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TSgt Arizona T Harris

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TSgt Arizona T Harris

Technical Sergeant Arizona T. Harris was the top turret gunner of a B-17 "Sons of Fury," flying against the Nazis during World War II. During his mission to St. Nazaire, France, on 1/3/43, his plane was shot down by FW-190 fighters on the return flight, and was forced to "ditch" or crash land in water, in the English Channel.

Four of Harris' crew had exited the plane by parachute and were freeing themselves from the nylon chutes in the water, when Harris noticed that the FW-190 that had shot them down was strafing the water with machine-gun fire in an attempt to kill the downed airmen.

At the cost of his own life, Harris stayed in the top turret of the bomber as it sank, continuing to fire his machine guns at the German plane to keep it at bay and to give his friends a chance to survive. It is said that his machine guns didn't stop firing until the plane was completely submerged and he had drowned.

It is thought that the movie and novel "12 O'Clock High" drew inspiration from Harris' story for the character of Sgt. McIllhenny, who dies in a similar fashion in the novel.

For his selfless act, he received the Distinguished Service Cross.

Distinguished Service Cross Presentation Notes:

The President of the United States takes pride in presenting the Distinguished Service Cross (Posthumously) to Arizona T. Harris (6296272), Technical Sergeant, U.S. Army Air Forces, for extraordinary heroism in connection with military operations against an armed enemy while serving as Top Turret Gunner of a B-17 Heavy Bomber in the 369th Bombardment Squadron, 306th Bombardment Group (H), EIGHTH Air Force, while participating in a bombing mission on 3 January 1943, against enemy targets in the European Theater of Operations. The personal courage and devotion to duty displayed by Technical Sergeant Harris on this occasion, at the cost of his life, have upheld the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit upon himself, the 8th Air Force, and the United States Army Air Forces.
Headquarters: European Theater of Operations, U.S. Army, General Orders No. 19 (1943)
Home Town: Maricopa County, Arizona
Personal Awards: Distinguished Service Cross (WWII), 2@ Air Medals, Purple Heart

  • Maintained by: Grave-digger
  • Originally Created by: CWGC/ABMC
  • Added: 6 Aug 2010
  • Find A Grave Memorial 56290467
  • W. R. L.
  • Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for TSgt Arizona T Harris (unknown–3 Jan 1943), Find A Grave Memorial no. 56290467, citing Cambridge American Cemetery and Memorial, Coton, South Cambridgeshire District, Cambridgeshire, England ; Maintained by Grave-digger (contributor 47399454) .