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First Name: Neel

Last Name: Kearby

Birthplace: Wichita Falls, TX, USA

Gender: Male

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

Middle Name: Ernest

Date of Birth: 05 June 1911

Date of Death: 05 March 1944

Rank: Colonel

Years Served: 1936 - 1944
Neel Ernest Kearby

•  World War II (1941 - 1945)


Neel Ernest Kearby
Colonel, U.S. Army Air Forces
Medal of Honor Recipient
World War II

Colonel Neel Ernest Kearby was a U.S. Army Air Forces officer and fighter pilot who was posthumously awarded the U.S. military's highest award for valor, the Medal of Honor, for his heroic actions during World War II.

Kearby was born on 5 June 1911 in Wichita Falls, TX, and graduated from the University of Texas at Arlington (known then as North Texas Agricultural College) in 1936. He received flight training at Randolph and Kelly Air Force Bases in TX.

By March 1944, Kearby had 22 kills to his credit. On 5 March 1944, Kearby and two other pilots attacked a formation of 15 Japanese aircraft near Wewak. After shooting down one of the aircraft, Kearby himself was shot down by a Japanese Army Air Force Nakajima Ki-43 Hayabusa fighter. The P-47 crashed into the jungle below. Kearby escaped by parachute, but died of his wounds. Colonel Kearby, commanding officer of the 348th Fighter Group, was the only U.S. fighter pilot to be awarded the Medal of Honor for actions while flying the P-47.

Medal of Honor

Rank and organization: Colonel, U.S. Army Air Corps.

Place and date: Near Wewak, New Guinea, 11 October 1943.

Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty in action with the enemy, Col. Kearby volunteered to lead a flight of 4 fighters to reconnoiter the strongly defended enemy base at Wewak. Having observed enemy installations and reinforcements at 4 airfields, and secured important tactical information, he saw an enemy fighter below him, made a diving attack and shot it down in flames. The small formation then sighted approximately 12 enemy bombers accompanied by 36 fighters. Although his mission had been completed, his fuel was running low, and the numerical odds were 12 to 1, he gave the signal to attack. Diving into the midst of the enemy airplanes he shot down 3 in quick succession. Observing 1 of his comrades with 2 enemy fighters in pursuit, he destroyed both enemy aircraft. The enemy broke off in large numbers to make a multiple attack on his airplane but despite his peril he made one more pass before seeking cloud protection. Coming into the clear, he called his flight together and led them to a friendly base. Col. Kearby brought down 6 enemy aircraft in this action, undertaken with superb daring after his mission was completed.

Death and Burial

Colonel Neel Ernest Kearby died of wounds from an airplane crash on 5 March 1944. He is buried at Sparkman Hillcrest Memorial Park in Dallas, TX, in the Garden Of Devotion, Block 13, Lot 19, Spaces 7 & 8.

Honoree ID: 81   Created by: MHOH




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