|Captain Harl Pease, Jr. Congressional Medal of Honor hero.|
UPDATE October 8, 2017
Seventy-five years ago today newspapers across the country ran headlines like Japs Losing Grip in Western Aleutians and Russian Tanks Break Nazi Barrier. At home the favorite song was I've Got a Gal in Kalamazoo by the Glenn Miller Band. Folks were going to the movies to watch John Wayne in Flying Tigers or The Major and the Minor with Ginger Rogers. That Thursday night, families could tune into their radios and listen to Abbott and Costello or Kraft Music Hall with Bing Crosby, Mary Martin, and Victor Borge.
October 8, 1942 was also a day that would see the demise of at least 57 Americans who died serving their country that day. One of them was Medal of Honor hero Harl Pease.
He was born on April 10, 1917 in New Hampshire. His parents were also both born in New Hampshire. His father was a mail carrier for the post office and later a garage proprietor. By 1940 he owned a retail auto store. Harl Jr. had one older sister.
He graduated from the University of New Hampshire in 1939 with a degree in business. The same year he enlisted in the Army Air Corps. After flight school he was assigned to the 19th Bombardment Group as a B-17 pilot.
He was a captain stationed at Clark Field in the Philippines and was there when it was attacked by the Japanese on December 8, 1941. He was able to fly a few missions using the few remaining planes, but was evacuated to Australia a couple of weeks later. In March 1942, he was given the mission of flying a B-17 back to the Philippines to pick up General Douglas MacArthur, but Pease's plane was in such poor shape, MacArthur refused to get on it and waited for another one to arrive.
Capt. Pease flew missions throughout the South Pacific and participated in the Battle of Coral Sea and the fighting on New Guinea.
Capt. Pease earned the Congressional Medal of Honor for actions conducted on August 7, 1942. His citation read:
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.
His medal was awarded to his father by President Roosevelt on December 2, 1942.
After the war his family discovered that Capt. Pease and one other crewman did not die in the crash of their B-17. They bailed out of their doomed plane and were captured. As too often happened to allied prisoners of the Japanese, Capt. Pease and five others were forced to dig their own graves, then beheaded, and buried in Rabaul on October 8, 1942.
His remains were returned to be buried at Mt. Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Thank you Harl for your sacrifice. Let's Earn It for Harl.
Nobel Prize Tie-In
The same day Harl Peace was born on April 10, 1917, just a state way in Boston, Robert Burns Woodward was also born. His father died when Robert was only one. Raised in poverty, Robert had an early taste for science and was allowed to enroll in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1933 at age 16. He gave little attention to his formal studies so he was on the verge of being kicked out. He worked things out and earned his BS in 1936 at the age of 19 and by the age of 20 he had earned his PhD, the same year he began his career at Harvard University. He became the preeminent organic chemist of the twentieth century.
During the war Robert was Instructor in Chemistry at Harvard University. His work on the synthesis of quinine was instrumental in diminishing the affect of malaria on America troops fighting in the South Pacific and elsewhere.
His distinguished career in chemistry was capped when he was award the 1965 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for "his outstanding achievements in the art of organic synthesis."
Robert died on July 9, 1979.
The life and achievements of Dr. Woodward are a reminder to us of the lost opportunities of Harl Pease and the more than 400,000 other Americans who lost their lives in World War 2. What renowned accomplishments and other achievements were lost when we lost these fallen?
On behalf of the fallen, if you would like to see more people become aware of this project to honor the WW2 fallen, be sure to share with others on Twitter, Facebook, etc. Thanks for your interest!
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