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Cory Butterfield, AO1
Harris, Cecil Elwyn (Cece), CAPT.
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Home Town Cresbard, SD
Last Address Groveton, VA
Date of Passing Dec 02, 1981
Location of Interment Arlington National Cemetery - Arlington, Virginia
Wall/Plot Coordinates 66 820
Last Known Activity
During WWII, Cecil Harris became an Ace pilot and was regarded as the second most prolific Navy fighter pilot with 24 kills. As a member of the United States Naval Reserve, Cecil Harris's commission ended with the War. Upon returning home he picked up where he left off previously, completing his undergraduate degree at NorthernStateTeachers College. He began teaching at CresbardHigh School where he functioned variously as principal, coach and teacher. He returned to active duty during the Korean War and became a career Navy officer, serving 27 years before retiring in 1967.
Harris was driving his truck home on the evening of December 1, 1981, when he was pulled over by police. Though no bottles or cans were reportedly found in the vehicle, a Breathalyzer test returned a blood alcohol reading of .16, leading to his arrest. Harris told an arresting officer at the scene that "if he failed the test, that was the end of his life." Family members went to the Groveton, Virginia jail where Harris was being held and attempted to have him released into their custody. Their request was denied by a local magistrate. Just past on December 2 Cecil Harris was found dead in his cell, apparently having hanged himself in the interim. It was his 65th birthday.
Awarded for Actions During World War II
Battalion: Fighting Squadron 18 (VF-18)
Division: U.S.S. Intrepid (CV-11)
General Orders: Commander 2d Carrier Task Force, Serial 0396 (December 15, 1944)
Citation: The President of the United States of America takes pleasure in presenting the Navy Cross to Lieutenant Cecil Elwood Harris (NSN: 0-114286), United States Naval Reserve, for extraordinary heroism in operations against the enemy while serving as Pilot of a carrier-based Navy Fighter Plane in Fighting Squadron EIGHTEEN (VF-18), attached to the U.S.S. INTREPID (CV-11), in action against enemy Japanese forces on Luzon, Philippine Islands, on 29 October 1944. Quick to intercept two successive flights of Japanese fighter planes preparing to attack our bomber and torpedo squadrons as they completed a strike on Clark Field, Lieutenant Harris boldly led his Division in a swift assault on the enemy planes. Skillfully and daringly maneuvering among the hostile formations, he shot down one enemy plane from each flight and put the others to rout. Quick to intercept a superior force of enemy fighters descending in waves in furious attempts to wipe out our fighter protection, he dauntlessly engaged in the fierce dog fight which ensued. Successively knocking down two enemy planes closing two of our Hellcats whose pilots were unaware of their imminent peril, he effectively averted the certain destruction of these friendly planes and assisted essentially in the utter defeat of the entire enemy formation without the loss of any of our planes from enemy action. By his courageous initiative, superb airmanship and fearless devotion to the fulfillment of a hazardous mission, Lieutenant Harris contributed materially to the success of our operations in this strategic area, and his personal valor in the face of grave peril upheld the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.
Western Caroline Islands Operation/Battle of Peleliu
Description The Battle of Peleliu, codenamed Operation Stalemate II, was fought between the United States and the Empire of Japan in the Pacific Theater of World War II, from September–November 1944 on the island of Peleliu, present-day Palau. U.S. Marines of the First Marine Division and later soldiers of the U.S. Army's 81st Infantry Division, fought to capture an airstrip on the small coral island. This battle was part of a larger offensive campaign known as Operation Forager which ran from June–November 1944 in the Pacific Theater of Operations.
Major General William Rupertus, USMC—commander of 1st Marine Division—predicted the island would be secured within four days. However, due to Japan's well-crafted fortifications and stiff resistance, the battle lasted over two months. In the United States, it was a controversial battle because of the island's questionable strategic value and the high casualty rate, which exceeded all other amphibious operations during the Pacific War. The National Museum of the Marine Corps called it "the bitterest battle of the war for the Marines".