Fallen Warrior: Master Sgt. Henry Erwin

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  • By (Courtesy article)
  • 81st Training Wing Public Affairs


 For our Fallen Warrior commemoration this week, we remember U.S. Army Air Forces Master Sgt. Henry Erwin, 52nd Bombardment Squadron radio operator.

Erwin joined the Army Air Corps when the United States entered in WWII and completed basic training to be assigned to Taylor Field in Florida for flight school. 

He was assigned as a radio operator and technician on a B-17 bomber, Flying Fortress. Later, he volunteered for the newly developed long-range bomber, the B-29, Super Fortress. 

On Erwin’s 10th combat mission, one of his duties was to drop multi-colored flares and white-phosphorus bombs through a chute. These would fall several hundred feet and could be seen for dozens of miles. 

The flares fell as expected, but the activated phosphorus bomb ignited prematurely launching itself back into the airplane, striking Erwin in the face. With the cabin quickly filling with smoke, Erwin located the burning bomb and carried it in his bare hands, tucked against his side, as he stumbled blindly toward the window in the cockpit and threw it out. 

Erwin was then taken to the nearest hospital where he was treated and awarded the Medal of Honor.

Editor's note: The Fallen Warrior series highlights Fallen Warriors who exemplify our core values and paid the ultimate sacrifice. Take a moment to honor this week’s hero.