b. 28/09/1917 Portsmouth, Virginia. d. 02/11/1943 near Rabaul, New Britain
DATE OF MOH ACTION: 02/11/1943 near Rabaul, New Britain.
Wilkins joined the Army from his birth city of Portsmouth, Virginia in 1936, and by November 2, 1943 had risen to the rank of major, command of the 8th Bombardment Squadron of the 3rd Attack Group, and had flown 50 combat missions.
On that day, he participated in a bombing raid on enemy ships in a harbor near Rabaul, New Britain. Wilkins repeatedly exposed himself to intense anti-aircraft fire and successfully destroyed two enemy vessels. Despite severe damage to his aircraft, he continued to attack until his plane was shot down into the sea, killing him. For his actions during the mission, he was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor four months later, on March 24, 1944.
Wilkins' remains were never recovered; a marker in his memory was placed at Olive Branch Cemetery in his hometown of Portsmouth, Virginia.
For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty in action with the enemy near Rabaul, New Britain, on 2 November 1943. Leading his squadron in an attack on shipping in Simpson Harbor, during which intense antiaircraft fire was expected, Maj. Wilkins briefed his squadron so that his airplane would be in the position of greatest risk. His squadron was the last of 3 in the group to enter the target area. Smoke from bombs dropped by preceding aircraft necessitated a last-second revision of tactics on his part, which still enabled his squadron to strike vital shipping targets, but forced it to approach through concentrated fire, and increased the danger of Maj. Wilkins' left flank position. His airplane was hit almost immediately, the right wing damaged, and control rendered extremely difficult. Although he could have withdrawn, he held fast and led his squadron into the attack. He strafed a group of small harbor vessels, and then, at low level, attacked an enemy destroyer. His 1,000 pound bomb struck squarely amidships, causing the vessel to explode. Although antiaircraft fire from this vessel had seriously damaged his left vertical stabilizer, he refused to deviate from the course. From below-masthead height he attacked a transport of some 9,000 tons, scoring a hit which engulfed the ship in flames. Bombs expended, he began to withdraw his squadron. A heavy cruiser barred the path. Unhesitatingly, to neutralize the cruiser's guns and attract its fire, he went in for a strafing run. His damaged stabilizer was completely shot off. To avoid swerving into his wing planes he had to turn so as to expose the belly and full wing surfaces of his plane to the enemy fire; it caught and crumpled his left wing. Now past control, the bomber crashed into the sea. In the fierce engagement Maj. Wilkins destroyed 2 enemy vessels, and his heroic self-sacrifice made possible the safe withdrawal of the remaining planes of his squadron.
BURIAL LOCATION: MANILA AMERICAN CEMETERY, MANILA, PHILIPPINES. (MISSING).
IMO AT OLIVE BRANCH CEMETERY, PORTSMOUTH, VIRGINIA. IMO- Section F, Lot 13
NO IMAGE AVAILABLE