Emmett O’Donnell, Jr. was born on September 15, 1906 in Brooklyn, New York. He graduated from the United States Military Academy, West Point in 1928 and commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the United States Army. He served during World War II in the Air Corps and United States Army Air Forces. As a Brigadier General, he led the first Boeing B-29 Superfortress raid on Tokyo, November 24, 1944. This was the first American attack on the Japanese capital since the “Doolittle Raid” on April 18, 1942 .
Edward Higgins White II was born on November 14, 1930 in San Antonio, Texas. He graduated with the United States Military Academy Class of 1952 and was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the United States Air Force. He was a fighter pilot and test pilot, and on September 17, 1962 was selected as a member of NASA Astronaut Group 2, the “New Nine”.
In the early days of the Space Race, NASA had been upstaged by our Soviet enemies regularly, including the first ever “extra-vehicular activity” – an EVA or “spacewalk” – by cosmonaut Alexey Leonov on March 18, 1965. NASA hadn’t planned to do an EVA for some time, but it then became a priority. The next flight – Gemini 4 – would feature the first free man walking in space. It would be Ed White.
William Arthur Shomo was born in Jeannette, Pennsylvania on May 30, 1918. He was working as a mortician when he volunteered and enlisted in the United States Army Air Corps as an aviation cadet. He completed his flight instruction and earned both his pilot’s wings and an officer’s commission. Shomo flew reconnaissance aircraft in the Pacific theater against the Japanese.
Richard Ira Bong was born in Superior, Wisconsin on September 24, 1920. He was a college student and already under instruction as a civilian pilot when he enlisted in the United States Army Air Corps as an Aviation Cadet on May 29, 1941.
Bong received his pilot’s wings and a commission as a Second Lieutenant on January 19, 1942 and was posted as an aerial gunnery instructor. He would go on to become the top ace of the United States Army Air Forces during World War II.
On November 9, 1944, the United States Army Air Forces‘ Eighth Air Force launched a major raid against the city of Saarbrucken, Germany. Piloting one Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress of the 452nd Bombardment Group (Heavy)‘s 729th Bombardment Squadron was First Lieutenant Donald J. Gott (Born June 3, 1923; Arnett, Oklahoma). In the co-pilot’s seat was Second Lieutenant William E. Metzger, Jr. (Born February 9, 1922; Lima, Ohio).
Both of these men, aboard their plane nicknamed Lady Janet, were posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for their incredible courage on that day in trying to save the life of one of their crewmates who couldn’t bail out of their damaged craft.
Robert Edward Femoyer was born on Halloween, October 31, 1921 in Huntington, West Virginia. He was a student at Virginia Tech when he enlisted in the United States Army Air Corps on February 4, 1943. Femoyer wanted to be a pilot, but didn’t pass the training and was assigned as a gunnery officer and navigator instead.
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 Forces‘ 374th 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.
Darrell Robins Lindsey walked into Fort Des Moines, Iowa on January 16, 1942 and volunteered his service as an Aviation Cadet in the United States Army Air Corps. He was 22 years old, having been born in Jefferson, Iowa on December 30, 1919.
The 98th Bombardment Group (Heavy) of the United States Army Air Forces (forerunner of today’s United States Air Force) was no stranger to attacking the Ploesti, Romania area and its oil refineries. Its Consolidated B-24 Liberators first struck there on August 1, 1943 during Operation TIDAL WAVE. The 98th’s commander at the time, Colonel John R. “Killer” Kane, received the Medal of Honor for his courageous flying that day.
Not quite one year later, seventy years ago today, the 98th set off to bomb Ploesti again. Kane was no longer in command of the group, but flying with its 343rd Bombardment Squadron was a 28-year-old pilot named Donald Dale Pucket.
He was eventually commissioned as an officer in the United States Army Air Forces, and was trained as both a navigator and bombardier aboard the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress. He was a member of the 341st Bombardment Squadron, 97th Bombardment Group (Heavy), Fifteenth Air Force.