Andrew Britte Ham never had a chance to reach 100 years old today. Instead, he sacrificed his life for our freedom.
He was born on September 16, 1917 in Georgia. His parents were also both born in Georgia. His father worked as a manager for an electric battery company and later a motor plant proprietor. Andrew had an older brother and three younger sisters.
Andrew entered the navy in June 1935 when he was accepted to the US Naval Academy. He graduated in 1939. Later he married Roberta Crittendon.
He rose to the rank of lieutenant commander in March 1944 and served as a dive bomber pilot and squadron leader on the USS Bennington no later than July 1945, flying SB2C Helldivers.
During the month of July Lt. Cmdr. Ham was involved in numerous missions to attack targets in Japan. Only a select few knew about the upcoming atomic bomb mission so most people were focused on reducing Japan's ability to wage war prior to an American invasion.
Lt. Cmdr. Ham was a fearless pilot who was recognized with numerous awards.
On July 14 Lt. Cmdr. Ham earned the Distinguished Flying Cross. For two hours, with a spotting officer in his plane's second seat, he flew over enemy targets, sometimes at dangerously low heights, to provide targeting coordinates to US Navy battleships and cruisers so they could hit major industrial targets around Kamaishi on Honshu Island. He was under constant fire from shore based and ship based anti-aircraft batteries.
Three days later Lt. Cmdr. Ham earned a Gold Star in lieu of a Second Award of the Distinguished Flying Cross. On that day he volunteered to be the leader of the final division of dive bombers attacking the Japanese battleship Nagato in Tokyo Harbor at 3:30 in the afternoon. The Nagato was the Japanese flagship during the December 7 attack on Pearl Harbor. His late position in the attack guaranteed that the enemy would be fully alerted to throw up the most intense flak. Going in last he was able to photograph the execution of the attack by the planes ahead of him and afterward he made a low altitude sweep to obtain photographic evidence of the attack. Ham's bomb was a near miss, as were an incredible 60 bombs dropped. Only two bombs hit the battleship causing light damage. The task force went on to other targets the next day and did not return to sink the Nagato.
On July 28, Lt. Cmdr. Ham's final mission would result in him being posthumously award the Navy Cross. On that day the Third Fleet resumed its attack on Japanese Imperial Navy vessels at Kure Naval Base. Ham lined up for a dive bomb attack on the so far undamaged carrier Katsuragi and scored a direct hit resulting in heavy damage. He was shot down by enemy flak and his body was not recovered. The Navy lost 102 pilots during the attack on Kure.
His cenotaph grave is at Evergreen Cemetery in Charlotte, North Carolina. I don't know what happened to his widow.
Thanks to Darillyn Lamb Starr for recommending that Andrew be profiled.
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!
I created this video to explain why I started this project: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vXt8QA481lY.
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