1st Lt Maceo Antonio Harris, Jr.
December 18, 1919 – November 20, 1944
Graduation Date: October 1, 1943
Graduation Rank: First Lieutenant
Unit: 332nd Fighter Group, 100th Fighter Squadron
Service # O-814193
Maceo was born in 1919. He was the son of Maceo Harris and Jessie Dobbs. In 1920, his family was living with his maternal grandparents and his father was employed as a policeman in Boston. In November of that same year, his father passed quite unexpectedly from pneumonia. His mother continued to live in Boston with her two children. In 1940, he was living with his mother in Boston. He attended Northeastern University College of Engineering from 1938 to 1942. In 1942 he enlisted in Boston and he entered the Tuskegee Army Air Field program, completing his primary training in August of 1943. He completed the program on Oct. 1, 1943, at Tuskegee Army Air Field in Alabama. In December he deployed to Italy with the 100th Fighter Squadron, part of the 332nd Fighter Group.
On July 17, 1944, the 332nd Fighter Group escorted a group of B-24 bombers of the 306th Bombardment Wing to railroad yards in southern France. Nineteen enemy planes challenged the bombers and their fighter escorts, but only three attacked.
Capt. Luther H. Smith, 2nd Lt. Robert Smith and 1st Lt. Laurence D. Wilkins made short work of the planes: Each pilot claimed an aerial victory.
Harris chased after another enemy plane, and ended up separated from his group.
“My flight leader and I went down on two bogies, and after they ‘split-S’ed’ from me at about 18,000 feet, I pulled up all alone in a tight chandelle to the left,” the first lieutenant said in an interview included in “The Tuskegee Airmen: The Men Who Changed a Nation” by Charles E. Francis and Adolph Caso. “I tried to join another ship, but lost him when I peeled off on two more bogies that were after some bombers. The bogies turned steeply to the left, and P-51s were in the vicinity, so I kept on with the bombers because they were hitting the target. Flak was intense over the target, and I kept an eye on the B-24s for enemy fighters that might come in when the bombers left the area.
“Upon leaving the target, I joined another P-51 and tried to contact him by radio. My attempt was unsuccessful, so I peeled off alone on three bogies who were approaching a straggling bomber from the rear. They looked like P-51s, and I rocked my wings coming in, but they swung left over France away from the bomber,” Harris said.
“I widely circled the B-24 because the top turret gunner was firing at me, but when he stopped firing, I came in very close to survey the flak damage. The number two engine was feathered and the number one was smoking moderately.”
The bomber’s compass and radio were not working, so Harris used hand signals to put it on course to Corsica, France. When he couldn’t get a response from the Corsica control tower, he buzzed the airstrip to clear the runway.
“They landed OK — partly on their belly,” Harris said. “Only the tail gunner was injured; they took him out on stretchers. The B-24 pilot was from San Francisco. He is in the 459th Bomber Group and his ship number is 129585. He and the co-pilot appreciated my friendly aid and kissed me several times after the manner of the French.”
Four months later, Harris was not as fortunate. When meeting up with bombers on Nov. 20 for another escort mission, the engine in Harris’ P-51 Mustang stalled.
“The bombers had been spotted to our right and heading away from us,” 2nd Lt. Earl R. Lane wrote in a military report. “We made a turn to pick them up and while in the turn Lt.
Harris’ ship started throwing coolant. He said, ‘I am going to jump, all of my coolant is gone and the entire engine has quit.’ He started losing altitude and I followed him. The other two men of the flight were staying up to cover me. Lt. Harris glided his plane down to the overcast, which was about 25,000 feet, but did not jump. I followed him, but lost him in the overcast. I buzzed the general area in which I thought he was, but was unable to see him.”
Maceo A. Harris Jr is buried or memorialized at Plot C Row 3 Grave 29, Ardennes American Cemetery, Neupre, Belgium. This is an American Battle Monuments Commission location.
According to a government database, he was awarded a Purple Heart for his military service.