National Medal of Honor Day and Colonel Neel E. Kearby

March 25 is National Medal of Honor Day. While it doesn’t get the same recognition as Memorial Day or Veterans Day, it’s a special day to honor our heroes.

The Medal of Honor, established in 1861, is our nation’s highest military decoration for valor. The first medals were awarded on March 25, 1863. Since the Civil War, more than 40 million Americans have served in the United States Armed Forces. Yet, only 3,526 recipients have received the Medal of Honor.


Colonel Neel E. Kearby

National Medal of Honor Day is a perfect opportunity to highlight one of Arlington’s hometown heroes. Colonel Neel E. Kearby (1911-1944) is the only person from Arlington to be awarded the National Medal of Honor.

Kearby was born in Wichita Falls and later moved to Arlington. After graduating from Arlington High School in 1928, he attended North Texas Agricultural College — now known as the University of Texas at Arlington. He completed his studies at UT Austin and later enlisted in the Army Air Corps.

In World War II, Kearby piloted a P-47 Thunderbolt. He pioneered air combat tactics and led the 348th Fighter Squadron. Notably, in October 1943 over New Guinea, Kearby brought down six enemy aircraft in a single conflict — after his mission was already completed and while being heavily outnumbered. He then led his formation to safety.

Colonel Neel E. Kearby was awarded the Medal of Honor on January 23, 1944, personally from General Douglas MacArthur. Kearby would be killed in action later that year. He’s buried at Hillcrest Memorial Park in Dallas.

Colonel Kearby’s decorations and awards include:

  • Medal of Honor
  • two Silver Stars
  • four Distinguished Flying Crosses
  • five Air Medals
  • Purple Heart

Arlington pays tribute to Colonel Kearby with a life-sized bronze statue and a Texas Historical Marker.


National Medal of Honor Museum – Arlington, Texas

Arlington is honored to be the future home for the National Medal of Honor Museum. The museum will help tell the stories of the Medal of Honor recipients. It will be a poignant and patriotic tribute to the people who bravely fought for our freedom.

The 100,000 square foot museum will have exhibition galleries, an education center, event space, and an outdoor amphitheater for ceremonies. The museum is scheduled to open in 2024 in Arlington’s Entertainment District.


Resources

National Medal of Honor Museum, “Kearby, Neel E.” Accessed March 25, 2021.
https://mohmuseum.org/medal_of_honor/kearby-neel-e/

Home of Heroes, “Neel E. Kearby: Fire & Ice: The Race to Be the First Top Gun.” Accessed March 25, 2021.
https://homeofheroes.com/heroes-stories/world-war-ii/neel-e-kearby/

City of Arlington, Texas, “Colonel Neel Kearby.” Accessed March 25, 2021.
https://www.arlingtontx.gov/residents/about_arlington/public_art/colonel_neel_kearby

Arlington Convention & Visitors Bureau, “The National Medal of Honor Museum.” Accessed March 25, 2021.
https://www.arlington.org/things-to-do/attractions/national-medal-of-honor-museum/


Post and photos by Jason S. Sullivan, 03-25-21

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