Welcome to Arkansas State University!

John (Russell) Shell

First Lieutenant

The Silver Star

John "Russell" Shell was born, 17 December 1919, in Franklin, Arkansas. He lived in Jonesboro and attended Arkansas State College. He graduated, May 1941, with a B.S. degree in engineering and commissioned as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army. Lieutenant Shell, with two other pilots and an observer, flew off the aircraft carrier USS Ranger, sixty miles off the North Africa coast, and into history, becoming the first Army aviators to be in combat in WW II. He was killed, 6 May 1943, in Tunisia, North Africa, four days before the North African campaign ended. Lieutenant Shell was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart and the Silver Star. (Shell Field, Ft. Rucker, Alabama was named in his memory, 21 August 1962.)

In the spring of 1943 in the vicinity of Tunisia, an observation plane was forced down near a friendly artillery battalion, and its pilot was wounded. Realizing the plane was drawing tremendous enemy fire, endangering lives of personnel nearby, Lieutenant Russell Shell, completely ignoring his own safety, voluntarily entered the plane under heavy artillery fire. He removed it to a concealed position and saved it from any damage. Enemy fire lifted as soon as the plane was removed. Lieutenant Shell was later assigned as aviation officer of the First Armored Division. A position he held until, 6 May 1943, when he was killed in action by a German 88mm round.