WALTER H. PEIRCE, CAPT, USA
Walter Peirce '39
Date of birth: September 13, 1916
Date of death: June 25, 1944
Walter Harlen Peirce was admitted to the Naval Academy from Virginia on July 15, 1935 at age 18 years 10 months. He resigned on February 18, 1937. "Deficient in studies, first term's work. Recommended to be dropped. Permitted to resign."
The Howitzer (West Point Yearbook)
From the 1942 Howitzer:
Biography & Loss
From Find A Grave:
Walter H. Peirce was born on the 13th of September, 1916, at Omaha, Nebraska. His boyhood years were spent mostly in Richmond, Virginia, where he received his grammar school education. He attended Western High School in Washington, D.C., where, in the R.O.T.C. Cadet Unit, and in June of 1935 entered the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis. His destiny did not point to the sea, however, for in February of 1937 he was out of the Academy.
Determined, however, July of the following year, 1938, he entered the Military Academy to start anew in his country's service.
Graduating from West Point on May 29, 1942, he reported on June 8, 1942 to the Hawthorne School of Aeronautics at Orangeburg, South Carolina for primary flight training. He received his basic flight training at Shaw Field, Sumter, South Carolina, and was graduated in the class of 42-K from the Advanced Flying School at Spence Field, Moultrie, Georgia on December 11, 1942.
Promoted in January 1943 to First Lieutenant, he was sent during the following month to Mills Field, San Bruno, California, to train in P-39 type aircraft, thus realizing a long held ambition to fly Fighters.
On March 15, Walter married, in Grace Cathedral, San Francisco, Miss Beverly Williams of Omaha whom he had met enroute to his assignment in California. He served during this period at Mills Field; Hamilton Field; Tonopah, Nevada; and at Santa Rosa and Oakland, California. Promoted to Captain on December 11, 1943, he was assigned to the 367th Fighter Group in the same month, and went overseas with that organization on March 13th of the following year.
Overseas, he served with distinction in Group Operations; but was finally, at his insistence, assigned to one of the squadrons, the 393rd, so he could do more combat flying.
On June 25, 1944, Walt's squadron of P-38J's took off from Stoney Cross, England, to cover a Navy task force shelling Cherbourg. It was an easy, routine mission, but the weather got worse and worse until, halfway to England on the return flight, it closed in altogether. The last seen of Captain Peirce was when the fog enveloped the entire squadron, putting everyone on instruments and on his own. It's all luck in a case like that, and Walt's must have just run out.
The nation lost a devoted and courageous servant that day, and a gap remains in many lives that can never be filled. Walt was that sort of person.
Captain Peirce held the Air Medal with a Bronze Oak Leaf Cluster, the E.T.O. ribbon with one battle star for "Air Offensive, Europe", and the Purple Heart.
Walter was survived by his parents and brother; he has a memory marker in Arlington National Cemetery.
Memorial Hall Error
Walter is not listed with his classmates in Memorial Hall. This omission was discovered by researcher Kathy Franz.