Berry, Kearie Lee, Jr., CPT

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Last Rank
Last Service Branch
Last Primary MOS
AAF 1092-Pilot B-17
Last MOS Group
Aviation (Enlisted)
Primary Unit
1943-1947, AAF 1056, US Army Air Force (USAAF)
Service Years
1943 - 1947



Two Overseas Service Bars

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Year of Birth
This Military Service Page was created/owned by the Site Administrator to remember Berry, Kearie Lee, Jr., CPT.
Contact Info
Home Town
San Antonio, Texas
Last Address
Paine AFB, Washington

Date of Passing
Jul 29, 1962
Location of Interment
Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery - San Antonio, Texas
Wall/Plot Coordinates
Plot: Section B Site 24-Q

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Last Known Activity
From the moment he entered Central Area in Beast Barracks, until his death in a jet aircraft accident, K‚??s whole dedication and effort in life was to become the best possible officer in the service of the United States. To all who knew him as boy, cadet, officer, husband, and father‚??this goal, which is the essence of Duty, Honor, Country, was achieved. Though born in San Diego, Calif., on 27 October 1918, he always considered Texas his true home. The eldest son of an Army family‚??his father was stationed in Texas many times, he was appointed to West Point from Texas, and he was finally laid to rest there. Dnring his travels as a young boy, he lived in such widely located places as Fort Benning, Fort Sam Houston, the Philippines, and China. He revered his father, from whom he inherited his zest for living life to its fullest. Major General Berry‚??s achievements as an athlete, a soldier, a crack shot, and a hero of Bataan and the Death March, were goals that K set out to match. His mother‚??s devotion to family and her steadfastness of purpose were traits ingrained in his own personality. He had always set his sights on entering the Military Academy and his determination to become a cadet was capped by success in an appointment to enter with the rest of us on 1 July 1939.

As a cadet, his upperclassmen admired his military bearing; his classmates remember the sincere friendliness of his smile; and the Plebes were apt to stand a little more erect when he entered the area. While he was a diligent student, most will look back on him in his cadet days as K Berry, the all-round athlete. Whether competing with him for a Corps Squad berth in intramural sports, or in the boxing ring‚??win, lose, or draw‚??you knew you had been in a fight. On the gridiron, in the swimming pool, or on the rifle range his versatility was evident to all. His feats in track earned him his Plebe numerals and a Major "A‚?? for three years straight. It was during these years that we all realized that a leader-in-action was in the making. Aside from his pride in graduating and subsequent commissioning, K always especially looked back on the romance of his life. A real "queen‚?? by anybody‚??s standards, Phyllis, one of the loveliest of Conover‚??s models, was first spotted by Plebe Bern on the front page of the Sunday magazine section of The New York Times. He managed to beat off some stiff competition from the Firsties in his company and she became his OAO. With Pearl Harbor and an opportunity for flying school, K was one of the first in line. He learned to fly with seeming ease and was considered a superb pilot by his contemporaries. Here was something that he really liked and he had found for himself the niche he wanted. Graduation day in January 1945 was a real reward for all his efforts‚??a diploma, gold bars, silver wings, and a beautiful bride.

His first assignment, Tarrant Field, Tex., at which he served for less than a day, sounded the keynote to quick and frequent moves which we all remember. Learning to fly the B-26 at Del Rio, Tex., was the first order of business. There were no welcoming caisson rides around the post, hut in spite of all the difficulties of wartime living, Phil stayed with him through half a dozen tarpaper flying fields. He was- transferred to B-17‚??s and it was in this airplane that he prepared for combat. His first son, Kearie Lee Berry, III, was born on 18 April 1944, while he was enroute to England with his aircraft and crew. It was in aerial combat that K‚??s talents as an air commander marked him as a potential leader of the Air Force. His leadership in stimulating others to action and his coolness and judgment under fire earned for him promotion to major, the job of squadron operations officer, and important lead-crew missions. His courage and professionalism stood out most sharply on the day he and his crew were forced to bail out of their crippled B-17 over the English Channel. In spite of serious difficulty in controlling the aircraft, K as aircraft commander, saw to it that his entire crew got out before he made his own escape. After a successful jump, he managed to make it to a sand bar‚??only to be nearly machine-gunned when he discovered that the sand pit was being used by the RAF for gunnery practice. The citation for his Distinguished Flying Cross shows that it was awarded for courage, coolness, and skill displayed by Major Berry for extraordinary achievement while serving as pilot of a B-17 airplane on 27 combat missions and 186 combat flying hours over Germany and German-occupied countries. His Air Medal with three Oak Leaf Cluster, a special commendation, and the four battle stars of his European Campaign Ribbon attest to his exploits in the war.

Peacetime, and after a tour as an aeronautical engineer at Wright Field, he returned to China as the Assistant Air Attache. This was a challenging assignment, filled with many exciting adventures at the time when the Chinese Communists were beginning to take over the country. One night he narrowly escaped disaster when the ‚??enemy‚?? had lit bon fires in the shape of runway lights on rocky ground, hoping that he would make the obvious mistake; however, caution prevailed and his ‚??pickup‚?? mission succeeded. Daughter Dana Jo was bom to Phil and K just before they returned to the States, a hair‚??s breadth ahead of the Commie take-over. A tour at the Pentagon with the air attache office and another with the inspector general‚??s office al Kelly Field, and later at Norton AFB, San Bernardino, Calif., where Richard was born, were only a prelude to his return to operational flying. Stationed at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., K was back where he wanted to be‚??flying the F-86 Sabre Jet, promotion to colonel, and command of a fighter-interceptor combat crew training group. It was during this duty that he was awarded the Soldier‚??s Medal for saving the life of a pilot who had gone down in the Gulf of Mexico. The rescue of this pilot was accredited to K‚??s initiative and resourcefulness, which was accomplished under great physical strain and hazardous conditions. A tour in Korea as commander of a Fighter Group followed. Here one of his commanders made the remark that was typical of his superiors: ‚??Because he is forthright and no fence-straddler, his advice is to be valued highly.‚?? Alter Korea he returned to the same job that he had previously held at Tyndall. Now rated as a command pilot, he was flying supersonic century series aircraft. Thence to the most important staff assignment of his career, when he was appointed director of operations of the Boston Air Defense Sector at Stewart Air Force Base, N. Y. K was quick to learn the electronic intricacies of the SAGE system and became an acknowledged auhority in the handling of modern air defense forces. The reward for this outstanding service was the assignment that he had always worked towards‚??his own command. He was given command of Paine Field and the F-102 Fighter-Interceptor Group stationed there. Shortly after his assumption of command, he was killed in the crash of a jet aircraft. He had the job he really wanted at the end, he loved to fly, and he went with ‚??his boots on.‚?? K had a wonderfully full life, accomplishing everything he set out to do. It is a source of comfort to know that his son Kearic had entered the Air Force Academy and so will carry on the military tradition established by the Berry family. In his allotted time he was able to combine a tremendous capacity for living with direction and discipline. Quite often he was in hot water‚??he would rather be right than President-but he set an example of how an American could be if he tried. He was loyal to his country, did his best for the Air Force, loved his wife dearly, and was a perfect father to his three children. As he joins the Long Gray Line, we all realize how much our lives have been enriched by our association with him.
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US Army Air Force (USAAF)
  1943-1947, AAF 1056, US Army Air Force (USAAF)
 Combat and Non-Combat Operations
  1944-1945 WWII - European-African-Middle Eastern Theater
 Colleges Attended 
United States Military Academy
  1939-1943, United States Military Academy
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