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First Name: Harry

Last Name: Corl

Birthplace: Lambertville, Monroe, MI, US

Gender: Male

Branch: Navy (present)


Home of Record: MI
Middle Name: Lee

Date of Birth: 26 March 1914

Date of Death: 25 August 1943 (Presumed)

MIA Date: 25 August 1942

Rank or Rate: Ensign

Years Served: 1934-1938, 1939-1943

•  World War II (1941 - 1945)


Harry Lee Corl

Ensign, United States Navy

Navy Cross

Harry was the son William Lloyd and Mildred Ida “Millie” Sessions Corl who married 23 Jun 1898 in Lambertville, Monroe, MI. His eleven siblings were Mildred I., Arthur L., Martha Marion, Marie Anna , Orcile, Kinsey E., Orren Ray, a daughter still-born, Ervin, Edwin Charles and a still-born son Corl. Harry’s mother died unexpectedly during child birth on 23 Jun 1919. The child was still-born. Several years later, William lost his farm. There was an anthrax scare and the government killed all the cattle, even the milk cows, on the family farm. The bank called in the farm loan causing his family to be homeless. The children were scattered or quickly married.

Harry secured his father’s permission to enlist in the US Navy which he did on 20 Nov 1934. He served his four year enlistment and was discharged in 1938. Reentered the US Navy (NSN: 311 10 83) on 13 Jan 1939 in Cleveland, OH. Aviation Machinist Mate Third Class (AMM3) Corl transferred from the Naval Receiving Station, Cleveland, OH to the Naval Air Station (NAS), NOB, Norfolk on the same day. Several weeks later on 30 Jan 1939, he voluntarily executed an agreement to extend his enlistment for 4 yrs for flight instruction at NAS Pensacola. AMM3 Corl received orders to transfer to NAS Pensacola, FL for flight training on 24 Mar 1939. He reported to NAS Pensacola on 27 Mar 1939 to begin flight training under instruction. As of 31 Dec 1939 Petty Officer Corl was still under flight instruction at NAS Pensacola. Petty Officer Corl was advanced in rate to Aviation Machinist Mate Second Class (AMM2) on 16 Feb 1940 while still assigned to NAS Pensacola. He received his Naval Aviation Pilot (NAP) designation effective 26 Feb 1940. He transferred to Torpedo Squadron Three (VT-3) embarked on the USS Saratoga (CV-3) for his first flight duty on 6 Mar 1940. On 21 Mar 1942, Corl was promoted to the temporary rank of Machinist Warrant Officer.

Saratoga was in a refit/overhaul status most of 1941, therefore, her attached squadrons, including VT-3, were based at several Naval Air Stations in Hawaii or the west coast. On 07 Dec 1941, Saratoga was entering San Diego to embark her air group, which were ashore while she was undergoing refit. Shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Saratoga became the flagship of an unsuccessful American effort to relieve Wake Island. A few weeks later on 11 Jan 1942 Saratoga was torpedoed by a Japanese submarine. She steamed to Pearl Harbor for temporary repairs arriving on 13 Jan 1942. She returned to the Bremerton Navy Yard for permanent repairs on 09 Feb 1942. During the yard period Saratoga's embarked squadrons were transferred elsewhere. VT-3 was assigned first to NAS Pearl Harbor at Ford Island then to NAS Kaneohe Bay on Hawaii.

On 28 May 1942, the squadron was temporarily reassigned to the aircraft carrier, USS Yorktown (CV-5). Aviation squadrons from Air Group Three and Five flew on board Yorktown shortly after she got underway from Pearl Harbor in company with the USS Hornet (CV-8) and USS Enterprise (CV-6). They steamed to a point on the navigation chart nicknamed "Point Luck" to await the arrival of the Japanese Striking Force which was steaming from Japan to attack Midway Island.

About a week later on 4 June 1942, MACH Harry Lee Corl and his gunner, ARM3 Lloyd F. Childers launched their torpedo plane from the flight deck of USS Yorktown (CV-5) with other elements of the Yorktown air group to attack the Japanese Striking Forces approaching Midway. Although they had some friendly fighter protection enroute to their targets VT-3 had to thread their way through a gauntlet of swarming enemy fighters and a hail of anti-aircraft fire. His was only one of two VT-3 aircraft to survive the torpedo attack on the Japanese carrier Striking Force on 4 Jun 1942. Ten planes did not return. Although the two torpedo bombers survived the attack they were forced to ditch in the Pacific when they ran out of fuel on the way back to their carrier. Warrant Officer Corl was awarded the Navy Cross for his actions on 4 Jun 1942.

After the Battle of Midway, Warrant Officer Corl was transferred to the USS Enterprise (CV-6) on 8 Jun 1942. A week later on 15 Jun 1942 he was promoted to the temporary rank of Ensign with a date of permanent appointment of 23 July 1942. In August 1942, Corl, flying with Torpedo Squadron Three (VT-3) from USS Enterprise (CV-6), was the pilot of a TBF-1 Avenger torpedo bomber during the Battle of the Eastern Solomons.

On 24 August 1942, he was flying a search mission near the Solomon Islands when he and another pilot spotted the Japanese heavy cruiser Tone. As they began an attack on her, two Japanese Zero fighters attacked the American torpedo planes, and were quickly joined by a third Zero. Under attack by two of the Japanese fighters, Corl's Avenger was shot down. Corl and a gunner, AOM2 Thomas R Townsend (NSN:2387067) were killed in action. His radioman/turret gunner, Radioman Third Class Delmar D. Wiley, survived and, after 15 days in a life raft and months spent on islands behind Japanese lines, was rescued on 11 April 1943 by a PBY Catalina piloted by Robert B. Hays from VP-44. Corl, Townsend and Wiley were declared missing in action on 24 Aug 1942. Corl and Townsend were presumed dead on 25 August 1943.

Ensign Corl was awarded the Navy Cross. The following medals were awarded Posthumously: Purple Heart, Presidential Unit Citation and ribbon, American Defense Service Medal, American Campaign Medal, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with 2 bronze battle stars, and the World War II Victory medal. He may have earned the good conduct medal previously.

The President of the United States of America takes pleasure in presenting the Navy Cross to Harry Lee Corl, Machinist, United States Navy, for extraordinary heroism in operations against the enemy while serving as Pilot of a carrier-based Navy Torpedo Plane of Torpedo Squadron THREE, attached to the U.S.S. YORKTOWN, during the "Air Battle of Midway," against enemy Japanese forces on 4 June 1942. During participation in a Torpedo Plane assault on Japanese naval units, Machinist Corl, observing his Squadron Commander crash in flames, gallantly took the lead of the squadron and pressed home the attack to a point where it became relatively certain that the successful accomplishment of his mission would entail a great loss of life. Nevertheless, by his courageous initiative and aggressive leadership, he enabled his squadron to reach its objective and score several hits on enemy aircraft carriers. His loyal devotion to duty and utter disregard of personal safety contributed materially to the success of our forces and were in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.

General Orders: Bureau of Naval Personnel Information Bulletin No. 309 (December 1942)

Named in his honor the USS Harry L. Corl (originally designated DE-598) then redesignated a Crosley Class High Speed Transport (APD-108). Launched 1 March 1944 from the Bethlehem-Hingham Shipyard Co., Hingham, MA. Commissioned on 5 Jun 1945 and assigned to the Asiatic-Pacific Theater. Decommissioned 21 June 1946 and struck from the Naval Register of ships on 15 Jan 1966. Sold to South Korea. broken up for scrap in 1984.

Honoree ID: 131264   Created by: MHOH




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