Horace Seaver Carswell, Jr., Medal of Honor recipient, was born on July 18, 1916, to Horace S. Carswell, Sr., and Bertha Rea Carswell, in Fort Worth, Texas. He grew up in Fort Worth and was an outstanding athlete, participating in football, basketball, and baseball at North Side High School from 1931 to 1934. In addition to athletics, he also took part in the Boy’s Glee Club, Hi-Y Club, and the National Thespian Club.
In September 1934 Carswell arrived at Texas A&M, majoring in agriculture and assigned to the cavalry for his required military science course. He planned to play football but failed to make the team. Carswell transferred to Texas Christian University (TCU) after the end of his first year. At TCU, he played both football and baseball. His football teammates included TCU All-Americans Sammy Baugh and Davey O’Brien. To finance his way through school, he found employment at a local department store. Carswell graduated from TCU with a degree in physical education on August 26, 1939.
After a brief period with an insurance company, Carswell enlisted in the United States Army Air Corps as a flying cadet at Dallas on March 26, 1940. After completing his primary flight training at the Spartan School of Aeronautics in Tulsa, Oklahoma, he attended the Primary Flying School at Randolph Field near San Antonio and then the Air Corps Advanced Flying School at nearby Kelly Field. On November 16, 1940, he received his commission as a second lieutenant in the Air Corps Reserve.
Ordered to active duty, Carswell served as a flying instructor at Randolph Field and then Goodfellow Field in San Angelo in 1941. While in San Angelo, he married Virginia Ede in October 1941. The couple had met at TCU where Virginia had earned her degree in home economics in 1938; they had son Robert Ede Carswell. In 1942 Carswell saw assignments with the Sixty-second Squadron, Thiry-ninth Bombardment Group in Tuscon, Arizona, and then to Biggs Army Air Field near El Paso, where he served as a flight commander and received a promotion to captain. Transferred to the army air base at Clovis, New Mexico, in January 1943, he served as squadron commander, group commander, and deputy group commander in the 356th Bombardment Squadron, 302nd Bombardment Group. On November 1, 1943, Captain Carswell was assigned to Langley Field in Virginia. Promoted to major on April 23, 1944, Carswell also departed that day for his next assignment with the 374th Bombardment Squadron, 308th Bombardment Group in Chengkung, China.
Carswell joined the 374th Bomb Squadron in May 1944 and was assigned to the group headquarters staff and then as the operations officer. After three months of combat experience, Carswell was assigned as the commander of a detachment of B-24Js (radar-equipped bombers used for low-altitude missions) at Liuchow. On October 15 Carswell’s B-24 crew experienced success in a night sweep over the South China Sea when it sank two enemy warships.
On October 26 at about 5:15 PM, Carswell’s B-24J and a new crew departed for the South China Sea in sea-sweeping operation. Piloted by Carswell, the B-24 encountered a Japanese convoy consisting of twelve ships. Carswell’s first bombing run at 600 feet dropped six bombs and damaged a destroyer. Surprised by the attack, the Japanese failed to return fire.
Carswell ordered a second bombing run after circling and leaving the area for about thirty-five minutes. From 600 feet, Carswell directed bomb drops on a tanker. Two of the three bombs dropped were direct hits. The enemy force returned fire and scored a number of key hits to the aircraft—destroying two engines and the hydraulic system, puncturing one gasoline tank, and ripping numerous holes in the bomber. Carswell’s skills as a pilot prevented the bomber from plunging in the sea; he then directed the aircraft into a climbing direction toward the China shore. After reaching the coastline, Carswell found it difficult to maintain altitude. At 11:15 PM, he ordered eight crewmembers to bail out; two were killed after their parachutes malfunctioned. The bombardier, whose parachute was damaged, refused to jump, and the copilot remained with Carswell on the bomber. Carswell sought to control the aircraft in the hopes of reaching a base or attempting a crash landing, but the plane crashed into a mountainside. Carswell and his two comrades were killed. For his “supreme effort to save all members of his crew,” Major Carswell was recommended for the Medal of Honor.
For his service to his country, Maj. Horace S. Carswell, Jr., was honored in numerous ways after the war. On February 27, 1946, two-year-old Robert Ede Carswell, with his mother and Mr. and Mrs. Horace S Carswell, Sr., by his side, was presented his father’s posthumous Medal of Honor by Maj. Gen. Albert Hegenberger in a ceremony at Goodfellow Field in San Angelo. Major Carswell also received the Distinguished Service Cross, Distinguished Flying Cross, the Air Medal, and the Purple Heart. In 1948 the Fort Worth Army Air Field was renamed Carswell Air Force Base (now the Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base Fort Worth). Texas A&M University paid tribute to its former student by displaying an artist’s portrait of Carswell and a copy of his Medal of Honor in the Memorial Student Center. On campus, a bronze plaque of Carswell hangs in the Sam Houston Sanders Corps of Cadets Center. In Fort Worth, the AMVETS (American Veterans of World War II) post was named after the local hero.
Carswell’s remains, along with those of two other crew members, were found and taken to the Catholic mission at Tungchen, China, for burial. On October 29, 1945, Carswell’s body was reburied at the American Military Cemetery at Kunming, China, and again removed and taken to Hawaii and buried on November 15, 1947. On February 26, 1948, Carswell was buried in east Fort Worth at the Rose Hill Cemetery. To honor the Texas hero, Carswell was reburied at Carswell Air Force Base on October 9, 1986. After the base was closed in 1993, Carswell’s body was taken in dignified ceremonies to the north side of Fort Worth to Oakwood Cemetery, a historic cemetery, and buried in the Carswell Memorial Park. His parents’ remains were also moved and buried beside their son.