Col. Neel E. Kearby
U. S. Army Air Force, 348th Fighter Group, 342nd Fighter Squadron
P-47 Tunderbolt Pilot
Neel E. Kearby was born in Wichita Falls, Texas.
Kearby was Commanding Officer (C. O.) of the 348th Fighter Group operating the P-47D Thunderbolt. Embracing the new fighter, he and his pilots developed new tactics to utilize its diving
speed and other strengths against the Japanese.
Kearby named the four P-47D Thunderbolts assigned to him "Firey Ginger" including: P-47D "Firey Ginger" 42-8145 pilot Ness MIA October 22, 1944, P-47D "Fiery Ginger II" serial number and fate unknown, P-47D "Fiery Ginger III" 42-75908 transfered to 58th Fighter Group and P-47D "Fiery Ginger IV" 42-22668 flown on Kearby's final mission when he went Missing In Action.
In total, Kearby was credited with 22 aerial victories.
Generals MacArthur and Kenney recommended Kearby for the Medal of Honor for his role in the October 11, 1943 mission over Wewak. Presented by MacArthur early in January 1944, Kearby had 19 confirmed victories and was tied with Richard Bong as the leading American fighter pilots at the time.
|Medal of Honor 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."
Missing In Action
On March 5, 1944 he was
down over Wewak piloting P-47D "Fiery Ginger IV" 42-22668. When he failed to return, Kearby was officially declared Missing In Action (MIA) until his remains were recovered in 1946. After his remains were recovered, he was transported to the United States for permanent burial.
On June 16, 1949 Kearby was buried at Hillcrest Memorial Park, Dallas Texas at Garden Of Devotion Block 13 Lot 19 Space 7 & 8. He is also memorialized on a plaque for Congressional Medal of Honor
recipients at Cape Wom Memorial Park near Wewak.
Mustang and Thunderbolt Aces of the Pacific and CBI mentions Kearby
Kearby's Thunderbolts The 348th Fighter Group in World War II mentions Kearby