4 November 1942. Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty in action with the enemy on 6-7 August 1942. When 1 engine of the bombardment airplane of which he was pilot failed during a bombing mission over New Guinea, Capt. Pease was forced to return to a base in Australia. Knowing that all available airplanes of his group were to participate the next day in an attack on an enemy-held airdrome near Rabaul, New Britain, although he was not scheduled to take part in this mission, Capt. Pease selected the most serviceable airplane at this base and prepared it for combat, knowing that it had been found and declared unserviceable for combat missions. With the members of his combat crew, who volunteered to accompany him, he rejoined his squadron at Port Moresby, New Guinea, at 1 a.m. on 7 August, after having flown almost continuously since early the preceding morning. With only 3 hours' rest, he took off with his squadron for the attack. Throughout the long flight to Rabaul, New Britain, he managed by skillful flying of his unserviceable airplane to maintain his position in the group. When the formation was intercepted by about 30 enemy fighter airplanes before reaching the target, Capt. Pease, on the wing which bore the brunt of the hostile attack, by gallant action and the accurate shooting by his crew, succeeded in destroying several Zeros before dropping his bombs on the hostile base as planned, this in spite of continuous enemy attacks. The fight with the enemy pursuit lasted 25 minutes until the group dived into cloud cover. After leaving the target, Capt. Pease's aircraft fell behind the balance of the group due to unknown difficulties as a result of the combat, and was unable to reach this cover before the enemy pursuit succeeded in igniting 1 of his bomb bay tanks. He was seen to drop the flaming tank. It is believed that Capt. Pease's airplane and crew were subsequently shot down in flames, as they did not return to their base. In voluntarily performing this mission Capt. Pease contributed materially to the success of the group, and displayed high devotion to duty, valor, and complete contempt for personal danger. His undaunted bravery has been a great inspiration to the officers and men of his unit.

A cenotaph in Pease's memory was erected at the Trinity Churchyard Cemetery in Holderness, New Hampshire. Pease Air National Guard Base, formerly Pease Air Force Base, in New Hampshire is named for this brave flyer.

The descendant of the 19th Bomb Group is today the 19th Operations Group of the 19th Airlift Wing at Little Rock Air Force Base in Arkansas.

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