Battle Honours - RAAF Pilot Awarded The Silver Star - Edward Mobsby

Edward Mobsby - Awarded the US Silver Star

Recognition of outstanding acts of bravery has long been part of the process and narrative of war. Napoleon Bonaparte is reputed to have said that “men will fight long and hard for a piece of ribbon”.1

This may have been a reflection of motivations at that time (or perhaps his own values) but it is not always a view that would resonate with Australians. If we have learnt anything as a nation from our participation in global conflicts it is that our men and women are motivated to fight long and hard for two things above all else – freedom and mates. Nevertheless we will always value formal recognition of their service and sacrifice.

This is the first of many articles, the aim of which is to increase the knowledge of military awards for outstanding bravery made to Australians by other nations.

The US Department of Defense2 advises that the top three awards for valour are:

1.       Medal of Honor (awarded to all services)

2.       Service Cross  - Distinguished Service Cross (Army),  Navy Cross & Air Force Cross

3.       Silver Star (awarded to all services)

The Medal of Honor is, generally speaking, not awarded to non-US citizens3 whereas the Service Crosses and the Silver Star may be. This article will focus on the US Silver Star

Edward Mobsby's Silver Star. Image courtesy of the Read Family Collection.

The Silver Star is an award recognising exceptional gallantry in combat. A rare award for US service men and women, it is even more so for non-US citizens. The Australian War Memorial lists just 30 Australians who received this award in World War 2. It should be 31. There is a name yet to be added following a posthumous award in 2014, Flying Officer Edward Tompson MOBSBY.  An outstanding young pilot he was seconded to the US Air Force (90th Bombardment Squadron) and lost his life on 26 July 1942 whilst flying an exceptionally dangerous bombing mission.

“On 25 July, 1942, P/O Mobsby’s B-25 was part of a flight of aircraft who departed his operating base at Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea to attack enemy convoys at Buna and Gona. When they started their bombing run, there were no enemy aircraft in sight . . .  Suddenly the flight was attacked without warning by ten to twelve, Japanese fighters. Bombs were quickly salvoed [released all at once] and an echelon of diamonds was formed…Schmidt and Mobsby’s aircraft became the diamond point lead for one of the two flights.  …For fifteen minutes a running fight was carried on. Three direct frontal attacks were made and completed by Zeros flying through the formation. The B-25 Mobsby was in was hit with a 20mm cannon shell in the right engine. The engine exploded against the fire wall, breaking an oil line. The plane eventually landed with low oil pressure and no electrical system, which meant it was defenseless.

"The next day, six B-25 crews were ordered to bomb Gasmata and strafe flying boats. The Squadron Combat Log states, [t]his mission closely approached being an all-out suicide mission… [since Gasmata was] known to be too far for a safe operation.   Everyone on the mission was keenly aware that if the flight was intercepted on the way home, they wouldn’t have enough gas to return to Port Morseby. When the lead aircraft was unable to start one engine, Lt Schmidt's and P/O Mobsby's aircraft took the lead. The formation was intercepted en-route by 20 to 30 Zero fighters.  Lt Schmidt’s and P/O Mobsby's aircraft was seen blazing as it left the formation. P/O Mobsby was last seen trying to bail out of the top hatch.  Three of the crews that day were awarded the Silver Star for gallantry in action, including the members of Lt Schmidt’s crew. Every member of the crew, that is, except P/O Mobsby”

B25C of 90th Bombardment Squadron

A B25C of the 90th Bombardment Squadron similar to that flown by Edward Mobsby.  RAAF personnel continued to serve with this unit which notably took part in the Battle of the Bismark Sea the following year (1943).

The text above is edited and reproduced from the Oration made by US General Carlisle in Canberra on 14 March 2014 at a ceremony to mark the posthumous award of the Silver Star to Flying Officer Mobsby.  It took 69 years and a great deal of love and dedication to his memory on the part of his wife, his daughters (and their families) for that recognition to be made.

Read more, including General Carlisle’s full oration here.

Edward Mobsby with his daughters. Image courtesy of the Read Family Collection.