RICHARD E. LEARY, COL, USAF

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Birthdate & Date of Loss

Date of birth: October 5, 1917
Date of death: April 25, 1952
Age: 34

Lucky Bag

1941 Leary LB.jpg

From the 1941 Lucky Bag:

RICHARD EDWIN LEARY

Boulder, Colo.

Do you see those yawls along the horizon? A friend of ours is on one of them. You've heard the old saying, "The only sailor worth his salt is one brought up in sail." Dick must have heard it and taken it seriously. A fast, thrilling race with the "lee rail under" would not be complete without Dick's black-haired figure in sight.

Besides being a sailor, Dick is also a good listener. He is always ready to listen to your troubles and help you solve them. Strange thing about the talks is that when the conversation ends, Dick's troubles are under discussion rather than your own.

Speaking of troubles, Dick has certainly had his share. He had both arms broken within five months. Because of the long time spent in the hospital, he had a great deal of work to make up. In spite of the adversities, Dick was out swinging with the rest of the people when the band began to play. Dick doesn't take thing too seriously but he likes to do his job well. Such an outlook leads to a happy life.

The Log 4, 3, 2, 1; Gym 4, 3; Boat Club 2, 1.

The Class of 1941 was the first of the wartime-accelerated classes, graduating in February 1941.

Loss

Unable to find any details of Richard's loss. He is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

It's unclear how Richard came to be a member of the Army Air Forces and later of the Air Force.

Wartime Service

"Major Richard E. Leary of the 397th Fighter Squadron, 368th Fighter Group is congratulated by Major General Elwood R. "Pete" Quesada on landing at one of the newly-won forward operating fields near the Normandy coast."

Richard was a pilot of the P-47 Thunderbolt and serving as the operations officer for the 368th Fighter Group in June 1944. He had two confirmed aerial kills in combat, in December 1944 and January 1945.

On August 10, 1944:

Capt. Richard Leary was seriously injured while riding with the 3rd Armor by a German 88mm shell, Leary was hospitalized in England for 2 months before he was able to return to the group.

On December 17, 1944:

On the last mission of the day 16 planes of the 397th FS gets a call for urgent support of troops holding St. Vith. They find a strong enemy column about a mile from St. Vith with numerous tanks and trucks. The 397th attacked decimating the advancing column and preventing the capture of St. Vith. Major Dick Leary made eight solo strafing passes under heavy AA fire destroying several armored vehicles and was awarded the Silver Star.

Silver Star

From Hall of Valor:

(Citation Needed) - SYNOPSIS: Major (Air Corps) Richard E. Leary, United States Army Air Forces, was awarded the Silver Star for conspicuous gallantry in action against the enemy while serving with the NINTH Air Force in the European Theater of Operations during World War II.

General Orders: Headquarters, 9th Air Force, General Orders No. 37 (1945)
Action Date: World War II
Service: Army Air Forces
Rank: Major
Division: 9th Air Force

From Hall of Valor:

The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress July 9, 1918, takes pleasure in presenting a Bronze Oak Leaf Cluster in lieu of a Second Award of the Silver Star to Lieutenant Colonel (Air Corps), [then Major] Richard E. Leary, United States Army Air Forces, for gallantry in action as a member of the 397th Fighter Squadron, 368th Fighter Group, NINTH Air Force. Lieutenant Colonel Leary distinguished himself in connection with military operations against an armed enemy in the European Theater of Operations in the vicinity of Neudstadt, Germany, on 14 January 1945. On three separate occasions, Colonel Leary turned back to engage an overwhelming force of more than forty enemy fighters, which were attacking his flights. With utter disregard for personal safety, he repeatedly attacked to divert and disrupt the enemy's intentions, and to enable his squadron to reform to a defense formation. Before being "bracketed in" by twelve enemy fighters, and receiving damage to his aircraft, Colonel Leary had destroyed two enemy aircraft. The gallantry and heroism displayed by Colonel Leary reflect great credit on himself and the Army Air Forces.

General Orders: Department of the Army, General Orders No. 32 (May 7, 1948)
Action Date: January 14, 1945
Service: Army Air Forces
Rank: Lieutenant Colonel
Company: 397th Fighter Squadron
Regiment: 368th Fighter Group
Division: 9th Air Force

Distinguished Flying Cross & Bronze Star

His gravestone also indicates he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Bronze Star, but unable to find citations.


Class Navigation

Class of 1941
Richard is one of 59 members of the Class of 1941 in Memorial Hall.
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