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Tribute to My Dad, Major George Schwartz Welch, USAAF(ret.)
Saturday, 14 November 2009

WWII Pilot George Welch Merits Medal - By Harry F. Themal (11/26/01)

Adm. Husband E. Kimmel and Gen. Walter C. Short aren't the only survivors of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor 60 ears ago to be wronged by the military establishment. The two commanding officers were denied promotion to a permanent higher rank when they retired, and it's now up to President Bush to right that wrong. Wilmington native 2nd Lt. George S. Welch, USAAC (5'7"-135lbs. @age 23 yrs.), America's first World War II hero, mysteriously failed to get a deserved Medal of Honor after he was one of the few pilots able to take off and battle the Japanese air fleet bombing our Hawaiian military installations on Dec. 7, 1941. The night before the attack "Wheaties" Welch and pilot Ken Taylor had partied and gotten just two hours' sleep when they heard bombs explode. They drove in Taylor's car under enemy fire to their P-40 fighter planes 10 miles away at Haleiwa Field. As described in Welch's citation for his Distinguished Service Cross: "He immediately, on his own initiative, took off ... armed only with 30-caliber machine guns. [When] he observed a formation of approximately 12 planes ... he attacked and shot down an enemy dive bomber with one burst from three guns. At this point he discovered that one gun was jammed [and] his plane was hit by an incendiary bullet, which passed through the baggage compartment just in rear of his seat." Welch shot down another plane before he ran low on fuel. He landed at Wheeler Field to refuel and replenish his ammunition, then "immediately took off, headed straight into the attack [of a second wave of 15 planes] to the assistance of a brother officer who was being attacked from the rear." Welch shot down at least four planes that day even though his plane had "bullets striking his motor, propeller and cowling." Old excuses Two excuses are cited for Welch not getting the Medal of Honor. One is that Gen. Hap Arnold, head of the Army Air Corps, thought Welch deserved it but was overruled by a commander who said Welch and Taylor had taken off without orders. Another is that President Franklin Delano Roosevelt wanted an instant hero to cheer the nation, and it would have taken too long for Congress to act. A photo of FDR honoring Welch in the White House was widely circulated. In 348 Pacific Theater missions, Welch shot down at least 16 planes and won many other decorations. His war career ended in September 1943 when he got malaria and was sent to a hospital in Sydney, Australia, where he met his future wife. Welch became a test pilot. Aviation experts confirm that in dives in an experimental plane over California desert in October 1947, Welch became the first pilot to break the sound barrier. He was again acting on his own, several weeks before Chuck Yeager was supposed to break Mach 1. Welch was killed in October 1954 when his YF-100A disintegrated in a test flight. Welch was a graduate of St. Andrew's School in Middletown and attended Purdue University (Engineering: Phi Delta Upsilon Fraternity) before enlisting in 1939.Randolph and Kelley USAAC Fields, TX and Hamilton Field, CA. His parents, Mr. and Mrs. George L. Schwartz, lived at 906 Blackshire road in the Westover Hills area of Wilmington, DE. They changed the name of their two sons to Welch, Mrs. Schwartz's maiden name, because they sensed anti-German feelings after World War I. Welch's sons, Giles and Jolyon, live in California. Maj. Welch has not been forgotten here. George S. Welch Elementary School on the Dover, DE (USAF) Air Force Base was named in his honor by the Caesar Rodney School District in 1962. He was recently inducted into the Delaware Aviation Hall of Fame. His portrait, painted during the war by Peter Hurd, hangs in Legislative Hall. Delaware's congressional delegation should lead the effort to honor Welch posthumously as one of our country's great war heroes. The Delaware Medal of Honor Historical Association has launched a petition drive to make him the 15th Delawarean so honored. (WWII Pilot George Welch Merits Medal)

History, Legend and Myth: Hollywood and the Medal of Honor by Raymond J. Castagnaro and Lyle F. Padilla

