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Neel E. Kearby: Wikis


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Neel Ernest Kearby
June 5, 1911(1911-06-05) – March 5, 1944 (aged 32)
Place of birth Wichita Falls, Texas
Service/branch United States Army Air Corps
Years of service 1936-1944
Rank Colonel
Commands held 348th Fighter Group
Battles/wars World War II
Awards Medal of Honor

Neel Ernest Kearby (June 5, 1911-March 5, 1944) was a U.S. Army Air Corps Colonel and P-47 Thunderbolt pilot in World War II who was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions in combat.



Kearby was born in Wichita Falls, Texas and graduated from the University of Texas in 1936. He received flight training at Randolph and Kelly Air Force bases.

Colonel Kearby, commanding officer of the 348th Fighter Group, was the only U.S. fighter pilot to be awarded the Medal of Honor for actions while flying the P-47.

By March 1944, Kearby had 22 kills to his credit. On March 5, 1944, Kearby and two other pilots attacked a formation of 15 Japanese aircraft near Wewak. After shooting down one of the aircraft, Kearby himself was shot down by a Japanese Army Air Force Nakajima Ki-43 Hayabusa fighter. The P-47 crashed into the jungle below. Kearby escaped with parachute, but died of his wounds.[1]

Medal of Honor citation

The citation for the Medal of Honor, which was awarded by General Douglas MacArthur, describes his combat heroism:

Place and date: Near Wewak, New Guinea, 11 October 1943. For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty in action with the enemy, Col. Kearby volunteered to lead a flight of 4 fighters to reconnoiter the strongly defended enemy base at Wewak. Having observed enemy installations and reinforcements at 4 airfields, and secured important tactical information, he saw an enemy fighter below him, made a diving attack and shot it down in flames. The small formation then sighted approximately 12 enemy bombers accompanied by 36 fighters. Although his mission had been completed, his fuel was running low, and the numerical odds were 12 to 1, he gave the signal to attack. Diving into the midst of the enemy airplanes he shot down 3 in quick succession. Observing 1 of his comrades with 2 enemy fighters in pursuit, he destroyed both enemy aircraft. The enemy broke off in large numbers to make a multiple attack on his airplane but despite his peril he made one more pass before seeking cloud protection. Coming into the clear, he called his flight together and led them to a friendly base. Col. Kearby brought down 6 enemy aircraft in this action, undertaken with superb daring after his mission was completed.

See also


  1. ^ Frisbee, John L. (August 1987) ( – Scholar search). Air Force Magazine. 70. Retrieved 2007-04-12.  

Further reading

  • Stanaway, John (1997). Kearby's Thunderbolts: The 348th Fighter Group in World War II. Schiffer Publishing. ISBN 0764302485.  


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