Maj. Horace Seaver "Stump" Carswell Jr., Class of 1938
Medal of Honor recipient
Born July 18, 1916
Killed in action Oct. 26, 1944
Horace Seaver Carswell Jr. was born in 1916 in Fort Worth. He graduated from North Side High School in 1934 and enrolled at Texas A&M that fall to study agriculture, according to the Association of Former Students.
Though he was a proficient athlete in high school, he was considered too small to be on the A&M football team. At 5 feet 9 inches and 160 pounds, he earned the nickname "Stump" by friends and family according to Texas Aggie Medals of Honor by James Woodall. He transferred to Texas Christian University the next fall, where he lettered in football and baseball. The TCU football team was undefeated his senior year. Carswell graduated in 1939 with a degree in physical education.
Carswell enlisted in the Army Air Corps in March 1940. He trained at flight schools in Oklahoma and Texas, until he was commissioned as a second lieutenant that November. He married his TCU sweetheart, Virginia, the same month. They had one son, Robert.
Carswell flew B-24 bombers and was a flight instructor at Randolph and Goodfellow airfields, according to the Air Force's biography. He was a first lieutenant by February 1942 and a captain before the year was over. Carswell was sent overseas in April 1944 as a major with the 308th Bombardment Group in China during World War II. According to the Arnold Air Society biography, he flew with different crews to "observe pilots' reactions and different crews' proficiency at flying in formation," because of his previous assignments as an instructor.
Awards for combat
Carswell was deputy commander of the 374th Squadron of the 308th in October 1944, according to the Texas State Historical Association. On October 15, his flight crew was on a night sweep off the coast of Hong Kong and came across a convoy of six Japanese ships. Carswell was able to sink a cruiser and a destroyer after a series of bombing runs. He was awarded a Distinguished Service Cross, cited for his "personal courage and zealous devotion to duty."
Eleven days later — Oct. 26, 1944 — the crew was again on a solo nighttime sweep. Carswell and his crew attacked a convoy of 12 ships by making several low-level bombing runs. The plane sustained heavy damage from antiaircraft fire and a crewmember was injured.
Carswell ordered the rest of the crew to bail out. Eight of the 11 crewmembers bailed out while Carswell struggled to maintain altitude. He was hoping to make it over the mountains to a base where it would be safe to land. Surviving crewmembers watched as the plane's last engine failed. The plane crashed into the mountainside, killing Carswell and two others who did not bail out: Lt. James L. O'Neal, copilot, and Lt. Walter H. Hillier, bombardier, whose parachute had been damaged by shell fragments, according to Woodall's book.
Carswell was awarded the Medal of Honor. The citation reads: "With consummate gallantry and intrepidity, Major Carswell gave his life in a supreme effort to save all members of his crew. His sacrifice, far beyond that required of him, was in keeping with the traditional bravery of America's war heroes."
Carswell's wife and son received his Medal of Honor in February 1946. Carswell was initially buried in China. His remains were transported to the United States in 1948. He was buried in the Rose Hill Cemetery in Fort Worth. The Fort Worth Army Airfield was renamed Carswell Air Force Base in 1948. Carswell's body was disinterred in 1986 and buried at Carswell Memorial Park.
The base closed in September 1993, according to the Texas State Historical Association. Carswell's remains were disinterred again and moved to Oakwood Cemetery in Fort Worth, where he grew up. The Air Force base, however, reopened a month later and renamed the Naval Air Reserve Base. A year later, the base was again renamed to Naval Air Station Fort Worth Joint Reserve Base with the airstrip named Carswell Field.
Honoring an Aggie
A&M's chapter of the Arnold Air Society — an honor organization for ROTC students affiliated with the Air Force — is named the Maj. Horace S. Carswell Jr. Squadron. Carswell is recognized in the Hall of Honor at the Memorial Student Center. An artist's rendering of his military portrait is accompanied with his citation and a reproduction of an Army Medal of Honor (the Air Force was not a separate service until 1947). He is recognized at the Sam Houston Sanders Corps of Cadets Center with a bronze plaque.
-- Compiled by Claire Heathman