Cheli, Ralph F., MAJ

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Last Rank
Last Service Branch
Last Primary MOS
AAF MOS 1082-Pilot, B-25
Last MOS Group
Aviation (Enlisted)
Primary Unit
1943-1944, POW/MIA
Service Years
1941 - 1944



One Overseas Service Bar

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Home State
Year of Birth
This Military Service Page was created/owned by SP 4 Steven Ryan (LoneWolf) to remember Cheli, Ralph F., MAJ.

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Casualty Info
Home Town
San Francisco
Last Address
San Francisco

Casualty Date
Mar 06, 1944
Hostile, Died while Captured
Intentional Homicide
Papua New Guinea
World War II
Location of Interment
Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery - St. Louis, Missouri
Wall/Plot Coordinates
Plot: Section 78, Site 930-934

 Official Badges 

 Unofficial Badges 

 Military Association Memberships
World War II Fallen
  1944, World War II Fallen [Verified]

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 Ribbon Bar

AAF Pilot Badge

 Unit Assignments
US Army Air Force (USAAF)POW/MIA
  1941-1941, US Army Air Force (USAAF)
  1942-1942, US Army Air Force (USAAF)
  1942-1942, US Army Air Force (USAAF)
  1943-1943, US Army Air Force (USAAF)
  1943-1944, POW/MIA
 Combat and Non-Combat Operations
  1941-1945 World War II
  1942-1942 WWII - Asiatic-Pacific Theater/Papua Campaign (1942-43)
  1942-1943 WWII - Asiatic-Pacific Theater
  1943-1943 Northern Solomons Campaign (1943-44)/Battle of New Georgia
  1943-1943 WWII - Asiatic-Pacific Theater/New Guinea Campaign (1943-44)
 Colleges Attended 
Lehigh Univervsity
  1937-1940, Lehigh Univervsity
 Additional Information
Last Known Activity
Major Cheli left Lehigh University and Jjoined the AAF in February 1940, receiving his commision as a pilot in November 1941 He underwent a series of training, but after the outbreak of WWII, he flew anti-submarine missions over the Caribbean.  He served as a B-17 pilot with the 43rd Bomb Squadron, 29th Bomb Group.

In August 1942, he led a group of B-25s from Hamiliton Field, California to Australia.  By October 1942, they were at Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea as part of the 38th Bomb Group. He led his unit on its first major daylight raid, a skip bombing raid during the Battle of the Bismarck Sea in March 1943.  Up to that date he had flown 39 bombing raids.

Major Cheli served as the commanding officer of the 405th Bombardment Squadron, 38th Bombardment Group, 5th Air Force, based at Durand Airfield, Port Moresby, New Guinea.

On 18 Augusut 1943, Cheli piloted B-25D(# 41-30117) while on the first low level strafing mission against Dagua Airfield was shot down by enemy fighters and forced to ditch off shore.  he survived and was taken prisoner by the Japanese,.  He was held by the Japanes on Rabaul and executed at Tunnel Hill during 3-4 March 1944, one of 31 men murdered by the Japanese..
Major Ralph F. Cheili (Pilot) (POW/KIA)
Staff Sergeant Clinton H. Murphree (Gunner) (POW/KIA)
First Lieutenant Vincent A. Raney (Navigator/Bombardier)
Technical Sergeant Raymond C. Warren (Radioman/Gunner) (POW/KIA)
Flight Officer Don M. Yancey (Co-pilot)
Joining the five Americans was an observer from the Australian Army, Captain John H. H. Massie.

He was awarded the Medal of Honor, posthumously:

Medal of Honor

Awarded for actions during the World War II

The President of the United States of America, in the name of Congress, takes pride in presenting the Medal of Honor (Posthumously) to Major (Air Corps) Ralph Cheli, United States Army Air Forces, for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty in action with the enemy over Wewak, New Guinea, while serving with the 405th Bombardment Squadron, 38th Bombardment Group (H), Fifth Air Force.

While Major 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, Major Cheli instructed his wingman to lead the formation and crashed into the sea.

General Orders: War Department, General Orders No. 72, October 28, 1943
Action Date: August 18, 1943
Service: Army Air Forces
Battalion: 405th Bombardment Squadron
Regiment: 38th Bombardment Group (H)
Division: 5th Air Force

He was buried in a communal grave at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery, along with the other men murdered by the Japanese.
Links:  (Medal of Honor awarded October 1943) (Details of operations, etc.)
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