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Harl Pease


In March 1942 various plans were made to rescue General Douglas MacArthur and his family from the Philippines. The Japanese Navy had Corregidor surrounded, but MacArthur and his entourage managed to escape through their defences to Del Monte in a PT boat.


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Map of the Philippines


MacArthur and is party waited on a muddy airfield at Del Monte for three B-17C Flying Fortresses. These aircraft were the remnants of those that managed to escape from Clarke Field when the Japanese made a surprise attack. Eventually only two B-17 arrived. One of them developed hydraulic problems and had to be ground looped to stop it in time. This did not impress MacArthur, and he he was even less impressed when he saw the young pilot of the B-17, 1st Lt. Harl Pease, slide out of the forward hatch of the aircraft. MacArthur was reported to have muttered "He's only a boy".

MacArthur angrily rejected the aircraft as unsafe and departed the scene. Harl Pease later went on to posthumously win the Congressional Medal of Honour for his bravery. He was shot down in flames in a B-17E Flying Fortress, #41-2429 "Why Don't We Do This More Often", of the 19th Bomb Group, near the confluence of the Mavlo and Powell Rivers near Rabaul on 7 August 1942. He had finished his bombing run and had returned to the target to draw enemy fire away from other aircraft about to start their bombing run. His aircraft crashed into the jungle and the crew were buried by local missionaries. It was not until 1946, that their bodies were recovered for a full military burial.

A number of important officers and enlisted men were whisked out of the Phillipines in 5 submarines just before it was overrun by the Japanese.  The last submarine, the "Spearfish" captained by James Dempsey, left the Phillipines two days before it fell on 4 May.  Left behind on Corregidor were 173 officers, 2317 sailors and 4 nurses who all became prisoners of war.

"USS Seawolf" captained by Freddy Warder took 12 army pilots including Glenwood Stephenson and Jim McAfee of the 27th Bomb Group and 13 others who were delivered to Surabaya.

"USS Seadragon", captained by Peter Ferral, took 4 officers including Harl Pease and Pinky Hoevet, and 20 enlisted men of the 19th Bomb Group.

"USS Sargo", captained by Tyrrel Jacobs, took the Codebreakers with their Red and Purple Machines.

"USS Swordfish", captained by Chet Smith, made two trips.  One of the was to bring out President Quezon and the United States Ambassador Sayre and his wife.


(Reported missing in action)

AUG. 6-7, 1942: There were good reasons why Capt. Harl Pease Jr., might not have participated in the Rabaul mission: he was not scheduled to go; he had just returned from a gruelling attack on a Jap New Guinea base; his own plane was not fit to fly and the best replacement he could find for it had been declared unserviceable for combat.

Capt. Pease took off from Australia and joined his group at Port Moresby, New Guinea, starting point of the Rabaul mission. He had been flying continuously for almost a full day. Before they left, he snatched 3 hours' sleep.

Near Rabaul about 30 Zeros hopped his formation. For 25 minutes a violent battle was fought. Capt. Pease's airplane - the same that had been called unserviceable for combat the day before - was one of those which bore the brunt of Jap attack. Capt. Pease got through to the target (his gunners knocked down several Japs) and dropped his bombs.

On the way home his crippled airplane fell behind. When last seen, Capt. Pease's plane was dropping a flaming gas tank; the Japs were closing in.



Subject:   Harl
Date:           Wed, 1 Mar 2000 00:52:29 EST
From:          RKABART@aol.com

I have the ancestry of Harl Pease if interested. In short:

9th generation: Harl Pease Jr; b. Apr 10, 1917 Plymouth, NH; d. Oct 08, 1942 New Britain

8th generation: Harl Pease; b. Nov 17, 1878 in Ashland, NH; m. Dec 31, 1912 in Nashua, NH by Cyrus Richardson, to Bessie Fox; b. Jul 09, 1877 in Plymouth, NH.

7th generation: Benjamin Franklin Pease; b. Dec 26, 1845 in Meredith, NH; m. Nov 07, 1873 in Ashland, NH by Reverend J. M. Smith, to Mary Ellen Batchelder; b. Jan 02, 1855 in Bridgewater, NH.

6th generation: Robert Folsom Pease; b. Jun 18, 1814 in Meredith, NH; d. Nov 07, 1900 in Ashland, NH; m. Apr 07, 1841, Lorinda Ann Piper of Holderness, NH.

5th generation: Joseph Pease; b. Mar 10, 1774 in meredith, NH; d. May 04, 1862 in Meredith; m. Apr 11, 1796 in Meredith, Hannah Folsom; b. Jan 29, 1772; d. Apr 12, 1850 in Meredith.

4th generation: Benjamin, Pease; b. Aug 02, 1743 in Exeter, NH; d. Feb 26, 1802 in Meredith, NH; bur. with his second wife in the Pease lot on Oak Hill, which was near his house;m. (2) Apr 25, 1773, Rebecca Pike of Exeter; b. Jan 29, 1752; d. Dec 09, 1837.

