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Warren County Local History by Dallas Bogan

Lt. Charles L. Earnhart: Lebanon's War Ace

Dallas Bogan on 28 July 2004
Dallas Bogan, Warren County, Ohio and Beyond (Bowie Maryland: Heritage Press, 1979) page
Return to Index to see a list of other articles by Dallas Bogan

Down through the years Warren County has produced many men and women of the Armed Forces who have excelled in times of battle. One such person was Lt. Charles L. Earnhart, Lebanon's World War II flying ace.
Lieutenant Earnhart was born Nov. 6, 1919, in Lebanon, Ohio, a son of Walter and Sarah Guttery Earnhart. He entered the U.S. Air Force at the beginning of the war and took his training at Curtis Field in Texas. He was later shipped overseas and served as a pilot in the Twelfth Air Force in North Africa.
From the beginning he was engaged almost daily in combat with the German Air Force. At one point, Lt. Earnhart was shot down in enemy territory, escaped German machine gun bullets, walked back to his burning plane to pick up his jacket, and then made his way safely back to his home base. He was credited with damaging four enemy planes before losing control of his own.
Mrs. Earnhart received a letter from Mrs. Frank Mullinux, Jr., of Watertown, Tennessee, telling of the experience her husband had with Lt. Earnhart. Mullinux was in the same squadron with Lt. Earnhart and was shot down. The Lieutenant saved his life, although he was captured later. She also disclosed that Lt. Earnhart had six Messerschmidts and one Junkers troop plane to his credit.
In the March 20, 1943, issue of the New Yorker an unidentified reporter, who had visited troops in Tunisia, wrote of his meeting with Lt. Earnhart. The reporter obtained a piece of paper that contained direct accounts of pilots that had filed claims for shooting down a German plane. He copied part of a report written by Lt. Earnhart of whom he thought showed a form of academic finesse.
The Lieutenant wrote that he had shot down a Junkers 52, a German troop carrier, and at the same time had been attacked by several enemy fighters. He writes:
"As I was climbing away from them," he wrote, "a 20-millimeter explosive shell hit the windshield and deflected through the top of the canopy and down on the instrument panel. Three pieces of shell hit me, in the left chest, left arm, and left knee. I dropped my belly tank and, having the ship under control, headed for my home base. On the way I applied a tourniquet to my leg, administered a hypodermic, and took sulfanilamide tablets. I landed the ship at my own base one hour after the shell had hit me. The plane was repaired. Claim: one Junker 52 destroyed."
Word was received in February 1943 that Lt. Earnhart had been missing and was last heard from on January 28, 1943.
A telegram addressed to Mrs. Earnhart read: "Your son, Lieut. Charles L. Earnhart reported prisoner of war of the German Government. Letter Follows."
Mrs. Earnhart received letters from folks in many parts of the country revealing that her son was a prisoner, according to German radio broadcasts. Many letters referred to him as the "Ace of Africa."
Lt. Earnhart praised the Red Cross for the part they played in the welfare of the soldiers during his capture by the Germans. He wrote that the men were well clothed and fed. He said most of his time was spent playing bridge, a favorite pastime. He was released at the end of the war, spending over two years in confinement.
Maj. Gen. James H. Doolittle gave awards for his part in the service. First Lieutenant Charles L. Earnhart was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Silver Star, and Air Medal with oak leaf clusters,
Shortly after the war, in 1947, he moved to Masury, Ohio, and purchased a pharmacy. In June 1974, during a hold-up in his establishment, he was shot four times by his assailants. He died in route to the hospital, his death being ruled a homicide.

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This page created 28 July 2004 and last updated 20 April, 2009
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