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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.
Mariana and Palau Islands Campaign (1944)/Battle of Angaur
Description The Battle of Angaur was a battle of the Pacific campaign in World War II, fought on the island of Angaur in the Palau Islands from 17 September—22 October 1944. This battle was part of a larger offensive campaign known as Operation Forager which ran from June 1944 to November 1944 in the Pacific Theater of Operations, and Operation Stalemate II in particular.
Bombardment of Angaur by the battleship Tennessee, four cruisers, and forty Douglas SBD Dauntless dive bombers from the aircraft carrier Wasp began on 11 September 1944. Six days later on 17 September, the U.S. 81st Infantry Division—commanded by Major General Paul J. Mueller—landed on the northeast and southeast coasts. Both RCTs were counterattacked during the night. Both RCTs linked up the next day. By the end of the third day, 19 Sept., the main area of Japanese resistance was to the northeast around Romauldo Hill, so the 323rd RCT was sent to Ulithi.
Resistance stiffened as the Americans advanced on "the Bowl", a hill near Lake Salome in the northwest of the island where the Japanese planned to make their last stand, after the rest of Angaur and Saipan town were taken. There was another small position where the Japanese had about 400 soldiers in a defense at the southeast corner of the island, around Beach Green, that was neutralized on September 20 after 2 days of harsh fighting and about 300 U.S. casualties.
From 20 September, the 322nd Infantry Regiment repeatedly attacked the Bowl, but the 750 defenders repulsed them with artillery, mortars, grenades and machine guns. Gradually, hunger, thirst, and American shellfire and bombing took their toll on the Japanese, and by 25 September the Americans had penetrated the Bowl. Rather than fight for possession of the caves, they used bulldozers to seal the entrances. By 30 September, the island was said to be secure although the Japanese still had about 300 more soldiers in the Bowl and surrounding areas that held out for almost four more weeks. Toward the end of the first week of October, 1944, the protracted conflict had degenerated into minor patrol action with sniping, ambushing, and extensive booby-trapping employed by both sides.
The island's defense commander, Major Goto was killed on 19 October fighting to keep possession of a cave.:70–71 The last day of fighting was October 22 with a total of 36 days of fighting and blasting the Japanese resistance from their caves with explosives, tanks, artillery and flamethrowers. The 81 Infantry Division had finally taken the whole of Angaur, albeit suffering more casualties than they had inflicted.