Leslie W. Lear (1952/06/25)

"No Longer a Forgotten Warrior."

Leslie Wayne Lear was born on March 20, 1925 in Santa Cruz, California, to Mr. and Mrs. Leslie I. Lear. He and his sister Barbara attended local elementary schools and in 1939, he entered Santa Cruz High School. Wayne, as his high school classmates knew him, was an all-around student. He was active in sports and played on the football, baseball and the 1941 champion basketball teams. Lear was accepted into the Hi Tow Tong honor society and also served as the 1943 senior class president. He was a member of the June 1943 graduating class.

Leslie Wayne Lear enlisted in the US Army in June 1943 and was immediately singled out as a potential officer candidate. The Army Air Force sent him to Cole College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa for college training prior to his entry into the air cadet program. Upon completion of the course Wayne attended AAF schools at Santa Ana Air Base in Southern California, Ryan Field California and advanced training at Minter Field, California. Following his commissioning as a second lieutenant, he was sent to Douglas, Arizona, for training on B-17 bombers and to Roswell, New Mexico, for B-29 training. At the completion of his training, Lt. Lear went to Lincoln, Nebraska, to assemble a crew. His aircraft traveled from El Paso, Texas, to Seattle, Washington, before making its way to Japan in December 1945.

During this period of his life, Wayne Lear was married and his wife later joined him in Japan. While in Japan, he was promoted to first lieutenant and assigned to the 89th Bomb Squadron of the 38th Bomb group at Osaka, where he served as Communications officer.

When the Korean War began in June 1950, Lear began flying helicopters and was promoted to captain. About June 1952 he reported for duty as a H-5G helicopter pilot for the US Air Force 3rd Air Rescue Squadron in Korea.

On June 25, 1950, Ensign Ronald Dow Eaton USN had flown off of the US carrier Bon Homme Richard. It was during his mission that his plane was shot down. Captain Lear was sent to retrieve the downed navy pilot. The official report of the incident noted:
“Capt. Leslie W. Lear and A1C Bob D. Holloway, both recently arrived in Korea, were to pick up a downed pilot. Approaching the pickup area in his H-5, Lear requested ResCAP fighters to make a pass and check for ground fire. The fighters did so and received no enemy fire. Well before this time, the enemy had learned to wait until the rescue helicopter arrived before opening fire. Captain Lear began his approach and was fired upon. Breaking off the approach, he called for the fighters to strafe the area. They did so. The H-5 made a run-in, picked up the downed pilot, and began to depart the area while receiving heavy machine gun fire. About six miles from the pickup area, the fighter pilots reported seeing pieces falling from the helicopter, which was flying at an altitude of about 1,200 feet. Bailing out at approximately 800 feet, Holloway was taken POW and was returned alive. Lear and the rescued pilot also bailed out, but they exited at lower altitudes and were presumed to have died upon impact.”

The body of Captain Leslie Wayne Lear was never recovered and he was officially listed as missing in action and presumed dead. His awards include the Purple Heart.

(NARA2; ABMC, SCHSC, Page 125; US Air Force Rotorheads, http://www.rotorheadsrus.us/documents/331.html, [16 Sept 2008]; SCSn September 24, 1953 2:5, Korean War Veterans Honor Roll, http://www.koreanwarvetsmemfnd.org/HonorRoll/LWLear.htm, [16 September 2008])

Creator: Nelson, Robert L.
Source: Remembering our own: the Santa Cruz County military roll of honor 1861-2010. Santa Cruz, CA: The Museum of Art & History, c2010.
Date: Undated
Type: OBIT
Coverage: 1950s
Rights: Reproduced by permission of Robert L. Nelson and The Museum of Art & History.
Identifier: RO-LEAR


Nelson, Robert L. “Leslie W. Lear (1952/06/25).” Remembering our own: the Santa Cruz County military roll of honor 1861-2010. Santa Cruz, CA: The Museum of Art & History, c2010. SCPL Local History. https://history.santacruzpl.org/omeka/items/show/4808. Accessed 25 Sep. 2023.