Captain Harl Pease
United States Army Air Force (USAAF), 19th Bombardment Group (19th BG)
Pilot B-17E "Why Don't We Do This More Often" 41-2429
Prisoner Of War (POW) / Missing In Action (MIA)
Harl Pease Jr. was born Born April 10, 1917 in Plymouth, New Hampshire. He graduated from Tilton School then attended the University of New Hampshire (UNH)
class of 1939 graduated with a degree in business administration and was a member of the Theta Chi Fraternity.
U.S. Army Air Force Service
Afterwards, Pease enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps (USAAC). On June 20, 1941 became a member of the U.S. Army Air Force (USAAF). During June 1940 commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant and earned his flight wings at Kelly Field, Texas. Assigned to the 19th Bombardment Group (19th BG), 93rd Bombardment Squadron (93rd BS) as a B-17 Flying Fortress pilot based at Albuquerque Army Air Base. During October 1941 piloted a B-17 Flying Fortress on a ferry flight across the Pacific departing Hamilton Field via Hickam Field then across the Pacific to Clark Field on Luzon in the Philippines.
On December 8, 1941 at the start of the Pacific War, Pease witnessed the Japanese attack on Clark Field. Afterwards, he began flying bombing missions in defense of the Philippines.
On December 10, 1941 at 2:00pm took off from Clark Field piloting B-17D Flying Fortress 40-3073 armed with nineteen 100 pound bombs on a bombing mission against Aparri. Over the target, he faced no enemy fighters or anti-aircraft fire and made two bomb runs against a "Japanese cruiser" [sic] but did not score any hits then dropped his last two bombs on a Japanese cargo ship. and missed. Afterwards, landed at Clark Field and was refueled an at 6:30pm took off on a flight bound for Del Monte Airfield but encountered a storm and returned to Clark Field.
On March 12, 1942 took off from Batchelor Field near Darwin piloting B-17E 41-2453 on a flight northward to Del Monte Airfield to evacuate General MacArthur but inbound, the hydraulic system failed disabling the superchargers and brakes and was forced to fly at low altitude and arrived landed after dark. Without brakes, the bomber ground looped. Learning that General MacArthur had not yet arrived, Pease expressed to Major General William F. Sharp his fear about leaving his bomber parked at the airfield and requested he be allowed to evacuate personnel. Reportedly, Major General William F. Sharp felt Pease was too young to fly the General and his bomber too war weary so agreed for him to leave immediately. After unloading ammunition and guns, this B-17 departed and returned to Darwin, and ground looped again without breaks.
Afterwards, flew missions from Java during the Java Campaign.
On February 17, 1942 took off piloting B-17E
Flying Fortress 41-2488 as one of five B-17s on a bombing mission against Palembang but aborted due to bad weather.
Afterwards, flew missions from Australia and New Guinea including the Battle of the Coral Sea.
On August 6, 1942 in the evening took off piloting B-17E Flying Fortress 41-2668 from Horn Island Airfield on a flight bound for 7-Mile Drome near Port
Moresby to stage for a bombing mission planned for August 7, 1942 against Rabaul. Roughly fifty miles into the flight, an engine valve failed forcing this B-17 to abort the flight and landed safely at Mareeba Airfield. Back on the ground, Pease and his crew instead boarded B-17E "Why" Don't We Do This More Often 41-2429 and took off from Mareeba Airfield and flew to 7-Mile Drome near Port
Moresby to participate in the mission.
On August 7, 1942 took off piloting B-17E "Why Don't We Do This More Often" Serial Number 41-2429 on a bombing mission against Vunakanau Airfield near Rabaul. This bomber was deemed to have weak engines and had aborted
several missions, but could still fly. Pease insisted on
flying the aircraft on the mission. After the bomb run, this B-17 was last seen over Vunakanau Airfield,
defending A6M2 Zeros concentrated on Pease's aircraft, causing
it to loose altitude and knocked out an engine. The bomb bay fuel tank was seen to drop out on fire. None of the other B-17s observed this bomber to crash. When this B-17 failed to return it was declared Missing In Action (MIA).
Prisoner Of War (POW)
Two of the crew Pease and Czechowski managed to bailed out and landed safely. Both were captured by the Japanese and became Prisoners Of War (POW) and were transported to Rabaul and detained as prisoners. Father O'Connell, a missionary interned at Rabaul reported seeing Pease and Czechowski alive.
