Image of the Air Force wings with the museum name underneath

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Staff Sergeant Henry E. Erwin Medal of Honor Recipient

In April 1945, on a mission over Koriyama, Japan, radio operator SSgt. Henry “Red” Erwin was charged with dropping phosphorous smoke bombs to mark a target. Upon releasing the bombs, one proved faulty. It exploded while still inside the launching chute, rocketing back into the aircraft and striking Erwin in the face. The burning phosphorous bomb crushed his nose, immediately blinded him, and filled the B-29 Superfortress with smoke. Despite his blindness, SSgt. Erwin picked up the flaming bomb, further burning his hands, and felt his way through the aircraft. He struggled through narrow passageways, but eventually found a window and pushed the bomb out. He collapsed, his body fully aflame.

Smoke cleared from the cockpit and the pilot pulled the aircraft out of a dive, dodging enemy fighters and antiaircraft fire. The crew sprayed Erwin with fire extinguishers, landed the plane, and sought immediate medical attention. Amazingly, he survived.  For his heroic actions which saved the lives of his crewmates, SSgt. Erwin was awarded the Medal of Honor. 

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