Eareckson, William Olmstead, Col

Deceased
 
 Service Photo   Service Details
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Last Rank
Colonel
Last Primary AFSC/MOS
M 1060-Bombardment Unit Commander
Last AFSC Group
USAAF
Primary Unit
1952-1954, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base
Service Years
1918 - 1954
Colonel

 Last Photo   Personal Details 

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Home State
Maryland
Maryland
Year of Birth
1900
 
This Military Service Page was created/owned by SSgt Robert Bruce McClelland, Jr. to remember Eareckson, William Olmstead, Col USAF(Ret).

If you knew or served with this Airman and have additional information or photos to support this Page, please leave a message for the Page Administrator(s) HERE.
 
Contact Info
Home Town
Baltimore, Maryland
Last Address
Sarasota, Florida

Date of Passing
Oct 26, 1966
 
Location of Interment
Arlington National Cemetery - Arlington, Virginia
Wall/Plot Coordinates
Section 37 Grave 692

 Official Badges 

Air Force Commander Air Training Command Instructor (pre-1966) Commander Headquarters Air Force

Air Force Retired


 Unofficial Badges 

US Army Honorable Discharge Cold War Medal


 Military Association Memberships
Air Force Memorial (AFM)
  2017, Air Force Memorial (AFM) - Assoc. Page


 Additional Information
Last Known Activity
He served in WWI, WWII, and the Korean War.  He is best known for being an innovative commander of combat operations against the Japanese in the Aleutians Campaign in WWII.
Eareckson Air Station, Shemya, Aleutian Islands, Alaska is named for him.

Synopsis of his DSC citation:
Awarded for actions during World War II
(Citation Needed) - SYNOPSIS: Colonel (Air Corps) William Olmstead Eareckson (AFSN: 239A), United States Army Air Forces, was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for extraordinary heroism in connection with military operations against an armed enemy in aerial combat while serving as Pilot of a B-26 Medium Bomber and as Commander, 11th Bomber Command, ELEVENTH Air Force, while participating in a bombing mission against enemy Japanese surface targets during the period 3 to 18 June 1942, in the Aleutian Islands, Territory of Alaska. On that date, Japanese carrier planes attacked ill-prepared Dutch Harbor on Unalaska Island. Colonel Eareckson led a flight of B-26s through impossible weather in an attempt to find and attack the Japanese fleet with torpedoes, which he had scrounged from the Navy. After two relatively unsuccessful attacks, the enemy fleet withdrew and occupied Attu and Kiska Islands at the western end of the Aleutian chain. Colonel Eareckson's bombers attacked enemy island bases and shipping whenever fog and gale-force winds permitted. Colonel Eareckson earned the respect and devotion of his men by flying in every position--from left-seater to tailgunner. The Aleutian campaign ended with the Japanese evacuation of Kiska in August 1943. The personal courage and zealous devotion to duty displayed by Colonel Eareckson during this period have upheld the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit upon himself, the 11th Air Force, and the United States Army Air Forces.

General Orders: Headquarters, Alaska Defense Command, General Orders No. 61 (July 16, 1942)

Action Date: June 3 - 18, 1942

Service: Army Air Forces

Rank: Colonel

Company: Commander

Regiment: 11th Bomber Command

Division: 11th Air Force
 

His Navy Cross citation:
Awarded for actions during World War II
The President of the United States of America takes pleasure in presenting the Navy Cross to Colonel (Air Corps) William Olmstead Eareckson, United States Army Air Forces, for extraordinary heroism while participating in aerial flight while serving with the Bomber Command, ELEVENTH Air Force, during the seizure and occupation of enemy-held Attu Island, Territory of Alaska, from June 1942 to August 1942. Upon one occasion during these operations, Colonel Eareckson personally piloted his aircraft into a fog-shrouded and narrow pass on Attu Island to lead a supply plane to a group of U.S. troops suffering from exhaustion and frostbite. The supplies thus delivered undoubtedly contributed materially to the saving of their lives. Throughout the assault on Attu, Colonel Eareckson repeatedly flew extremely close to enemy anti-aircraft gun positions, deliberately drawing their fire, thus causing them to reveal their positions. He followed up these tactics by directing air attacks against the enemy positions so revealed, which resulted in neutralizing or destroying them. In addition, Colonel Eareckson made daily reconnaissance flights over and around Attu Island, and did so on days on which low ceiling and visibility prevented all other aircraft from taking off. His conduct throughout was in accordance with the highest traditions of the United States Military and Naval Forces.

