Wilkens -- Maj Raymond Harrel Wilkens


Major Wilkins was born in Portsmouth, Va., Sept. 28, 1917, and was killed in action in Rabaul, New Britain, Nov. 2, 1943.

Major Wilkins enlisted in the Army in July 1936, at Langley Field, Va. He served for four years as a private in various squadron duties at Langley and Chanute Field, Ill.., Where he attended the Air Corps Technical School. On graduation he was promoted to corporal in February 1940 and to staff sergeant seven months later. In March 1941, Wilkins began flying training taking it at Parks Air College, East St. Louis, Ill.; and Randolph and Kelly Fields, Texas. He was commissioned a second lieutenant with rating of pilot in October 1941. He went to Australia where he helped organize the 89th Bomb Squadron of the 3rd Group. He began his long combat tour March 8, 1942, in a B-25 bombing strikes against the enemy. He was promoted to first lieutenant that September and to captain in February 1943. By March he had participated in more than 50 bombing and low-level strafing mission including four highly successful raids against enemy-occupied airdromes in New Guinea which resulted in destruction of 17 enemy bombers, one fighter and extensive damage to installations.

On July 23, 1943, he led his squadron of B-25s as a second element of a large formation over Cape Gloucester, New Britain, bombing and strafing an enemy bomber on the airdrome. He then attacked two enemy destroyers offshore, scoring a direct hit on the larger ship and two hits on the smaller one. On Aug. 25, Wilkins helped destroy four enemy vessels and damage fuel and supply dumps over Hansa Bay, Koronprinz and Uligan Harbors.

On Sept. 27, he led his B-25 bombers against shipping in Victoria Bay and the Kairiru Straits. He sank a 4,000 ton merchant vessel and also bombed six luggers, while his comrades were hitting shore installations. He was promoted to major in October 1943, and killed Nov. 2, while leading a formation of eight B-25s against enemy shipping in Simpson Harbor, Rabaul, New Britain, his 87th combat mission.

He received the Medal of Honor with the citation reading in part... "Major Wilkins' airplane was hit almost immediately, the right wing damaged and control rendered extremely difficult. Although he could have withdrawn, he held fast and led his squadron into the attack. He strafed a group of small harbor vessels and then at low level, attacked an enemy destroyer. His 1,000-pound bomb struck squarely amid-ships, causing the vessel to explode. From below-masthead height, he attacked a transport of some 9,000 tons, scoring a hit which engulfed the ship in flames. Bombs expended, he began to withdraw his squadron. A heavy cruiser barred the path. Unhesitatingly, to neutralize the cruiser's guns and attract their fire, Major Wilkins went in for a strafing run. His damaged stabilizer was completely shot off. To avoid swerving into his wing planes, he had to turn so as to expose the belly and full wing surfaces of his plane to enemy fire; it caught and crumpled his left wing. Now past control, the bomber crashed into the sea. In this fierce engagement, Major Wilkins destroyed two enemy vessels, and his heroic self-sacrifice made possible the safe withdrawal of the remaining planes of his squadron."

Major Wilkins' combat missions, which totaled 254 hours against the enemy, also earned him the Silver Star, four Distinguished Flying Crosses, and two Air Medals.

See the
full citation from the Congressional Medal of Honor Society website.