So few US pilots managed to get airborne during Japanese attack against Pearl Harbor. George "Wheaties" Welch was not only lucky enough to climb with a P-40B, but skilled enough to down four aggressors during that day of infamy. This famous action was only a brilliant start of an outstanding flyer's career. Exactly a year after Pearl Harbor Wheaties took heavy toll on Japanese aircraft again. This time he was flying controversial rear engined Bell P-39 Airacobra with 8th Fighter Group and shot down three enemy planes over New Guinea. As an outstanding ace he was allowed to move from P-39 equipped 36th FS to 80th FS flying new twin- engined Lockheed P-38 Lightning fighters. Just three further combats in summer of 1943 sufficed to rise his score to sixteen confirmed victories. Immediately afterwards Welch was moved to the AFB in Winter Park (Orlando), FL; recovering from malaria and then he was ordered by the USAAF to test new fighters for North American Aviation. Wheaties did maiden flights for such aircraft like P-82B, P-82E and F-86. Sadly his test-pilot career showed to be more risky than aerial combat. On October 12th 1954 was killed during the ejection from a disintegrating USAF jet fighter Experimental prototype YF-100A SuperSabre while pulling up from a steep Mach 1 dive at 20,000 feet due to a before unknown phenomenon of dynamic yaw-coupling in which control surfaces are insufficient in the control of the aircraft at an angle of attack coupled with stalling behavior whilst pulling out of a supersonic dive.
It can be argued that George S. Welch was cheated out of the Medal of Honor on two occasions, one of his acts of valor being depicted on film: "Tora_Tora_Tora" 1971 Welch was assigned to the 47th Fighter Squadron, 18th Fighter Group flying "Suzy" a Curtis P-40 Kittyhawk at Wheeler Field, near Pearl Harbor, Hawaii in 1941.
Fellow fighter pilots of the 18th Group,stationed in 1941 Hawaii WWII ETO pilots: Francis S. Gabreski of PA and Col. Joe McKeon P-51 Mustang pilot of New York, NY (now resides near March AFB in Redlands, CA)(who would later go on to become the top American Ace in the European Theater in World War II P-47 Thunderbolt(died in 2002) described him. "He was a rich kid, heir to the grape juice family, and we couldn't figure out why he was there since he probably could have avoided military service altogether if he wanted to." Many Japanese military aviators would regret that he hadn't. In the beginning of December, 1941, Welch and 2nd Lt. Kenneth Taylor had moved their P-40s away from the main airfield at Wheeler to a nearby auxiliary field at Haleiwa as part of a gunnery exercise. The vast majority of Army Air Force fighters at Wheeler were parked in neat rows on the main flightline; although war with Japan appeared imminent, it was decided that the possibility of sabotage from the ground presented a greater threat than a potential air attack, and it was easier to guard them while parked in neat rows than dispersed on the airfield perimeter. Thus when the Japanese carrier-based sneak attack against Pearl Harbor and Wheeler and Hickam Fields came on the morning of December 7, 1941, the majority of the Army Air Force fighter force was easily destroyed on the ground, several of them when the first P-40 pilot attempting to take off to fight was hit and killed on his takeoff roll and his fighter went crashing down the flightline at Wheeler. That Sunday morning Welch and Taylor were just leaving an all-night black tie affair at Wheeler Field, Hawaii. As they stood outside an army barracks watching the tropical dawn grow brighter, neither had any idea of the momentous event which was about to change their - lives. Welch was saying that instead of going to sleep, he wanted to drive back to their own base at nearby Haleiwa Field for a nice Sunday morning swim. Suddenly the Japanese swooped down on Wheeler Field, which was a center for fighter operations in Hawaii. Dive bombers seemed to appear out of nowhere. Violent explosions upended the parked planes, and buildings began to burn. Welch ran for a telephone and called Haleiwa as bullets sprayed around him. "Get two P-40s ready!" he yelled. "It's not a gag--the Japs are here." The drive up to Haleiwa was a wild one in a convertible coupe. Japanese Zeros strafed Welch and Taylor three times. When the two fliers careened onto their field nine minutes later, their fighter planes were already armed and the propellers were turning over. Without waiting for orders they took off. As they climbed for altitude they ran into twelve Japanese Val dive bombers over the Marine air base at Ewa. Welch and Taylor began their attack immediately. on their first pass, machine guns blazing, each shot down a bomber. As Taylor zoomed up and over in his Tomahawk, he saw an enemy bomber heading out to sea. He gave his P-40 full throttle and roared after it. Again his aim was good and the Val broke up before his eyes. In the meantime Welch's plane had been hit and he dived into a protective cloud bank. The damage didn't seem too serious so he flew out again--only to find himself on the tail of another Val. With only one gun now working he nevertheless managed to send the bomber flaming into the sea. Both pilots now vectored toward burning Wheeler Field for more ammunition and gas. Unfortunately the extra cartridge belts for the P-40s were in a hangar which was on fire. Two mechanics ran bravely into the dangerous inferno and returned with the ammunition. The Japanese were just beginning a second strafing of the field as Welch and Taylor hauled their P-40s into the air again. They headed directly into the enemy planes, all guns firing. This time Ken Taylor was hit in the arm, and then a Val closed in behind him. Welch kicked his rudder and the Tomahawk whipped around and blasted the Val, though his own plane had been hit once more. Taylor had to land, but George Welch shot down still another bomber near Ewa before he returned. Perhaps twenty American fighter planes managed to get into the air that morning--including five obsolete Republic P-35s. Most of them were shot down, but their bravery and initiative accounted for six victories in the one-sided aerial battle Welch was nominated for the Medal of Honor for his actions on Pearl Harbor Day, and the Air Force Chief, General Henry H. Arnold was reportedly anxious to receive the nomination. Unfortunately for Welch, the intermediate chain of command, their pride evidently smarting from having been caught off guard and suffering the evastation they did, reasoned absurdly that Welch had taken off without proper authorization and could therefore not be awarded the nation's highest military award; the award was downgraded to a Distinguished Service Cross. Welch remained in the Pacific Theater of Operations and went on to score 12 more kills against Japanese aircraft (16 in total). After the war, he became the Chief Test Pilot for North American Aviation, makers of a long line of successful fighters that began with the P-51 Mustang, generally recognized as the best fighter of any air force in World War II. Welch began testing the prototype P-86 (later redesignated F-86) Sabre, a new jet fighter which combined the aerodynamic advances of the propeller-driven Mustang with the lessons of swept-wing research the Germans had developed for their jet aircraft toward the end of the war.
Raymond J. Castagnaro and Lyle F. Padilla (History, Legend and Myth: Hollywood and the Medal of Honor)