3rd generation: Nathaniel Pease; b. 1690 in Edgartown, MA (posthumous if the first account of his father is true); bpt. in the Old South Church in Boston, MA; d. Oct 20, 1748 in Newmarket, NH; m. Nov 04, 1725 in Exeter, NH, Phebe Sanborn; b. Feb 06, 1706.

2nd generation: Samuel Pease; b. about 1655 in Edgartown, MA; d. either Oct 12, 1689 in Newport, RI, or Jul 23, 1706 in NH; m. possibly Elizabeth

1st generation: John Pease, son of Robert and Margaret (King) Pease, one of the immigrant ancestors of the Pease family in America; b. 1607 in Great Baddow, county Essex, England; bpt. Nov 20, 1608 in Saint Mary's Church, Great Baddow; d. between 1677 and Jun 03, 1689 in Edgartown, MA; m. (2) Mary Browning. She was the daughter of Malachai Browning; b. about 1610 in England; d. Nov 27, 1653 at the home of his friend, Robert Scott, in Boston, MA, and Mary Collier; b. about 1615; d. 1672 in Edgartown.

If you want more info, I'll gladly share.

Rick in Taunton, MA



Subject:   Harl
Date:           Fri, 3 Mar 2000 15:13:27 EST
From:          RKABART@aol.com


This is the biography I have on Harl Pease Jr.:-

Harl Jr. (Harl, Benjamin Franklin, Robert Folsom, Joseph, Benjamin, Nathaniel, Samuel, John), son of Harl and Bessie (Fox) Pease; b. Apr 10, 1917 in Plymouth, NH; d. Oct 08, 1942 in Rabaul, New Britain during World War II in a Japanese prison camp by execution. Harl Jr. attended Tilton Academy, graduated from the University of NH, 1939, and on Sep 26 of the same year, enlisted in the Army Air Corps. He was commissioned as a second lieutenant, and after basic training and flight school, was awarded a pilot's rating Jun 21, 1940, at Kelly Field, San Antonio, Texas. His next assignment was at March Field in CA, where in May 1941, he participated in the first mass flight of B-17's from California to Honolulu, Hawaii, and in another, Oct 1941 from Albuquerque, New Mexico to the Philippine Islands and Australia.

During a bombing mission over New Guinea, one of the engines on his bomber failed, forcing him to return to an Australian base. There, Pease selected an aircraft deemed unready for combat missions, but air worthy. Leaving early in the morning, he flew throughout the day, and rejoined his squadron at Port Moresby, New Guinea at 1 AM Aug 07, 1942. After three hours of rest, the squadron took off for an attack on an enemy held air-drome near Rabaul, New Britain. The squadron was attacked by about thirty enemy aircraft, before reaching their target, but Captain Pease, on the wing of the squadron, was able to shoot down several Zeroes, and managed to drop his bomb load on the hostile base. His plane was damaged in the attack, and fell behind the squadron. The enemy succeeded in igniting one of his bomb bay tanks which he jettisoned, but it was believed that he and his crew were eventually shot down, as they did not return to the home base.

The Congressional Medal of Honor, the Distinguished Flying Cross with an Oak Leaf Cluster, and the Air Medal were posthumously awarded to Captain Harl Pease, Junior by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Mr. and Mrs. Harl Pease Sr. received the medals for their son. In Sep 1942, a Roman Catholic Priest, Father George Lepping was taken as a prisoner to a Japanese camp near Rabaul. He reported that he found Captain Pease and one his crewmen at the prison camp. The Captain was well respected by the prisoners, and even by some of the Japanese guards, who called him a Captain of a "Boeing", as the B-17 was called by them. The younger guards would ask Harl, "You, you ah, Captain Boeing?", and Harl would stand straight and say, "Me, me Captain Boeing." Father Lepping reported that on Oct 08, 1942, Captain Pease, three Americans, and two Australian prisoners, were given picks and shovels, and taken into the jungle. It is believed they were forced to dig their own graves, and executed by the sword.

On Sep 07, 1957, Portsmouth Air Force Base, a Strategic Air Command base in Newington, NH, was re-dedicated as Pease Air Force Base in Captain Harl Pease Junior's honor. The ceremonies included an air show by the Air Force's precision flying team, the "Thunderbirds".

What I'm trying to find out from a genealogical interest is if Harl Jr. had any siblings, and what were their vitals (birth-marriage-death).

Rick in Taunton


Reference Books:

"Gateway to Victory" by Noel Tunny
"Fight Back from the North" by Noel Tunny
AAF - The official World War II Guide to the Army Air Forces



Subject:    Harl Pease jr.
Date:             Fri, 19 May 2000 22:30:08 -0400
From:           "Paul and Sue Cahill" <cahill@cybertours.com>

I read your biography of Harl Pease and I believe he had a sister. I was the 509th Bombardment Wing Historian at Pease AFB, NH from 1982 until March 1991 when the base closed. A few years before the base closed, we invited the remaining Pease family to a luncheon. I recall talking to his cousin and I will attempt to find her name and address. I am sure she can provide a definitive answer.

Paul Cahill
304 Ocean Rd
Portsmouth, NH 03801
E-Mail: Cahill@cybertours.com



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This page first produced 5 July 1999

This page last updated 08 March 2023