Major Horace S. Carswell, Jr., USAAF (October 26, 1944)

Horace Seaver Carswell, Jr. was born in Fort Worth, Texas on July 18, 1916. He enlisted as an aviation cadet in the United States Army Air Corps in early 1940, and later that year received his pilot’s wings and his commission as a Second Lieutenant.

On October 26, 1944 as a Consolidated B-24 Liberator pilot with the United States Army Air Forces374th Bombardment Squadron of the 308th Bombardment Group, then-Major Carswell refused to abandon two members of his crew who couldn’t bail out of their damaged bomber over the South China Sea.

From Medal of Honor Citations for World War II (A-F):

Medal of Honor ribbon (foreground); World War II Asiatic-Pacific Campaign ribbon (background)
Medal of Honor ribbon (foreground); World War II Asiatic-Pacific Campaign ribbon (background)
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

*CARSWELL, HORACE S., JR. (Air Mission)

Rank and organization: Major, 308th Bombardment Group, U.S. Army Air Corps. Place and date: Over South China Sea, 26 October 1944. Entered service at: San Angelo, Tex. G.O. No.: 14, 4 February 1946

Citation: He piloted a B-24 bomber in a one-plane strike against a Japanese convoy in the South China Sea on the night of 26 October 1944. Taking the enemy force of 12 ships escorted by at least 2 destroyers by surprise, he made 1 bombing run at 600 feet, scoring a near miss on 1 warship and escaping without drawing fire. He circled. and fully realizing that the convoy was thoroughly alerted and would meet his next attack with a barrage of antiaircraft fire, began a second low-level run which culminated in 2 direct hits on a large tanker. A hail of steel from Japanese guns, riddled the bomber, knocking out 2 engines, damaging a third, crippling the hydraulic system, puncturing 1 gasoline tank, ripping uncounted holes in the aircraft, and wounding the copilot; but by magnificent display of flying skill, Maj. Carswell controlled the plane’s plunge toward the sea and carefully forced it into a halting climb in the direction of the China shore. On reaching land, where it would have been possible to abandon the staggering bomber, one of the crew discovered that his parachute had been ripped by flak and rendered useless; the pilot, hoping to cross mountainous terrain and reach a base. continued onward until the third engine failed. He ordered the crew to bail out while he struggled to maintain altitude. and, refusing to save himself, chose to remain with his comrade and attempt a crash landing. He died when the airplane struck a mountainside and burned. With consummate gallantry and intrepidity, Maj. Carswell gave his life in a supreme effort to save all members of his crew. His sacrifice. far beyond that required of him, was in keeping with the traditional bravery of America’s war heroes.

In addition to the Medal of Honor, Carswell was also awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for a mission eleven days earlier. Here is the citation from Military Times’ Hall of Valor:

DSC-200pxCaptain (Air Corps) Horace Seaver Carswell, Jr. (ASN: 0-399757), United States Army Air Forces, was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross (Posthumously) for extraordinary heroism in connection with military operations against an armed enemy while serving as Pilot of a B-24 Heavy Bomber in the 374 Bombardment Squadron, 308th Bombardment Group (H), FOURTEENTH Air Force, while participating in a bombing mission on 15 October 1944, against enemy Japanese surface vessels in the South China Sea. On that date, 150 miles east of Hong Kong, Captain Carswell found a formation of six enemy naval vessels. In a first attack through the concentrated fire of heavily armed warships, his crew got two direct hits on a cruiser, blowing it up. Using his remaining bombs, Captain Carswell made three runs on a destroyer, scoring one direct hit and two near misses that put the ship out of action. The personal courage and zealous devotion to duty displayed by Captain Carswell on this occasion have upheld the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit upon himself, the 14th Air Force, and the United States Army Air Forces.

The United States Air Force later named Carswell Air Force Base in Fort Worth in Major Carswell’s memory. The installation is now part of Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base Fort Worth and is known as Carswell Field.

After the war, Carswell’s remains were repatriated to the United States and he today rests in peace in Fort Worth’s Oakwood Cemetery.

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