On October 8, 1942, a group of six POWs including Pease and Czechowski were taken from captivity, presumably to work as laborers at one of the airfields. Later that afternoon, some of their clothing was returned to the prison and it was inferred the six were executed. Their remains have never been located and both remain Missing In Action (MIA).
On November 4, 1942 Pease earned the Medal of Honor, posthumously for his actions on August 6, 1942 and August 7, 1942. He also earned the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) with Oak Leaf Cluster, Air Medal and Purple Heart, posthumously.
|Medal of Honor August 6-7, 1942 posthumously
(G.O. No.: 59, November 4, 1942) Citation: "For
conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of
duty in action with the enemy on 6-7 August 1942. When 1 engine of
the bombardment airplane of which he was pilot failed during a bombing
mission over New Guinea, Capt. Pease was forced to return to a base
in Australia. Knowing that all available airplanes of his group were
to participate the next day in an attack on an enemy-held airdrome
near Rabaul, New Britain, although he was not scheduled to take part
in this mission, Capt. Pease selected the most serviceable airplane
at this base and prepared it for combat, knowing that it had been found
and declared unserviceable for combat missions. With the members of
his combat crew, who volunteered to accompany him, he rejoined his
squadron at Port Moresby, New Guinea, at 1 a.m. on 7 August, after
having flown almost continuously since early the preceding morning.
With only 3 hours' rest, he took off with his squadron for the attack.
Throughout the long flight to Rabaul, New Britain, he managed by
skillful flying of his unserviceable airplane to maintain his position
in the group. When the formation was intercepted by about 30 enemy fighter
airplanes before reaching the target, Capt. Pease, on the wing which
bore the brunt of the hostile attack, by gallant action and the accurate
shooting by his crew, succeeded in destroying several Zeros before
dropping his bombs on the hostile base as planned, this in spite
of continuous enemy attacks. The fight with the enemy pursuit lasted
25 minutes until the group dived into cloud cover. After leaving the
target, Capt. Pease's aircraft fell behind the balance of the group due
to unknown difficulties as a result of the combat, and was unable to
reach this cover before the enemy pursuit succeeded in igniting 1 of
his bomb bay tanks. He was seen to drop the flaming tank. It is believed
that Capt. Pease's airplane and crew were subsequently shot down
in flames, as they did not return to their base. In voluntarily performing
this mission Capt. Pease contributed materially to the success of
the group, and displayed high devotion to duty, valor, and complete contempt
for personal danger. His undaunted bravery has been a great inspiration
to the officers and men of his unit."
Pease was officially declared dead on December 12, 1945. He is memorialized at Manila American Cemetery on the tablets of the missing. He also has a memorial marker at Trinity Churchyard Cemetery in Holderness, NH.
On September 7, 1957 Portsmouth Air Force Base (Portsmouth AFB) was renamed Pease Air Force Base (Pease AFB) in honor of Hal Pease. In 1991 when the base closed due to Base Realignment and Closure Commission a portion of the former base became Pease Air National Guard Base (Pease ANGB).
Pacific Wrecks - B-17E "Why Don't We Do This More Often" 41-2429
Missing Air Crew Report
16020 (MACR 16020) was created retroactively circa 1945-1946
NARA Records of World War II Prisoners of War - Harl Pease Jr. last "Died as Prisoner of War"
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Harl Pease Jr.
FindAGrave - Capt Harl Pease, Jr (photo, tablets of the missing photo)
FindAGrave - Capt Harl Pease, Jr (photo memorial marker photo)
On Wings We Conquer (1990) pages 104 (MacArthur rescue), 123-140, 177 (A-13: MacArthur Rescue), 181-184 (A-17: Rabaul Mission 41-2629 sic [41-2429])
Fortress Against The Sun (2001) pages 18, 69-70 (December 10, 1941), 154-155 (March 12, 1942 flight to Del Monte), 384 (41-2429), 428 (footnote 62), 429
Echoes From an Eagle (2016) pages 53-55
The Siege of Rabaul (1996) by Henry Sakaida page 95 (Rabaul's Military Prisoners - Peace [sic Pease]
What Really Happened to Harl Pease? by John Mitchell and Fay Benton
NARA RG 331 Box 943 Rabaul documents & cannibalism
"Royal Australian Navy - 18 September 1945 Subject: Information concerning U.S. Army personnel captured at Rabaul
Capt. Peace of New England and Photographer Chikowsky [sic Czechowski] of Chicago: Baled out of a B-17 near Kabakual, near Rabaul."
Center for Research Allied POWS Under the Japanese - Execution of Aviators at Rabaul October 8, 1942