Uncommon Valor part three: Maj. Horace Carswell

Maj. Horace Carswell, Medal of Honor recipient who trained at Goodfellow Field, Texas. (Courtesy photo)

Maj. Horace Carswell, Medal of Honor recipient who trained at Goodfellow Field, Texas. (Courtesy photo)

GOODFELLOW AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- While Medal of Honor recipients are often thought of as heroes who risked or sacrificed their lives valiantly for the battle to be won, the ranks of Medal of Honor recipients are also filled with heroes who sacrificed their lives in order to save the lives of others.

One of these brave men was Maj. Horace Carswell, who stayed with his crashing B-24 Liberator instead of bailing out with most of his crew in order to attempt a landing which would have saved the life of his bombardier, whose parachute had been destroyed.

Horace Carswell was born in Fort Worth, Texas, and graduated from Texas Christian University in 1939. He enlisted in the United States Army Air Forces in 1940, and was assigned to Goodfellow Field as a flying cadet. While in San Angelo, Cadet Carswell married his college sweetheart, Virginia Ede, and was commissioned in November, 1940.

After several years as a flight instructor at Davis Monthan Field, Ariz., and Biggs Field, Texas, now-Maj. Carswell was assigned to the 356th Bomb Squadron at Clovis Army Air Field, N.M. He was then transferred to the 302nd Bomb Group, and then to Langley Field, Va., before being assigned to the 308th Bomb Group in the Asiatic Pacific Theater in April, 1944.

Major Carswell's citation reads:

"He piloted a B-24 bomber in a one-plane strike against a Japanese convoy in the South China Sea on the night of 26 October 1944. Taking the enemy force of 12 ships escorted by at least 2 destroyers by surprise, he made 1 bombing run at 600 feet, scoring a near miss on 1 warship and escaping without drawing fire. He circled. and fully realizing that the convoy was thoroughly alerted and would meet his next attack with a barrage of antiaircraft fire, began a second low-level run which culminated in 2 direct hits on a large tanker. A hail of steel from Japanese guns, riddled the bomber, knocking out 2 engines, damaging a third, crippling the hydraulic system, puncturing 1 gasoline tank, ripping uncounted holes in the aircraft, and wounding the copilot; but by magnificent display of flying skill, Maj. Carswell controlled the plane's plunge toward the sea and carefully forced it into a halting climb in the direction of the China shore. On reaching land, where it would have been possible to abandon the staggering bomber, one of the crew discovered that his parachute had been ripped by flak and rendered useless; the pilot, hoping to cross mountainous terrain and reach a base, continued onward until the third engine failed. He ordered the crew to bail out while he struggled to maintain altitude, and, refusing to save himself, chose to remain with his comrade and attempt a crash landing. He died when the airplane struck a mountainside and burned. With consummate gallantry and intrepidity, Maj. Carswell gave his life in a supreme effort to save all members of his crew. His sacrifice, far beyond that required of him, was in keeping with the traditional bravery of America's war heroes."

In Maj. Carswell's hometown, Carswell Air Force Base was named after him (It has since become part of Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base Fort Worth). On Goodfellow, the Carswell Field House is named in his honor.

(This article is the third in a series on Medal of Honor recipients from San Angelo)