The former Carswell Air Force Base in Fort Worth was named for Horace Seaver Carswell, a Medal of Honor winner from North Texas.
(Image credit: Findagrave)
Major Carswell’s Medal of Honor citation reads as follows, “He piloted a B-24 bomber in a one-plane strike against a Japanese convoy in the South China Sea on the night of 26 October 1944. Taking the enemy force of 12 ships escorted by at least 2 destroyers by surprise, he made one bombing run at 600 feet, scoring a near miss on one warship and escaping without drawing fire. He circled. and fully realizing that the convoy was thoroughly alerted and would meet his next attack with a barrage of antiaircraft fire, began a second low-level run which culminated in two direct hits on a large tanker. A hail of steel from Japanese guns, riddled the bomber, knocking out two engines, damaging a third, crippling the hydraulic system, puncturing one gasoline tank, ripping uncounted holes in the aircraft, and wounding the copilot; but by magnificent display of flying skill, Major Carswell controlled the plane’s plunge toward the sea and carefully forced it into a halting climb in the direction of the China shore. On reaching land, where it would have been possible to abandon the staggering bomber, one of the crew discovered that his parachute had been ripped by flak and rendered useless; the pilot, hoping to cross mountainous terrain and reach a base, continued onward until the third engine failed. He ordered the crew to bail out while he struggled to maintain altitude and, refusing to save himself, chose to remain with his comrade and attempt a crash landing. He died when the airplane struck a mountainside and burned. With consummate gallantry and intrepidity, Maj. Carswell gave his life in a supreme effort to save all members of his crew. His sacrifice, far beyond that required of him, was in keeping with the traditional bravery of America’s war heroes.” The citation continued to state that Major Carswell had given his life in sacrifice for his crew.
Carswell had been born on July 16, 1916 to Horace Seaver (Sr.) and Bertha Rae Carswell in Fort Worth, Tarrant County, Texas. Per the federal census reports for 1920, 1930 and 1940, he was an only child. His mother was a housekeeper, his father was a clerk for a meat packing company and the family lived in central Fort Worth.
Major Carswell had attended North Side high school where he was known to be a good athlete, despite his smaller stature. He enrolled at Texas A&M in the early 1930s, and reportedly wanted to play football there, but was considered to be too small, so he transferred to Texas Christian University, where he played varsity football with the Horned Frog teams that included Davey O’Brien and Sammy Baugh. There he also met Virginia Adaline Ede, from San Angelo, and the couple married a couple of years later in 1941.
Carswell joined the United States Army Air Corps in 1940, a year and a half prior to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, receiving flight training at several bases in Oklahoma and Texas. Carswell had been promoted to Captain and was still stateside at Clovis Army Air Field in New Mexico (now known as Cannon Air Force Base) when Robert Ede Carswell, the couple’s only son, was born in 1943. Shortly thereafter, Carswell was promoted to Major and was assigned to service in the Pacific Theater, serving as operations officer of the 374th Bombardment Squadron of the 308th Bombardment Group of the 14th Air Force. His squadron of bombers (B-24J) were equipped with radar, allowing them to surprise enemy shipping with low level attacks. He had been on station for about six months when his damaged aircraft crash landed as he was attempting to bring it down over land. According to accounts, killed with Carswell were his bombardier, whose parachute had been damaged by flak, and his wounded co-pilot.
Carswell’s remains were first interred at a Catholic mission in China before being returned to the United States. His remains were interred for number of years on the Air Force base named for him. He is now buried in Carswell Park, also named for him, in Oakwood Cemetery in Fort Worth.
His bomb group, part of the 14th Air Force, was unofficially called “The Liberators of China” after the nickname of the B-24, the “Liberator” Bomber. According to published reports, the group arrived on station in China March 1, 1943 and by January 1, 1945 was credited with sinking 466,800 tons of Japanese shipping, including 34,000 tons in naval vessels. The had dropped more than 3,000 tons of bombs on Japanese installations, shot down 22 enemy aircraft with another 84 “probable” enemy planes shot down.
Carswell had earned his Pilot’s Badge and was posthumously awarded the Air Medal, Purple Heart, Distinguished Flying Cross and the Distinguished Service Cross. He was awarded the Medal of Honor in February, 1946.
Fort Worth’s main military airfield was originally known as Tarrant Airdrome. One of the main military contractors operating there was the Consolidated Vultee Aircraft Corporation (locally known as “Convair” and later General Dynamics). In 1943, it was renamed Fort Worth Army Airfield. In 1948, it was renamed Griffins Air Force Base for less than a month before finally being named Carswell Air Force Base. After World War II, the base continued to operate under that name, servicing military aircraft during Korea, the Cold War and Vietnam. The base was decommissioned in 1994.
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