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Major Ralph Cheli
U.S. Army Air Force, 5th Air Force, 38th Bombardment Group, 405th Bombardment Squadron
B-25 Mitchell Pilot

Background
Born in San Francisco, CA.

Click For EnlargementWartime History
Cheli was the Commanding Officer (C. O.) of the 405th Bombardment Squadron, 38th Bombardment Group until he was lost. On August 18, 1943, Cheli piloted B-25D 41-30117 on the first low level strafing mission against Dagua Airfield. Shot down by enemy fighters and ditched off shore. Cheli survived and taken prisoner by the Japanese, later transported to Rabaul and executed at Tunnel Hill during March 3-4, 1944.

Posthumous Medal of Honor (August 18, 1943)
Medal of HonorCitation: "For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty in action with the enemy. While Maj. Cheli was leading his squadron in a dive to attack the heavily defended Dagua Airdrome, intercepting enemy aircraft centered their fire on his plane, causing it to burst into flames while still 2 miles from the objective. His speed would have enabled him to gain necessary altitude to parachute to safety, but this action would have resulted in his formation becoming disorganized and exposed to the enemy. Although a crash was inevitable, he courageously elected to continue leading the attack in his blazing plane. From a minimum altitude, the squadron made a devastating bombing and strafing attack on the target. The mission completed, Maj. Cheli instructed his wingman to lead the formation and crashed into the sea."

References
FindAGrave - MAJ Ralph Cheli (grave photo)

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