Action Date: June 1942 - August 1942

Service: Army Air Forces

Rank: Colonel

Company: Bomber Command

Division: 11th Air Force

   
Other Comments:
Sources:
http://veterantributes.org/TributeDetail.php?recordID=1096
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_O._Eareckson
http://www.airforce-magazine.com/MagazineArchive/Pages/1991/June%201991/0691valor.aspx
http://ranger95.com/airforce/af_groups/operations_gp/28th_og.htm
http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=49176899
   
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World War II/Asian-Pacific Theater/Air Offensive Campaign Japan (1942-45)
Start Year
1942
End Year
1945

Description
(Air Offensive Campaign Japan 17 April 1942 to 2 September 1945) The United States strategic bombing of Japan took place between 1942 and 1945. In the last seven months of the campaign, a change to firebombing resulted in great destruction of 67 Japanese cities, as many as 500,000 Japanese deaths and some 5 million more made homeless. Emperor Hirohito's viewing of the destroyed areas of Tokyo in March 1945 is said to have been the beginning of his personal involvement in the peace process, culminating in Japan's surrender five months later.
The first U.S. raid on the Japanese main island was the Doolittle Raid of 18 April 1942, when sixteen B-25 Mitchells were launched from the USS Hornet (CV-8) to attack targets including Yokohama and Tokyo and then fly on to airfields in China. The raids were military pinpricks but a significant propaganda victory. Because they were launched prematurely, none of the aircraft had enough fuel to reach their designated landing sites, and so either crashed or ditched (except for one aircraft, which landed in the Soviet Union, where the crew was interned). Two crews were captured by the Japanese.

The key development for the bombing of Japan was the B-29 Superfortress, which had an operational range of 1,500 miles (2,400 km); almost 90% of the bombs (147,000 tons) dropped on the home islands of Japan were delivered by this bomber. The first raid by B-29s on Japan was on 15 June 1944, from China. The B-29s took off from Chengdu, over 1,500 miles away. This raid was also not particularly effective: only forty-seven of the sixty-eight bombers hit the target area; four aborted with mechanical problems, four crashed, six jettisoned their bombs because of mechanical difficulties, and others bombed secondary targets or targets of opportunity. Only one B–29 was lost to enemy aircraft. The first raid from east of Japan was on 24 November 1944, when 88 aircraft bombed Tokyo. The bombs were dropped from around 30,000 feet (10,000 m) and it is estimated that only around 10% hit their targets.

Raids of Japan from mainland China, called Operation Matterhorn, were carried out by the Twentieth Air Force under XX Bomber Command. Initially the commanding officer of the Twentieth Air Force was Hap Arnold, and later Curtis LeMay. Bombing from Japan from China was never a satisfactory arrangement because not only were the Chinese airbases difficult to supply—materiel being sent by air from India over "the Hump"—but the B-29s operating from them could only reach Japan if they traded some of their bomb load for extra fuel in tanks in the bomb-bays. When Admiral Chester Nimitz's island-hopping campaign captured Pacific islands close enough to Japan to be within the B-29's range, the Twentieth Air Force was assigned to XXI Bomber Command, which organized a much more effective bombing campaign of the Japanese home islands. Based in the Marianas (Guam and Tinian in particular), the B-29s were able to carry their full bomb loads and were supplied by cargo ships and tankers.

