b. 02/11/1917 St Paul, Minnesota. d. 05/06/1942 Midway, Hawaii.
DATE OF MOH ACTION: 05/06/1942 Midway, Hawaii.
Richard Fleming was born in Saint Paul, Minnesota on November 2, 1917. He attended Saint Thomas Military Academy and graduated in the Class of 1935. During his senior year he was chosen as top student officer. From Saint Thomas, he entered the University of Minnesota and became president of Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity. He received his Bachelor of Arts degree in 1939. Soon after graduation, he enlisted in the Marine Corps Reserve and applied for flight training. He was sent to the Naval Air Station in Pensacola, Florida, for training and finished at the top of his class in 1940. He was promoted to first lieutenant in April 1942 and to captain a month later.
Captain Fleming's first duty station was the Naval Air Base in San Diego, California. Ten days after World War II began, he flew from Pearl Harbor to Midway Island. He fought in the Battle of Midway as Flight Officer of Marine Scout Bombing Squadron 241. When squadron commander Lofton Henderson was shot down during the initial attack on a Japanese aircraft carrier, Fleming took command of the unit. Leaving the remainder of his formation, he dived to the perilously low altitude of 400 ft (120 m), exposing himself to enemy fire in order to score a hit on the ship.
The following day, June 5, 1942, Capt. Fleming led the second division of his squadron in a mass dive-bombing assault on the Mikuma. Putting his plane into an approach glide, he again dived low and succeeded in scoring a near-miss on the objective. His plane, hit by anti-aircraft fire, caught fire. Unable to pull out of his dive, Capt. Fleming, his plane a mass of flames, crashed into the sea. His gunner, Pfc. George Albert Toms, was also killed.
For "extraordinary heroism and conspicuous gallantry above and beyond the call of duty," Capt. Fleming was posthumously awarded the nation's highest military decoration — the Medal of Honor, while Pfc. Toms received the Distinguished Flying Cross. On November 24, 1942, President Franklin Roosevelt presented the Medal of Honor to Capt. Fleming's mother.
For extraordinary heroism and conspicuous intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty as Flight Officer, Marine Scout-Bombing Squadron TWO FORTY-ONE during action against enemy Japanese forces in the Battle of Midway on June 4 and 5, 1942. When his squadron Commander was shot down during the initial attack upon an enemy aircraft carrier, Captain Fleming led the remainder of the division with such fearless determination that he dived his own plane to the perilously low altitude of four hundred feet before releasing his bomb. Although his craft was riddled by 179 hits in the blistering hail of fire that burst upon him from Japanese fighter guns and antiaircraft batteries, he pulled out with only two minor wounds inflicted upon himself. On the night of June 4, when the Squadron Commander lost his way and became separated from the others, Captain Fleming brought his own plane in for a safe landing at its base despite hazardous weather conditions and total darkness. The following day, after less than four hours' sleep, he led the second division of his squadron in a coordinated glide-bombing and dive- bombing assault upon a Japanese battleship. Undeterred by a fateful approach glide, during which his ship was struck and set afire, he grimly pressed home his attack to an altitude of five hundred feet, released his bomb to score a near-miss on the stern of his target, then crashed to the sea in flames. His dauntless perseverance and unyielding devotion to duty were in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.
BURIAL LOCATION: LOST AT SEA - MEMORIAL AT FORT SNELLING CEMETERY, MINNEAPOLIS, MINNESOTA. Plot: F-1, 0, 111