Major George S. Welch's, USAAF WWII - PTO 5th AF 1941-1943 Aerial Combat Victory Chart:

Victory Date Time IJN A/C A/C flown - (s/n) Unit Victory placement
1.) 12/07/41 08:15+ dive bomber P-40B 47 PS Ewa, Oahu - Territory of Hawaii
2.) 12/07/41 08:15+ bomber P-40B 47 PS off Barbers Pt., Oahu
3.) 12/07/41 09:00+ Zero P-40B 47 PS Wahlawa - Haleiwa
4.) 12/07/41 09:10+ Val P-40B 47 PS 5m off Ewa, Oahu

5.) 12/07/42 11:20 Val P-39D-1 41-38359 36 FS 10-15m NE of Buna, New Guinea
6.) 12/07/42 11:25 Val P-39D-1 41-38359 36 FS 6m NE of Buna, New Guinea
7.) 12/07/42 11:50 Zero P-39D-1 41-38359 36 FS 10-12m E of Buna, New Guinea

8.) 06/21/43 11:15 Zeke P-38G 80 FS over Lae, New Guinea
9.) 06/21/43 11:15 Zeke (2) P-38G 80 FS over Lae and Salamua, New Guinea

10.) 08/20/43 11:00 Tony P-38H-1 42-66578 80 FS Wewak, New Guinea
11.) 08/20/43 11:00 Tony P-38H-1 42-66578 80 FS behind Wewak, New Guinea
12.) 08/20/43 11:00 Tony P-38H-1 42-66578 80 FS E of Wewak Pt., New Guinea

13.) 09/02/43 10:00 Zeke P-38G-15 43-2203 8 FG over Wewak, New Guinea
14.) 09/02/43 10:00 Zeke P-38G-15 43-2203 8 FG over Wewak, New Guinea
15.) 09/02/43 10:00 Zeke P-38G-15 43-2203 8 FG Wewak Bay, New Guinea
16.) 09/02/43 10:45 Dinah P-38G-15 43-2203 8 FG N of Madang , New Guinea

Showing defense of Pearl Harbor, T.H., New Guinea and Australia actions) In 8th FG he was assigned with P-39D-1 s/n 41-38359 "K" nicknamed: "Miss Helen the Flying Jenny". He used this plane to score his triple kill during first anniversary of Pear Harbor. After his move to 80th FS he was assigned with P-38G-15 s/n 43-2203 (Large white "E" painted on nacelle) (Planes and Pilots of WWII) (The Tiger of Pearl Harbor) (Breaking the Sonic Wall) (AcesWild: The Race to Mach 1 by Al Blackburn, SR Books 1999) (Major George S. Welch) (Delaware Medal of Honor Historical Association: Paul Cathell, President) (David Aiken: <>) (Pearl Harbor Historical Association) (Don "Bucky" Dawson - Ketchikan AK aviation artist (Gen. Kenneth Taylor Air National Guard, Anchorage, AK and Pearl Harbor historian) (USAF 80th Fighter Squadron - WWII - PTO)


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Posted by jaywelch70 at 7:26 PM PST
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Major George Schwartz Welch, USAAF(ret.)
Tribute to My Dad

Major George Schwartz "Wheaties" Welch USAAF // Chief Test Pilot, North American Aviation (1947-1954)
Americas First Heroes of WWII - Pearl Harbor,T.H. Dec. 7, 1941: Defense of Oahu 4+ Victories in 2 sorties of Air Combat // 14 Victories in 4 Air Battles - New Guinea PTO WWII Ace // (NB: Actually the first pilot to fly @Mach_1 on maiden Flight of NAA XP-86 in a supersonic dive on Oct. 1, 1947)

Posted by jaywelch70 at 7:22 PM PST
Updated: Saturday, 14 November 2009 7:26 PM PST
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