Major George S. Welch
U.S. Army Air Force Fighter Pilot and Test Pilot
George Lewis Schwartz, Jr. was born May 10, 1918 to parents George L. Schwartz and Mrs. George L. Schwartz and the family lived at 906 Blackshire Road in Wilmington, Delaware. His parents changed the names of their two sons to Welch (his mother's maiden name) because of anti-German feelings after World War I and became known as George Schwartz Welch. He attended St. Andrew's School in Middletown, Delaware then
Purdue University and joined the Phi Delta Upsilon fraternity. Nicknamed "Weaties".
During 1939 he enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps (USAAC) and underwent flight training at Randolph Field, Kelley Field and Hamilton Field and earned his wings. During January 1941 commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant with serial number O-398557. During February 1941 assigned to the 18th Pursuit Group (18th PG), 47th Pursuit Squadron (47th PS) flying the P-40B Warhawk at Wheeler Field on Oahu. Fellow pilots in the squadron included future World War II fighter aces Francis S. Gabreski Joe McKeon.
On December 7, 1941 Welch had only two hours sleep because he was at a party the night before in Waikiki then played a game of poker into the early morning hour. Welch had only fallen asleep two hours earlier when he was awaken at Wheeler Field by the sound of bomb exploding during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and Oahu. Welch phoned Haleiwa Field to request two P-40B Warhawks moved to that location for a
gunnery exercise be prepared for flight and drove in Taylor's car ten miles in Taylor's convertible Buick that was strafed three times by Japanese planes before arriving at Haleiwa Field.
The pair immediately took off from Haleiwa Field piloting P-40B Warhawk with only ammunition in the wing .30 caliber machine guns and intercepted Japanese planes claiming a D3A1 Val dive bombers over Ewa but was hit in the baggage compartment by defensive gunfire from the dive bombers and dove into clouds to escape. Realizing his plane was not seriously damaged, he made another attack and fired on another D3A1 Val dive bomber from behind but only had one machine gun working. In fact, one was only damaged and the other was damaged then shot down by Taylor. Afterwards, Welch landed at Wheeler Field.
Refueled and rearmed including .50 caliber ammunition for the nose guns the pair took off from Wheeler Field to continue attacking Japanese planes strafing the area and claimed a Zero shot down then another D3A1 Val behind Taylor. During the scrambles, his plane was hit by gunfire that hit the engine, propeller and cowling but managed to land safely.
Afterwards, Welch became on of the first heroes of World War II and was nominated for the Medal of Honor by General Henry H. Arnold, but instead earned the second highest award, the Distinguished Service Cross (DSC) for his actions. Afterwards, Welch toured the United States on a war bond drive. On May 25, 1942 Welch met U. S. President Franklin D.
Roosevelt at the White House and was photographed shaking hands.
South West Pacific Area
Welch was sent overseas to the South West Pacific Area (SWPA). In Australia, assigned to the 8th Fighter Group (8th FG), 36th Fighter Squadron (36th FS) flying the P-39 Airacobra. Assigned with P-39D-1 Airacobra "Miss Helen the Flying Jenny" 41-38359 code "K" flown on December 7, 1942. On December 7, 1942 he claimed two D3A Vals. Later, assigned to the 80th Fighter Squadron (80th FS) flying the P-38 Lightning. Assigned P-38G Lightning 43-2203 code "E" on the nacelle. He continued to fly combat missions over New Guinea and claimed 14 aerial victories.
In September 1943, he contracted malaria and was sent to Sydney for hospitalization and met his future wife. Afterwards, sent back to the United States and was based Winter Park Airfield near Orlando, Florida. During 1944 as he continued to recover from malaria, he began flying as a test pilot for fighter aircraft until the end of World War II.
World War II Aerial Victory Claims
Welch was officially credited with a total of sixteen aerial victories during World War II. His first four claims were on December 7, 1941 over Oahu flying the P-40B Warhawk. Between December 7, 1942 until September 2, 1943. he claimed twelve more victories in the South West Pacific Area (SWPA) over New Guinea flying the P-39 and P-38 Lightning.
||Notes on claim
||First aerial victory claim, dive bomber damaged returned to carrier.
||Second aerial victory claim.
||Third aerial victory claim.
||Fourth aerial victory claim.
||Fifth aerial victory claim, became an "ace".
||Sixth aerial victory claim.
||Seventh aerial victory claim.
||Eighth aerial victory claim flying P-38G Lightning with the 80
||Ninth aerial victory claim flying P-38G Lightning with the 80
||Tenth aerial victory claim flying P-38H 42-66578.
||Eleventh aerial victory claim flying P-38H 42-66578.
||Twelfth aerial victory claim flying P-38H 42-66578.
||Thirteenth aerial victory claim flying P-38H 43-2203 likely Ki-43 Oscar.
||Fourteenth aerial victory claim flying P-38H 43-2203 likely Ki-43 Oscar.
||Fifteenth aerial victory claim flying P-38H 43-2203 likely Ki-43 Oscar.
||Sixteenth aerial victory claim flying P-38H 43-2203.
