Congressional Medal of Honor Society

Stories of Sacrifice

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World War II - U.S. Army Air Corps

Ralph Cheli

  • Rank: Major
  • Conflict/Era: World War II
  • Unit/Command:
    405th Bombardment Squadron, 38th Bombardment Group,
    5th Air Force
  • Military Service Branch: U.S. Army Air Corps
  • Medal of Honor Action Date: August 18, 1943
  • Medal of Honor Action Place: near Wewak, New Guinea

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty in action with the enemy. While Maj. Cheli was leading his squadron in a dive to attack the heavily defended Dagua airdrome, intercepting enemy aircraft centered their fire on his plane, causing it to burst into flames while still two miles from the objective. His speed would have enabled him to gain necessary altitude to parachute to safety, but this action would have resulted in his formation becoming disorganized and exposed to the enemy. Although a crash was inevitable, he courageously elected to continue leading the attack in his blazing plane. From a minimum altitude, the squadron made a devastating bombing and strafing attack on the target. The mission completed, Maj. Cheli instructed his wingman to lead the formation and crashed into the sea.

Medal of Honor Recipient Ralph Cheli
Medal of Honor Recipient Ralph Cheli
Additional Details
  • Accredited to: Brooklyn, Kings County, New York
  • Awarded Posthumously: Yes
  • Born: October 29, 1919, San Francisco, San Francisco County, CA, United States
  • Died: March 6, 1944, Rabaul, Papua New Guinea
  • Buried: Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery (MH) (Group burial with 20 others) (78-930-934), St. Louis, MO, United States

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