Ken Harbaugh tells the stories of service members who have distinguished themselves through an act of valor. These stories feature recipients from the Civil War to present day, including a few who were originally overlooked for the medal.
Maj. Horace Seaver Carswell Jr.: One Bomber Against a Convoy
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Major Horace Seaver Carswell Jr. was tasked with piloting a surprise single-plane bombing mission against a convoy of 14+ Japanese ships. Carswell hit his targets, but his B-24 suffered severe damage in the process. Down one parachute, he ordered his men to bail out and leave him behind. He attempted to crash land, but wasn’t able to gain enough altitude and crashed into a mountainside. He was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his exemplary Sacrifice.
Welcome to the Medal of Honor podcast, brought to you in partnership with the National Medal of Honor Museum. I’m Ken Harbaugh. In each episode, we’ll learn about a different service member who has distinguished him or herself through an act of valor.
Horace Seaver Carswell Jr. was born on July 18th, 1916 in Fort Worth, Texas. He played football in high school and college, and during his senior year at Texas Christian University, the TCU team went undefeated and won the national championship.
Two years later, at 24 years old, Carswell enlisted in the US Army Air Corps as a flying cadet in the lead up to American involvement in World War II. He was eventually assigned to the 274th bomb squadron as an operations officer, and later became commander of the squadron.
On the night of October 26th, 1944, over the South China Sea, now Major Carswell was piloting a B-24 bomber on a single plane mission. His goal was to attack a Japanese convoy of 12 ships and at least two destroyers by surprise.
Under the cover of darkness, Carswell flew in low and initiated his bombing run. He barely missed the target, but the bombs landed so close to the warship that they did damage. By the time he circled back to make his second run, the convoy was alerted to his presence. As Carswell flew in, he was surrounded by intense anti-aircraft fire. He landed two direct hits on an enemy tanker, but he lost two engines, his third engine was damaged, his gasoline tank was punctured, the landing gear was compromised, the aircraft was littered with bullet holes, and his co-pilot was wounded. The B-24 began to rapidly lose altitude, but Carswell was able to wrangle it back to a steady climb and head for the safety of the mainland. Once they reached the shores of China they hoped to bail out, but one crew member realized his parachute had been ripped from flak and rendered useless. Not wanting to leave a man behind, Major Carswell reevaluated and decided to try to reach a base that was located over a mountain range. Suddenly the third engine failed, and the B-24 struggled to maintain altitude. Placing the safety of the crew above his own, Carswell ordered the crew to evacuate, and chose to stay with his wounded co-pilot and attempt to crash land the plane. The crew bailed out, but Carswell was unable to get enough altitude to clear the mountain range. He and his co-pilot crashed into the mountainside and died on impact.
On February 27th, 1946, Major Horace Seaver Carswell Jr. was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his exemplary sacrifice. It was accepted by his wife and two year old son on his behalf. Carswell’s other awards include the Purple Heart, the Distinguished Service Cross, the Distinguished Flying Cross, and the Air Medal. Fort Worth Army AirField was renamed Carswell Air Force Base in 1948 in his honor.
The Medal of Honor podcast is a production of Evergreen Podcasts.
Nathan Corson is our executive producer and mixing engineer, Declan Rohrs is our associate producer, scriptwriter, and recording engineer, and I’m Ken Harbaugh.
We are proud to support the National Medal of Honor Museum. To learn more, and to support their mission, go to mohmuseum.org. Thanks for listening.