Northern Territory Government

Roll of Honour

PERRY, Elton S

PERRY, Elton S<br /><br />

Kittyhawk on drome, the plane has a star design on its fuselage.

Elton S. Perry was born in Creighton, Maricopa, Arizona, in 1917, to Will S. and Jessie Perry. He had three siblings, Lanier, Eleanor and Jean. Perry was a skilled mechanic and repairman and did not marry. He enlisted as an Aviation Cadet in the Air Corps on 31 December 1940 (service number 425042).

On 19 February 1942, Darwin would have been without any air defence if ten P-40 Kittyhawks of the US 33rd Pursuit Squadron, led by Major Floyd Pell, had not turned back from their flight to Koepang due to bad weather. Five of these aircraft landed while the remaining five stayed in the air. Second Lieutenant Elton Perry was in B flight and had been ordered with the other members of his crew to circle overhead and provide cover for Major Pell’s A flight while they landed on the Darwin RAAF field.

Zeros were spotted by the pilots in the air. The P-40s broke formation and released their supplementary fuel tanks. The pilots were unseasoned and inexperienced young men; instead of climb-turning to meet the Zeros, they dived away. Zeros dropped down from their up-sun positions and picked off the second lieutenants.

Second lieutenant Elton Perry was the first airman to be hit; he was the first allied pilot to die in combat over mainland Australia. He lost control of the plane and crashed into the open sea just beyond the entrance to Darwin Harbour. Elton Perry’s remains have yet to be found. Monuments to his death can be found at Fort William Mckinley, Manila, and in the Philippines.

Elton Perry was awarded the US Purple Heart Medal, in addition to receiving a posthumous award of the Distinguished Service Cross from General MacArthur.

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