COL Ted Crouchley enlisted in the Army Air Corps in July 1941 and earned his wings on Feb. 4, 1942, shortly after Pearl Harbor. Fresh out of B-24 qualification training, he volunteered for a highly dangerous secret mission: a backup plan to bomb Japan in case the April 18, 1942 Doolittle raid — B-25 bombers launched from the deck of the USS Hornet — failed.
This Hail Mary effort involved flying halfway round the world, across the Atlantic, Africa and into India, before staging at bases in eastern China. But by the time the volunteer squadron reached Egypt, the Japanese had captured the Chinese bases from which they had hoped to launch. So Ted instead became a member of the first operational U.S. bomber unit in the European Theater of Operations, based near Cairo.
On June 12, 1942 he flew one of 13 planes on the first American strategic bombing mission against Axis territory in Europe. Their target: the Ploesti oil field in Romania, which a year later would make headlines as the target of the Allies’ “Operation Tidal Wave” bombing attacks. Three days later, Ted participated in another mission, this time against the Italian battle fleet, which left its base to try preventing a British convoy from reaching the island of Malta. For this mission, he earned a Silver Star. The men and planes of Ted’s unit raided shipping in the Mediterranean and North African ports in support of British efforts to halt German Field Marshal Erwin Rommel’s march toward Cairo. They bombed harbor installations in Libya, Tunisia, Sicily, and Italy to cut enemy supply lines to North Africa.
By the time Crouchley rotated home in March, 1943 he had flown 33 combat missions totaling 331.2 combat flying hours. In addition to the Silver Star, he earned two Distinguished Flying Crosses and three Air Medals. He spent the rest of the war training new bomber pilots.
Crouchley remained in the service after the war, earning a regular army commission, and transition to the newly created United States Air Force in 1947. Among various tours of duty, Crouchley flew nuclear armed B-47 bombers from Pease Air Force Base, Portsmouth, NH from 1956 to 1960. In September 1970, he ended a thirty year career as Commander of Offutt Air Force Base in Omaha, Nebraska. He died 20 Oct 1992.
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