Conventional bombs from B-29s destroyed over 40% of the urban area in Japan's six greatest industrial cities
Unlike all other forces in theater, the USAAF Bomber Commands did not report to the commanders of the theaters but directly to the Joint Chiefs of Staff. In July 1945, they were placed under the U.S. Strategic Air Forces in the Pacific, which was commanded by General Carl Spaatz.

As in Europe, the United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) tried daylight precision bombing. However, it proved to be impossible due to the weather around Japan, "during the best month for bombing in Japan, visual bombing was possible for [just] seven days. The worst had only one good day." Further, bombs dropped from a great height were tossed about by high winds.

General LeMay, commander of XXI Bomber Command, instead switched to mass firebombing night attacks from altitudes of around 7,000 feet (2,100 m) on the major conurbations. "He looked up the size of the large Japanese cities in the World Almanac and picked his targets accordingly." Priority targets were Tokyo, Nagoya, Osaka, and Kobe. Despite limited early success, particularly against Nagoya, LeMay was determined to use such bombing tactics against the vulnerable Japanese cities. Attacks on strategic targets also continued in lower-level daylight raids.

The first successful firebombing raid was on Kobe on 3 February 1945, and following its relative success the USAAF continued the tactic. Nearly half of the principal factories of the city were damaged, and production was reduced by more than half at one of the port's two shipyards.

Much of the armor and defensive weaponry of the bombers was removed to allow increased bomb loads; Japanese air defense in terms of night-fighters and anti-aircraft guns was so feeble it was hardly a risk. The first raid of this type on Tokyo was on the night of 23–24 February when 174 B-29s destroyed around one square mile (3 km²) of the city. Following on that success, as Operation Meetinghouse, 334 B-29s raided on the night of 9–10 March, dropping around 1,700 tons of bombs. Around 16 square miles (41 km²) of the city was destroyed and over 100,000 people are estimated to have died in the fire storm. The destruction and damage was at its worst in the city sections east of the Imperial Palace. It was the most destructive conventional raid, and the deadliest single bombing raid of any kind in terms of lives lost, in all of military aviation history. The city was made primarily of wood and paper, and Japanese firefighting methods were not up to the challenge. The fires burned out of control, boiling canal water and causing entire blocks of buildings to spontaneously combust from the heat. The effects of the Tokyo firebombing proved the fears expressed by Admiral Yamamoto in 1939: "Japanese cities, being made of wood and paper, would burn very easily. The Army talks big, but if war came and there were large-scale air raids, there's no telling what would happen."[179]

In the following two weeks, there were almost 1,600 further sorties against the four cities, destroying 31 square miles (80 km²) in total at a cost of 22 aircraft. By June, over forty percent of the urban area of Japan's largest six cities (Tokyo, Nagoya, Kobe, Osaka, Yokohama, and Kawasaki) was devastated. LeMay's fleet of nearly 600 bombers destroyed tens of smaller cities and manufacturing centres in the following weeks and months.

Leaflets were dropped over cities before they were bombed, warning the inhabitants and urging them to escape the city. Though many, even within the Air Force, viewed this as a form of psychological warfare, a significant element in the decision to produce and drop them was the desire to assuage American anxieties about the extent of the destruction created by this new war tactic. Warning leaflets were also dropped on cities not in fact targeted, to create uncertainty and absenteeism.  
   
My Participation in This Battle or Operation
From Year
1944
To Year
1944
 
Last Updated:
Feb 25, 2016
   
Personal Memories
   
Units Participated in Operation

356th Bombardment Squadron, Heavy (Very Heavy)

 
My Photos From This Battle or Operation
No Available Photos

  235 Also There at This Battle:
  • Alenier, Stanley J., 2nd Lt, (1942-1944)
  • Babcock, Warren E., 1st Lt, (1942-1944)
  • Burket, Harry Edgar, SSgt, (1939-1945)
  • Carlson, Joseph W.
  • Deterding, Floyd, M., Lt Col, (1936-1958)
  • Geho, Theodore, Lt Col, (1942-1964)
  • Gilinsky, O E, TSgt, (1942-1945)
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