While leading a formation of North American B-25 Mitchell bombers against the heavily defended Japanese air base at Wewak, New Guinea, Maj. Ralph Cheli’s aircraft is intercepted and damaged. Although a crash is inevitable, only after the bombing and strafing run is completed and the base heavily damaged does Cheli relinquish the formation lead. He then ditches the B-25 in the sea. Captured by the Japanese, he dies on March 6, 1944, when, while being transferred to Japan, the troop ship that he was on was bombed and sunk. He was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions at Wewak.
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