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First Name: Philip

Last Name: Rasmussen

Birthplace: Boston, MA, USA

Gender: Male

Branch: Air Force (1947 - present)

Middle Name: M.

Date of Birth: 11 May 1918

Date of Death: 30 April 2005

Rank: Lieutenant Colonel

Years Served:
Philip M. Rasmussen

•  World War II (1941 - 1945)


Philip M. Rasmussen
Lieutenant Colonel, U.S. Air Force

Philip M. Rasmussen was born on 11 May 1918 in Boston, MA.

On 7 December 1941, Rasmussen was a U.S. Army Air Corps Second Lieutenant assigned to the 46th Pursuit Squadron at Wheeler Airfield, during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, HI. That morning Rasmussen had awakened in his barracks and, looking out a window, saw a group of Japanese airplanes dropping bombs on the field. He strapped his .45 caliber pistol to the outside of his pajamas and ran to get an airplane.

Most of the planes were destroyed, but Lt. Rasmussen found an unscathed P-36 Hawk and taxied it to a revetment where he had it loaded with ammunition. During a lull in the bombing, he took off with three other pilots. They received orders by radio to fly to Kaneohe Bay on the northeast side of the Island.

The American pilots subsequently engaged 11 Japanese aircraft. Despite having a jammed .30 caliber gun and only limited capability with his .50 caliber gun, Lt. Rasmussen managed to shoot down a Mitsubishi A6M Zero. Several other Japanese pilots attacked, including one who apparently tried to ram him. (The Japanese pilot, Iyozo Fujita, returned to the aircraft carrier, Soryu, and survived the war.)

Rasmussen's plane was badly damaged and fell into an uncontrolled plunge into the clouds over the mountainous terrain. After passing through the clouds at about 5,000 feet he regained control of the aircraft and returned to Wheeler Field, where he landed with no brakes, rudder, or tailwheel. Oral accounts of the number of bullet holes in the plane vary, but most give a figure of about 500.

He went on to fly many combat missions, shooting down other Japanese planes and a bombing mission over Japan that earned him the Distinguished Flying Cross. He stayed in the military and retired as a U.S. Air Force Lieutenant Colonel in 1965.

Medals and Awards

Silver Star Medal (2 Awards)
Distinguished Flying Cross
Airman's Medal (4 Awards)


His character has been portrayed in many films including "Tora, Tora, Tora" (1970) and "Pearl Harbor" (2001).

The opening exhibit of the World War II exhibition at the U.S. Air Force National Museum at Wright-Patterson AFB near Dayton, OH, features a mannequin of a pajama-clad pilot climbing into a P-36 Hawk. The exhibit details Lt. Rasmussen's exploits that day and is informally titled "The Pajama Pilot."

Death and Burial

Lieutenant Colonel Philip M. Rasmussen died on 30 April 2005 in Ft. Myers, FL. He is buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, VA.

Honoree ID: 2987   Created by: MHOH




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