In 36th FS he was assigned with P-39D-1 Airacobra "Miss Helen the Flying Jenny" 41-38359 code "K" flown on December 7, 1942.
In 80th FS assigned P-38G Lightning 43-2203 code "E" on the nacelle.
For his role on December 7, 1941 Welch earned the Distinguished Service Cross (DSC) the citation reads: "He immediately, on his own initiative, took
off ... armed only with 30-caliber machine guns. [When] he observed
a formation of approximately 12 planes ... he attacked and shot
down an enemy dive bomber with one burst from three guns. At this point
he discovered that one gun was jammed [and] his plane was hit by an incendiary
bullet, which passed through the baggage compartment just in rear of his seat." Welch
shot down another plane before he ran low on fuel". He also earned the Silver Star and Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) with two Oak Leaf Clusters.
Welch became the chief test pilot for North American
Aviation (NAA). He flew new aircraft including the like P-82B, P-82E
and F-86. On October 1, 1947 flying the XP-86 Sabre prototype over the desert in California and claimed he broke the sound barrier flying at Mach 1 several weeks before Chuck Yeager. This claim was not supported by airspeed, Mach number, pressure and temperature data. He continued to work for NAA until killed in a jet crash at age 36 in 1954.
Killed in Jet Crash
October 12 1954, Welch took off piloting the YF-100A Super Sabre prototype that disintegrated during a test flight when he pulled up from a steep Mach 1 dive at 20,000' unknown
phenomenon of dynamic yaw-coupling in which control surfaces
are insufficient in the control of the aircraft at an angle of attack coupled with
stalling behavior whilst pulling out of a supersonic dive. Welch was killed when he ejected over Kern County, California.
On November 12, 1954 Welch was buried at Arlington National Cemetery at section 6, grave 8578-D.
During 1962, the George S. Welch Elementary School was named in his honor at Dover Air Force Base (Dover AFB).
Welch was inducted into the
Delaware Aviation Hall of Fame.
A painting of Welch by Peter Hurd hangs in the Legislative
The Delaware Medal of Honor Historical Association launched a
petition drive to make him the 15th Delawarean so honored. (WWII Pilot George
Welch Merits Medal).
In Tora! Tora! Tora! (1970) Welch is portrayed by actor Rick Cooper. A replica P-40B Warhawk used as a movie prop was painted in the markings of Welsh's aircraft on December 7, 1941 white fuselage code 160 with tail code 81 15P. This replica was refurbished by soldiers from B Company, 209th Aviation Support Battalion displayed at Wheeler Field in 2008.
Jolyon C.B. "Jay" Welch (son passed away 2016)
Giles Welch (son)
Hall of Balor - George Schwartz Welch (DFC Citation, DSC citation, DFC citation)
Franklin D. Roosvelt Day by Day - May 25th, 1942
"Lt. George S. Welch, Sen. James H. Hughes (DE), Sen. James M. Tunnel (DE), Rep. Phillip A. Traynor (DE), Mr. and Mrs. George."
Delaware Online "WWII Pilot George Welch Merits Medal via Wayback Machine" November 26, 2001
Aces Wild: The Race for Mach 1 (1998) by Al Blackburn
Air & Space "The Mach 1 Whodunit" By Linda Shiner September 2014
FindAGrave - George Welch (photo, grave photo)
Arlington National Cemetery ANC Explorer - George S. Welch (grave photo)
AcePilots.com George Welch - Pearl Harbor Hero via Wayback Machine October 4, 2006
The Amazing George Welch: Part One The Tiger of Pearl Harbor by Jolyon C.B. Welch (son) via Wayback Machine January 5, 2010
The Amazing George Welch: Part Two First Through the Sonic Wall by Jolyon C.B. Welch (son) via Wayback Machine August 4, 2009
Major George Schwartz "Wheaties" Welch USAAF // Chief Test Pilot, North American Aviation (1947-1954) by Jolyon C.B. Welch (son) via Wayback Machine May 27, 2009
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