An official website of the United States Government
Here's how you know

Official websites use .gov

.gov website belongs to an official government organization in the United States.

Secure .gov websites use HTTPS

A lock ( lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .gov website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

Medal of Honor Monday: Air Force Capt. John S. Walmsley Jr.

You have accessed part of a historical collection on Some of the information contained within may be outdated and links may not function. Please contact the DOD Webmaster with any questions.

Many of our nation's fallen heroes have yet to make it home from war. One of those men is Air Force Capt. John S. Walmsley Jr., whose dedication to completing his mission during the Korean War cost him his life, but it earned him the Medal of Honor.

Walmsley was born and raised in Baltimore and attended the University of Maryland after graduating from high school in 1936. Within a few months of the U.S. entering World War II, he decided he needed to help the cause, so he enlisted in the Army.

A pilot wears flight gear, a helmet and goggles.
Capt. Walmsley
Air Force Capt. John S. Walmsley Jr.
Photo By: Air Force photo
VIRIN: 510914-F-ZZ999-176E

Walmsley trained to be an Army Air Forces pilot, eventually earning his wings and his commission in November 1943. He didn't see combat during the war, but instead served as an instructor in the U.S. and Japan for many years before going to air tactical school training in 1949.

Walmsley had become a specialist with a series of air control and warning squadrons by the time the Korean War broke out. He was deployed there with the Air Force in June 1951, having already completed about two dozen combat missions.

On Sept. 14, 1951, Walmsley and three crew members were sent on a nighttime reconnaissance mission over a main supply route in central North Korea. While flying along in their B-26 Invader light bomber, Walmsley noticed an enemy supply train — a priority target for them.

Walmsley went in for the attack immediately, dropping all his bombs on the train. The attack disabled it, but it wasn't destroyed, so Walmsley called for backup to finish the job.

A B-26 Invader sits on an airfield.
Airfield Invader
To find the enemy at night, a few B-26 Invaders carried experimental infrared detection equipment. The operator viewed a 3-inch screen that crudely indicated high heat sources, such as train engines. Postwar infrared systems later proved to be very effective.
Photo By: Air Force photo
VIRIN: 100609-F-1234S-007E

When another B-26 responded, Walmsley turned on his bomber's searchlight, which was still being tested at the time, to give the other B-26 full visibility of the train. That was helpful for the incoming pilot, but it made Walmsley’s crew an easy target. They flew low into the valley and over the train twice, which exposed them to heavy ground fire.

Walmsley could have evaded the barrage, but he wanted to ensure maximum destruction, so instead, he pushed straight through the intense enemy fire. His bomber was hit and crashed into nearby mountains, exploding on impact.

The gunner in the B-26 with Walmsley, Master Sgt. George Moror, was the only member of the crew known to have survived, according to the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency. He was taken prisoner and released after the war.

Walmsley; his navigator/bombardier, 2nd Lt. William Mulkins; and his photographer, Capt. Philip Browning, died in the crash. Walmsley's body has never been recovered.

Eight uniformed service members stand beside the searchlight attached to a B-26 Invader.
Wartime Searchlight
Another method for the B-26 Invader to find the enemy at night used powerful, wing-mounted searchlights. It made the plane vulnerable to anti-aircraft fire, and after the loss of one of these aircraft, the tactic was discontinued.
Photo By: Air Force photo
VIRIN: 100609-F-1234S-009E

The crash was a terrible ending to the mission, but it was actually a success — the train and its vital cargo were destroyed. For Walmsley's courage under fire and willingness to give his life for the cause, his widow and two daughters were presented with the Medal of Honor on his behalf on June 12, 1954.

Walmsley was the first bomber pilot to earn the nation's highest honor for actions taken in Korea.

Walmsley is memorialized on the Courts of the Missing at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific.

This article is part of a weekly series called "Medal of Honor Monday," in which we highlight one of the more than 3,500 Medal of Honor recipients who have earned the U.S. military’s highest medal for valor.

Related Stories