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RG5523.AM:  Walter R. Harris, 1920-1943

Papers:  1942-1949, 2004

Sterling, Johnson County, Neb.:  WWII pilot

Size:  0.1 cu.ft.


Born in Sterling, Nebraska, on June 25, 1920, Walter R. Harris attended Sterling High School, graduating in 1938. After high school he attended Hebron Junior College, graduating in 1940. Harris then enrolled at the University of Nebraska in Lincoln. He attended the University of Nebraska until 1941 when he withdrew to join the U.S. Naval Flight Program. He was commissioned as 2nd Lieutenant in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserves on January 1, 1943.

On July 10, 1943, Harris debarked for New Caledonia Island and was promoted to 1st Lieutenant. Here he joined Marine Squadron 214, also known as the “Black Sheep,” commanded by Major Gregory “Pappy” Boyington. On September 27, 1943, Harris flew with the Black Sheep to act as high cover for a B-24 Bomber strike on Kahili in the Shortland Island area. The squadron was attacked by 15-20 enemy planes, and after the attack, Harris’ plane was missing. One of the other pilots witnessed a plane crash into the ocean, but he was unsure if it was Harris or one of the enemy fighters. Harris was listed as “missing in action” on this date. Walter R. Harris was declared dead on September 28, 1944.


The manuscript portion of the collection contains correspondence relating to Harris’ death as well as biographical information compiled by Annette Pardy for a class project. Also included are song lyrics associated with the Black Sheep squadron, and information about a “secret code” developed by Harris to let his family back home know where he was serving overseas.

The photo component [RG5523.PH] consists of eleven black & white photographs of Walter Harris in uniform and with the Black Sheep Squadron 214 in the South Pacific.

Note: Additional items associated with Walter Harris are held in the collections of the Nebraska History Museum, including uniforms and medals. Not all items are on exhibit. Interested researchers should contact the Museum Collections division to schedule an appointment or to receive more information.



  1. Walter R. Harris biographical materials

  2. Correspondence, etc., relating to Harris’ death

  3. “Secret” code and song lyrics



Boyington, Pappy

Harris, Walter R., 1920-1943

World War, 1939-1945 — Aerial operations, American

World War, 1939-1945 — Pacific Ocean


TMM   11-02-2009