14 Names to Remember Project

14 Names to Remember | Harold Mitts

Posted on May 23rd, 2024 By:

14 Names to Remember Project. Layout by Tonya Strickland. Historic graphics attributed.

Gig Harbor Now columnist Tonya Strickland researched and profiled the 14 local men whose names appear on the World War II monument at Kenneth Leo Marvin Memorial Park. Find all 14 profiles here.

Hometown: Gig Harbor

Branch: U.S. Army Air Forces

Rank: First Lieutenant; Navigator

Died: Jul 17, 1942 | Age 27

First Lt. Harold Elmer Mitts was born July 23, 1915 in Capron, Oklahoma, to Bessie B. (Roberson) Mitts and Olie E. Mitts.

In the 1920 U.S. Census, he had four siblings: Opal, Florence, Letha, and David Mitts. In the early 1940s, the family moved to Gig Harbor. Today, Mitts Lane NW off Rosedale Street NW is named after their family.

Harold Mitts attended The University of Oklahoma and enlisted in WWII on July 29, 1940 from Fort Lewis. He was assigned to the 36th Bomber Squadron, in the 28th Bomber Group. Based at Alaska’s Ladd Field, Mitts was a navigator for a test crew that evaluated how their aircraft, uniforms, and food rations held up in cold-weather combat. Their results aided the U.S. Army Air Forces in establishing equipment standards for icy climates. Mitts’ crew was later reassigned to fly offensive patrols.

On July 17, 1942, his crew was flying a B-17E early model attack bomber during an air assault and photography mission when it was shot down by Japanese float-plane fighters over Kiska, one of the Aleutian Islands in the Alaska Territory. The Flying Fortress sank in Kiska Harbor and was never recovered — the entire crew was declared missing in action. About a month before the crash, Mitts was among several airmen praised in a combat report for a previous mission by the crew’s pilot, Capt. Jack S. Marks:

“I have never encountered a better group with more fortitude, energy, and self-sacrifice. We averaged two sandwiches a day for food for the first four days, as no provisions had been made to have us fed, and they would not leave the plane. For their devotion to duty under fire in the face of constant danger, these men deserve every bit of credit they can be given and are recommended for whatever citations, honors, or medal for which they may be eligible.”

Lt. Mitts was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart and an Air Medal. His name is inscribed on the Courts of the Missing at National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Hawaii.

Status: MIA – Missing in Action