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First Name: Damon

Last Name: Gause

Birthplace: Fort Valley, GA, USA

Gender: Male

Branch: U.S. Army Air Forces (1941 - 1947)

Home of Record: Jefferson, GA
Middle Name: Jesse

Date of Birth: 17 June 1915

Date of Death: 09 March 1944

Rank: Major

Years Served:
Damon Jesse Gause

•  World War II (1941 - 1945)


Damon Jesse Gause
Major, U.S. Army Air Forces

Damon Jesse Gause was born on 17 June 1915 at Fort Valley, GA, the son of Duff Adolph and Jescyne W. Gause. Damon graduated from Martin Institute High School and then attended the University of Georgia. He left the University of Georgia after one year to join the United States Coast Guard.

Gause was assigned to the USCG Cutter Argo (WPC-100) as radioman and spent 3 years in the Coast Guard. He then joined the U.S. Army Air Corps, served in Panama and, after 3 years of service in the USAAC, left to work in the oil fields in Colombia for the Texaco Oil Company. In 1939, Gause returned to Georgia.

In 1941, Gause re-enlisted in the Army Air Corps and qualified for the Aviation Cadet Program at Kelly Field, TX. He completed training and was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant with the rating of Pilot. 2LT Gause was then assigned to the 27th Bombardment Group at Savannah, GA, where he was trained to fly the single-engine A-24 Banshee Dive Bomber/Reconnaissance Aircraft. [This plane was the Air Corps version of the Navy's SBD Dauntless Dive Bombers with a few changes to meet the USAAC's particular needs.]

The 27th Bomb Group was reassigned to the Philippine Islands in late November 1941, arriving shortly before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. When American forces abandoned Manila, he went with them to Bataan where he was given command of a machine gun company. When Bataan surrendered, he was taken to a Japanese POW camp, where he escaped after killing a guard, and swam to the American-held island of Corregidor. When Corregidor fell to the Japanese on 6 May 1942, Gause and a fellow Filipino pilot swam for the Luzon shore, 6 miles away. Only Gause made it and, with the aid of Filipino natives, he continued his escape. Joining another American, Captain William Lloyd Osborne, the 2 men stole a boat from the Japanese and sailed 3,200 miles to Australia.

In April 1942, then-First Lieutenant Damon Jesse Gause was serving with the 17th Squadron, 27th Bombardment Group, in the Philippines.

During the period 9 April to 11 October 1942, 1LT Gause’s unit was in action against Japanese forces in the Philippine Islands following the surrender at Bataan. 1LT Gause escaped captivity and, together with Army Captain William Osborne, located a 22-foot sailboat with a diesel engine and tattered sails. With no charts or navigation equipment and very little fuel, the 2 men sailed south in the boat they named "Ruth-Lee" after their wives. Sailing south while evading enemy patrols and despite one strafing run by an enemy aircraft, the 2 men neared Australia where they were rescued. 1LT Gause's personal courage and extraordinary dedication to duty during that time earned him the U.S. Army's second highest award for valor, the Distinguished Service Cross.

After a year of promoting war bonds and being hailed as a hero, Gause volunteered to return to active service at the front lines. So, in 1943 he was assigned to the 365th Fighter Group, known as the "Hell Hawks," in the Ninth Air Force in the European Theater of Operations and was shipped to England. Given P-47 Thunderbolt fighters, the pilots trained for low altitude dive-bombing missions in preparation for the upcoming Normandy Invasion.

On 13 February 1944, 1LT Harold B. Johnston took off from the base at Gosfield, Essex, England in a P-47 Thunderbolt for a test flight, and died when his plane crashed only 9 days before the first combat mission of the Hell Hawks and their P-47s. The combat mission occurred on 22 February 1944 with several groups taking part in an uneventful run to escort bombers. Colonel Lance Call led one group and another group was led by Major Rockford V. Gray, with Gause as his wingman. Other groups were led by Major Donald E. Hillman and Major William D. Ritchie. In preparation to support the Allied invasion of Europe, the Hell Hawks moved with the 365th Fighter Group to RAF Beaulieu, Hants, England on 5 March 1944. During a test flight on 9 March, Gause was killed when his P-47 crashed near Beaulieu, England. His death was non-battle related.

Medals, Awards and Badges

Distinguished Service Cross
Army Good Conduct Medal
American Defense Service Medal
American Campaign Medal
Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with Bronze Star
European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with Bronze Star
World War II Victory Medal
Army Air Force Pilot Badge

Distinguished Service Cross Citation (Synopsis)

The President of the United States takes pleasure in presenting the Distinguished Service Cross to Damon J. Gause (0-421599), First Lieutenant (Air Corps), U.S. Army Air Forces, for extraordinary heroism in connection with military operations against an armed enemy, in action against enemy forces in the Philippine Islands following the surrender at Bataan. Lieutenant Gause escaped captivity and together with Army Captain William Osborne and, during the period 9 April to 11 October 1942, located a 22-foot sailboat with a diesel engine and tattered sails. With no charts or navigation equipment, and little fuel, the two men sailed south in the ship they named "Ruth-Lee" after their wives. Continuing south, while evading enemy patrols and despite one strafing run by an enemy aircraft, the two men neared Australia where they were picked up and rescued. The personal courage and devotion to duty displayed by First Lieutenant Gause during this period have upheld the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit upon himself, the Far East Air Force, and the United States Army Air Forces.

Headquarters: South West Pacific Area, General Orders No. 44 (1942)


Major Damon Jesse Gause is buried at the Cambridge American Cemetery and Memorial in Coton, South Cambridgeshire District, Cambridgeshire, England, in Plot F, Row 3, Grave 85.

Honoree ID: 56863   Created by: MHOH




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