Kearby -- Col Neel E Kearby


Neel Kearby attended high school and North Texas Agricultural College at Arlington, Texas, and graduated from the University of Texas at Austin in 1937, with a degree in Business Administration. He immediately enlisted, on Feb. 25, as a flying cadet at March Field, Calif. He trained at Randolph and Kelly Fields Texas, getting his rating and commission in February 1938. He was assigned successively to the 94th and 40th Pursuit Squadrons at Selfridge Field, Mich., in a series of assignments including flight commander. He went to the Canal Zone in December 1941. as 14th Pursuit Squadron commander, serving until August 1942, when he returned to the United States. as commander of the 348th Fighter Group at Bradley Field, Conn., and Westover Field, Mass. He took the Group to the Pacific in May 1943, after promotion to lieutenant colonel and consistently led his men in combat in P-47 Thunderbolt fighters.

He was promoted to colonel on Sept. 23, 1943, and, on Oct. 11, earned the Medal of Honor for shooting down six Japanese planes and saving the life of a comrade on a mission near Wewak, New Guinea, when he volunteered to lead a flight of four fighters to reconnoiter the strongly defended air base.

The citation, in part, reads:"...Having observed enemy installations and reinforcements at four air fields, and securing important tactical information, Colonel Kearby saw an enemy fighter below him, made a diving attack and shot it down in flames. The small formation then sighted 12 enemy bombers and 36 escorting fighters. Although his mission had been completed...his fuel was running low, and the numerical odds were 12 to one . . . he gave the signal to attack. Diving into the midst of the enemy airplanes, he shot down three in quick succession. Observing one of his comrades with two 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. Colonel Kearby brought down six enemy aircraft in this action, undertaken with superb daring after his mission was completed."

These six helped run Colonel Kearby's eventual score to 22 enemy planes destroyed in the air; only 11 others had more kills in both World Wars. He also was awarded two Silver Stars, four Distinguished Flying Crosses, and five Air Medals. On Nov. 12, 1943, he was transferred to Headquarters V Fighter Command. In February 1944, he became commander of the 309th Bomb Wing. On March 5, he was killed in action during a fighter sweep mission to New Guinea.

full citation at the Congressional Medal of Honor Society website.

more information see the National Museum of the USAF website.