Colonel KearbyOn Saturday, Nov. 13, 2010 the City of Arlington paid lasting tribute to the only Arlington serviceman awarded the highest military accolade a soldier can earn. A memorial statue and Texas State Historical Marker honoring World War II Medal of Honor winner Col. Neel Kearby was unveiled and dedicated at 11 a.m. on the west lawn of the George W. Hawkes Central Library.

Kearby was an Arlington resident who graduated in 1928 from Arlington High School and attended North Texas Agricultural College, now the University of Texas at Arlington, for two years. He completed his studies at the University of Texas at Austin before joining the Army Air Corps as a flying cadet.

Col. Kearby's military legacy is that of a skillful and courageous flying ace. During World War II, he pioneered air combat tactics for the P-47 Thunderbolt. Under his leadership, the 348th Fighter Squadron became one of the most lethal air combat groups in the Pacific Theater, the area of military activity in the Pacific Ocean and the countries bordering it.

His abilities and actions are considered legendary. In a single day of air combat operations over New Guinea in October 1943, Col. Kearby set a record for the number of downed enemy aircraft.

In a ceremony at his headquarters, General Douglas MacArthur personally presented the Medal of Honor to Col. Kearby.

Six months later on March 5, 1944, Col. Kearby was shot down over New Guinea. After the war, his remains and the wreckage of his plane were found. Col. Kearby was buried with full military honors at Hillcrest Cemetery in Dallas in 1949. At the time of his death, he was one the most decorated flyers of the war and a Top Gun in the Pacific Theater.

In addition to the Medal of Honor, Kearby received two Silver Stars, four Distinguished Flying Crosses, five Air Medals and a Purple Heart. After the war, the Air Force remembered Col. Kearby by naming a missile facility at Sheppard Air Force Base in Wichita Falls and the Officers Club at Kelly Air Force Base in San Antonio in his honor.

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