Welch, George Schwartz, born 10-05-1918 in Wawaset Park, Wilmington, Delawarel, as George Lewis Schwartz, but his parents changed his name to avoid the anti-German sentiment surrounding World War I. His father was a senior research chemist for Dupont Experimental Test Station at Wilmington, Delaware. He attended St. Andrew’s School (1936). He completed three years of a mechanical engineering degree from Purdue University, before joining the Army Air Corps in 1939. While attending Purdue, he was initiated as a brother of Delta Upsilon. USAAC flight training schools that he attended included: Brooks, Kelley and Randolph Fields, San Antonio, Texas as well as Hamilton Field, Novato, California.
After receiving his wings and commission in January 1941, Welch was posted to the 47th Pursuit Squadron , 15th Pursuit Group, at Wheeler Field, Oahu, Hawaii in February 1941.
At dawn on December 7, 1941, 2nd Lieutenant George Welch and another pilot, 2nd Lieutenant Kenneth Marlar Taylor, were coming back from a Christmas dinner and dance party (with big band orchestra) at a rooftop hotel in Waikiki, that ended in an all-night poker game. They were still wearing mess dress when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. Welch telephoned an auxiliary Haleiwa Fighter Strip on Oahu’s North Shore to have two Curtiss P-40B Tomahawk fighters prepared for takeoff. He and Taylor immediately drove his Buick at high speed to Haleiwa in order to join the air battle.
Taking off with only 30 cal ammo in the wing guns, Welch claimed two kills of Aichi D3A Val dive bombers over Ewa Mooring Mast Field. The first Japanese aircraft was only damaged and it made it back to its carrier while the second was finished off by Ken Taylor, shortly before he landed at Wheeler Field to get 50 cal ammo for his two cowl guns. On his second sortie, Welch shot down a Val (which was behind Ken Taylor, and crashed in the community of Wahiawa) then one Mitsubishi Zero fighter about five miles west of Barbers Point.
Both Welch and Taylor were nominated for the Medal of Honor by General Henry Happy Arnold, but were awarded the Distinguished Service Cross , the highest USAAF medal, for their actions.
After Pearl Harbour, Welch returned to the continental U.S. to give war bond speeches until being assigned to the 36th Fighter Squadron of the 8th Fighter Group in New Guinea. One of the early squadron commanders, Edward “Porky” Cragg named the Squadron “The Headhunters” after the local New Guinean Headhunter tribes who hated the Japanese and helped to rescue downed pilots. Edward “Porky” Cragg on 26-12 1943, age 24, was missed in action near Borgen Bay, Cape Gloucester, New Britain, Papua New Guinea.
Despite his aerial victories on 07-12-1941, Welch was dissatisfied with flying the poorly performing Bell P-39 Airacobra. When asked by a journalist what aspect of the P-39 he liked, then seven-victory ace George Welch said, “Well, it’s got twelve hundred pounds of Allison armour plate.” This was a reference to the centre-mounted engine (ie: behind the cockpit) rather than to actual armour plating. When Welch inquired as to when his squadron (the 36th FS) would receive P-38s, he was told, “When we run out of P-39s.” He repeatedly appealed to be assigned to the 80th Fighter Squadron (which flew the Lockheed P-38 Lightning) until he was granted a transfer. Between June 21 and September 2, 1943, flying a P-38H, Welch shot down nine more Japanese aircraft: two Zeros, three Ki-61 Tonys, three Ki-43 Oscars and one Ki-46 Dinah. Welch flew three combat tours (a total of 348 combat missions with 16 confirmed victories, all achieved in multiples) before malaria retired him from the war.
In the spring of 1944, Welch was approached by North American Aviation to become a company test pilot. Welch went on to work as chief test pilot, engineer and instructor with North American Aviation during the Korean War where he reportedly downed several enemy MiG-15 “Fagots” while “supervising” his students. However, Welch’s kills were in disobedience of direct orders for him to not engage, and credits for the kills were thus distributed among his students.
Death and burial ground of Welch, George Schwartz.
After the war, Welch returned to flight testing; this time in the F-100 Super Sabre with Yeager flying the chase plane. Welch became the first man to break the sound barrier in level flight with this type of aircraft on 25-05-1953. However, stability problems were encountered in the flight test program, and on Columbus Day, 12-10-1954, Welch’s F-100A-1-NA Super Sabre, 52-5764, disintegrated during a 7g pullout at Mach 1.55. When found, Welch was still in the ejection seat, critically injured, and was aided by NAA test Navion pilots Robert “Bob” Baker and Bud Pogue. Welch was evacuated by helicopter, but was pronounced dead, age 36, on arrival at the Army hospital. He is buried on Arlington National Cemetery, Section 6.