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Elwood E. Barden

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Date published: 6/21/2014

Elwood E. Barden

King George County resident Elwood E. Barden went to be with the Lord on Wednesday, June 18, 2014. He was 93 years old.

Mr. Barden is survived by his wife of 69 years, Ruby Lee Gillis; and their five children, Elwood Barden Jr. (Woody), Becky Godwin, Chris Barden, Douglas Barden and Debra Valenti. Mr. and Mrs. Barden have 14 grandchildren and 25 great-grandchildren.

Mr. Barden once wrote a newspaper article he titled "My Ordinary Life," to chronicle his military service in World War II. That article, and the testimony of all who knew him, prove his life was anything but ordinary.

He was born in 1921, in a small hand-hewn wood-frame house built by his grandfather on what is called "Rock Hill" farm, near Lumberton, Miss. He was the only child of Walter Carl von Barden and Myra Eva Wyres. At age 4, he left the farm to live first in Arkansas and then in Texas.

He returned with his mother to live at Rock Hill while in high school. He graduated in the class of 1938 from Forrest County Agricultural High School, Brooklyn, Miss.

In 1939 after a short stint in the Civilian Conservation Corp., Mr. Barden joined the U.S. Army Air Corps (later to become the U.S. Air Force). Just a month after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, Mr. Barden's aircraft squadron and group boarded trains to California where they embarked on ships headed to the South Pacific. His unit was among the first to be sent to stop the rapidly advancing Japanese forces. It was in the jungle airstrips of New Guinea that he earned the title of "crew chief of the Aces." Three pilots for whom he served as crew chief were credited with shooting down at least five enemy aircraft, thus becoming "Aces." It is believed he is the only crew chief to have ever earned this distinction. One such pilot, then a young lieutenant, Richard Bong, became the leading Ace in the history of the United States by shooting down 40 Japanese aircraft.

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