On August 18, 1943, Maj. Ralph Cheli led a strike group from the 38th Bomb Group in an attack against the Japanese airstrip at Dagua, New Guinea, as a part of an all-out low-level B-25 strafer attack against the four airfields in the Wewak complex. Already fighting bad weather across the northern coast of New Guinea, Maj. Cheli’s unit was attacked by roughly ten 59 Sentai Oscars. Soon thereafter, one of the fighters made a five o’clock pass at the lead B-25, its fire ripping into the right engine. Maj. Cheli’s wing burst into flames and he rapidly began losing power as black smoke poured from the engine nacelle and wing. Despite a severely damaged aircraft, Cheli selflessly refused to relinquish leadership of the formation, and continuing his attack across the target, strafing and dispersing his load of parafrag bombs as he went. Only when the attack run was well underway, did he finally turn way out to sea where he quickly ditched the flaming aircraft. His crew was soon captured by the Japanese, and all were eventually executed. Maj. Cheli was subsequently awarded the Medal of Honor for his heroic actions that day, continuing to lead his force in the attack even though his aircraft was fatally damaged.
This limited edition print can be purchased on our website.