After spending all night dancing and playing poker at the Wheeler Army Air Field Officers’ Club, lieutenants George S. Welch and Kenneth M. Taylor had just hit their racks. When the sound of explosions and enemy aircraft woke them up, the young pilots — still wearing their dress uniforms — jumped in Taylor’s Buick and raced the ten miles to Haleiwa Fighter Strip (dodging fire from strafing enemy fighters). The pilots had called ahead and had their planes warmed up and ready for action.
Welch shot down four enemy warplanes and Taylor scored two victories (in addition to two probables), and Gen. Henry H. “Hap” Arnold put them in for the Medal of Honor. However since they took off without orders, their commanding officer downgraded the request to Distinguished Service Crosses. See page 8 for more.
In 15 December’s edition we discussed Columbus Alexander “Alec” Wills, a Civil War veteran of Cape Girardeau County that passed away. This issue features a photograph of Mr. Wills. on page 10. Seaman 1st Class Kenneth Morris Payne, 23, of Ilmo, Mo., did in fact pass away during the Pearl Harbor attacks (see lower right corner of page 1). He was one of 98 men killed aboard the battleship USS California.
Headlines found in today’s edition:
- U.S. Destroys 26 Jap Planes
- Japs Land Force on Borneo Coast
- Nazis Admit Hard Setback
- Yank Submarines Off Japan Give U.S. Grim Satisfaction
- President’s Son is Ordered to West Coast
Today’s post is in honor of Air Force 1st Lt. Gary P. Offutt, who was shot down over the Republic of Vietnam’s Kien Giang province on this date in 1965. Offutt’s F-100 Super Sabre had just pulled up after a strafing run when the aircraft nose-dived into the ground, likely brought down by hostile fire. The 25-year-old Stewartsville, Missouri native’s remains were repatriated in 1995 and identified in 1997.
1918: When German soldiers attack the lines of the 110th Infantry Regiment, Irish immigrant and U.S. Army Major Joseph H. Thompson courageously defies enemy machinegun and artillery fire to encourage his troops, repulsing two separate assaults. Later, when his troops are stalled by enemy machinegun and anti-tank fire, which disabled all but one of the American tanks, Maj. Thompson charged forward of his line on three occasions through withering fire to guide the last remaining tank to a position where it could neutralize the machinegun nest. For his actions, Maj. Thompson was awarded the Medal of Honor.
In 1971, “Colonel Joe” Thompson, a former football star and successful coach at the University of Pittsburgh before leaving to fight in Mexico and World War I, was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.
1947: (Featured image) Former World War II ace George Welch climbs into the cockpit of his North American Aviation XF-86 for the maiden flight of the Sabre. When the Korean War breaks out, F-86 pilots will dominate the skies, with its pilots boasting a 10:1 kill ratio over the once-feared MiG-15s. Of 40 American aces, all but one accomplishes the feat in a Sabre.
During the Cold War, U.S. aircraft designers produced some absolutely incredible warplanes. Looking back from an era of stealth technology and fifth-generation jets, some of these aircraft may seem primitive and a few are remembered for their flaws, but make no mistake: these machines were truly cutting edge in their day. Not only our freedom and security, but that of the rest of the world, depended on holding the edge over the communists. Because had it not been for a constant output of highly advanced and steadily improving fighters, attack planes, and interceptors, we might not have deterred a possible third world war between the United States and the Soviet Union. Below are just some of these amazing platforms that kept the Cold War cold.
By the time the United States Air Force became a standalone service in 1947, the dawning of the jet age was rapidly making our stockpiles of piston-engine aircraft left over from World War II obsolete. Republic Aviation produced over 15,000 P-47s from 1941-1945, and made constant improvements to the aircraft. By the time the United States invaded Normandy, the rugged fighter-bomber could either escort heavy bombers into Europe or devastate Axis ground targets with its eight M2 .50-cal. machineguns and 2,500 pounds of bombs. It was re-designated the F-47 in 1948 and would be retired from active duty Air Force service in 1949.
Today’s post is in honor of Capt. Dennis L. Pintor, who gave his life for our country on this day in 2004 in Baghdad, Iraq. The 30-year-old native of Lima, Ohio was killed when his vehicle was hit by an improvised explosive device. Pintor was assigned to the 20th Engineer Battalion, 1st Cavalry Division. Also killed in the attack were Spc. Jaime Moreno and Spc. Michael S. Weger.
1862: Confederate cavalry commander Gen. James Ewell Brown “J.E.B.” Stuart completes his “second ride” around Union Gen. George B. McClellan’s Army of the Potomac.
1870: Five years after surrendering his Army of Northern Virginia to Gen. Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox, Gen. Robert E. Lee passes away after suffering a stroke. The revered general served his country 44 years, fighting alongside Grant in the Mexican-American War, and against him in the Civil War.
1944: U.S. Army Air Force 1st Lt. Charles E. “Chuck” Yeager and his 357th Fighter Group surprise a flight of 22 Messerschmitt Bf-109 fighters near Hanover, Germany. Yeager’s P-51D “Mustang”, named Glamorous Glenn II, Yeager will score five of the group’s eight victories – two without firing a shot – becoming an “ace in a day.” Yeager finishes World War II with 11.5 kills, and will go on to fly 127 missions during the Vietnam War. The former Army private will retire a Brigadier General in 1975, but continues flying for the Air Force and NASA.
[Featured image: 2nd Lt. Kenneth M. Taylor (left) and 2nd Lt. George S. Welch (see below)- the two Curtiss P-40B Warhawk pilots who shot down eight Japanese aircraft during the attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Both officers were awarded the Distinguished Service Cross]
1777: 16-year-old Sybil Ludington – “the female Paul Revere” – begins her 40-mile, all-night ride across an isolated circuit of New York–Connecticut backcountry, warning villagers of a British attack on nearby Danbury, Connecticut.
1865: After three days of negotiations with Union Maj. Gen. William Sherman, Gen. Joseph Johnson surrenders the Army of Tennessee, along with the remaining Confederates in the Carolinas, Georgia, and Florida – nearly 90,000 troops – to Union Maj. Gen. William Sherman in the largest surrender of the war. Sherman supplies the Confederate soldiers with rations and orders food to be distributed to Southerners, in stark contrast to his “scorched earth” campaign.
That same day, Union cavalry troopers track down John Wilkes Booth – Pres. Abraham Lincoln’s assassin – at a tobacco barn in Virginia. 12 days after shooting the president, the fugitive is himself shot and killed.
1945: Eighth Air Force fighter pilots raid over 40 Luftwaffe installations, destroying an astounding 747 enemy aircraft in just one day.
1948: Test pilot (and former World War II ace) George Welch puts his North American XP-86 Saber jet into a dive and breaks the sound barrier – marking the first supersonic flight of a fighter aircraft.
An Army Air Corps pilot with 16 victories during World War II, Welch is one of only two airmen able to get airborne and engage Japanese aircraft during the attack on Pearl Harbor. He was recommended for the Medal of Honor for his actions on December 7th, but having taken off without orders, he only receives the Distinguished Flying Cross.
Later serving as an instructor and test pilot for North American during the Korean War, he reportedly shot down several MiG-15 aircraft, but again did so against orders, so he did not receive credit for the kills. Welch will perish in a crash while performing tests on the F-100 in 1954.