28 January 1919: Colonel Francis Stanley (“Gabby”) Gabreski, United States Air Force, was born at Oil City, Pennsylvania. He was the second child of Stanislaw Gabryszewski, a railroad car repairer, and Jozefa Kapica Gabryszewsky, both immigrants from Poland. He attended Oil City High School, graduating in 1938.
After two years of study at the University of Notre Dame, on 28 Francis S. Gabreski enlisted as a Flying Cadet, Air Corps, United States Army, at Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He was 5 feet, 8 inches (172.7 centimeters) tall and weighed 146 pounds (66.2 kilograms). After completing flight training, on 14 March 1941, Gabreski was commissioned as a second lieutenant, Air Reserve.
Lieutenant Gabreski was assigned as a fighter pilot with the 45th Pursuit Squadron, 15th Pursuit Group, at Wheeler Army Airfield, Territory of Hawaii. He flew Curtiss P-36 Hawks and P-40 Warhawks. While at Wheeler, Gabreski met his future wife, Miss Catherine Mary Cochran. They planned to marry, but this was delayed when the Imperial Japanese Navy attacked Hawaii on 7 December 1941.
On 1 March 1942, Gabreski was promoted to first lieutenant, Air Corps, Army of the United States (A.U.S.), and then to captain, 16 October 1942. Captain Gabreski was sent to Britain with the 56th Fighter Group.
Because of his Polish lineage and his fluency in the language, Gabreski requested assignment to a Polish fighter squadron fighting with the Royal Air Force. His request was approved and he was assigned to No. 315 Squadron, based at RAF Northolt, London, England, where he flew the Supermarine Spitfire Mk.IX. (One of those Spitfires, Spitfire Mk.IXc BS410, is currently under restoration at the Biggin Hill Heritage Hangar.)
As American involvement in the European Theater increased, “Gabby” returned to the 61st Fighter Squadron, 56th Fighter Group, and flew the Republic P-47C Thunderbolt. He was promoted to the rank of Major, 19 July 1943.
Major Gabreski was promoted to the rank of lieutenant colonel, 23 January 1944. He took command of the 61st Fighter Squadron on 13 April 1944.
By July 1944, he had shot down 28 enemy fighters in aerial combat and destroyed another three on the ground, making him the leading American fighter ace up to that time.
Having flown 193 combat missions and awaiting transport to the United States, on 20 July 1944 Gabreski decided to take “just one more.” As he made a low strafing run across an enemy airfield near Bassenheim, Germany, the tips of his propeller blades hit the ground, causing a severe vibration. He put his Thunderbolt down on its belly, climbed out and ran to avoid being captured. He evaded the enemy for five days before he was caught. Gabreski was held as a Prisoner of War at Stalag Luft I until April 1945.
Gabreski was promoted to the rank of Colonel, Army of the United States, 24 October 1945. He was released from active duty in September 1946. He then joined the Air National Guard with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel, 6 December 1946.
Gabreski resumed his college education, enrolling as one of the first students at the School of General Studies of Columbia University in 1947. He graduated with a bachelor of arts degree (B.A.) in political science, in 1949.
During the the Korean War, Lieutenant Colonel Gabreski served with the 4th Fighter Interceptor Wing and commanded the 51st Fighter Interceptor Wing. He is credited with shooting down 6.5 Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG 15 fighters netween 8 July 1951 and 13 April 1952, while flying North American Aviation F-86A and F-86E Sabres. (The “.5” represents credit shared with another pilot for one enemy airplane destroyed, 20 February 1952.) Gabreski flew 100 combat missions over Korea.
After an assignment as Chief of Combat Operations, Office of the Deputy Inspector General, at Norton Air Force Base in southern California, Colonel Gabreski attended the Air War College at Maxwell Air Force Base, Montgomery, Alabama. He was then assigned as Deputy Chief of Staff, Ninth Air Force.
He went on to command two tactical fighter wings, the 354th and the 18th, flying North American Aviation F-100 Super Sabres.
Colonel Gabreski’s final fighter command was the 52nd Fighter Wing (Air Defense) based at Suffolk County Airport, New York, which was equipped with the McDonnell F-101 Voodoo interceptor.
Colonel Gabreski retired from the Air Force 1 November 1967 after 27 years of service and 37.5 enemy aircraft destroyed. At the time of his retirement, he had flown more combat missions than any other U.S. Air Force fighter pilot.
Gabby Gabreski married Miss Catherine Mary (“Kay”) Cochran, 11 June 1945, at Our Lady of the Angels Chapel, Campion College, Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin. They would have nine children. Mrs Gabreski died in a car accident in 1993.
Two of their sons graduated from the United States Air Force Academy at Colorado Springs, Colorado, and became U.S. Air Force pilots. His daughter-in-law, Lieutenant General Terry L. Gabreski, USAF, was the highest-ranking woman in the United States Air Force at the time of her retirement.
Colonel Gabreski was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for his actions in combat on 26 November 1943, when he shot down two enemy Messerschmitt Bf 110 fighters. His other decorations include the Distinguished Service Medal, Silver Star with oak leaf cluster (two awards), Legion of Merit, Distinguished Flying Cross with two silver and bronze oak leaf clusters (thirteen awards), Bronze Star, Air Medal with one silver and one bronze oak leaf cluster (seven awards), and Prisoner of War Medal. He was awarded the Royal Air Force Distinguished Flying Cross, France’s Légion d’honneur and Croix de Guerre with Palm, Poland’s Krzyż Walecznych and the Belgian Croix de Guerre with Palm.
In 1991, Suffolk County Airport, New York, was renamed Francis S. Gabreski Airport in his honor.
Colonel Gabreski died 31 January 2002 at the age of 83 years. He is buried at Calverton National Cemetery, Long Island, New York.
13 October 1942–15 January 1943: During a 95-day period in the early days of World War II, Captain Joe Foss, United States Marine Corps, shot down 26 enemy aircraft. He was the first American ace of World War II to match the World War I record of Captain Edward V. Rickenbacker.
Admiral William F. Halsey, U.S. Navy, awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross to Captain Foss for heroism and extraordinary achievement for having shot down seven enemy airplanes (six fighters and a bomber) from 13 October to 30 October 1942.
Joseph Jacob Foss was born near Sioux Falls, South Dakota, 17 April 1915. He was the oldest son of Frank Ole Foss, a farmer, and Mary Esther Lacey Foss. He was educated at Washington High School, Augustan College, Sioux Falls College and the University of South Dakota, graduating in 1940, having majored in Business Administration.
Beginning in 1938, Joe Foss began taking flight lessons. Through a Civil Aeronautics Administration course at the university, he gained additional flight experience, and received a private pilot certificate from the C.A.A.
Foss had enlisted in the South Dakota National Guard in 1937, serving as a private assigned to the 147th Field Artillery Battalion until he joined the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve, 14 June 1940. Because of his prior service, the following day, Private Foss was promoted to private first class, and assigned to active duty as a aviation flight student. He successfully completed elimination flight training and qualified as an aviation cadet.
On 8 August 1940, Aviation Cadet Foss was sent to the Naval Air Station Pensacola, Florida, for pilot training. After graduating, 31 March 1941, Joseph Jacob Foss was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant in the United States Marine Corps Reserve, and received the gold wings of a Naval Aviator.
Lieutenant Foss remained at Pensacola, assigned as a flight instructor. He was promoted to 1st lieutenant, 10 April 1942, with date of rank retroactive to 31 March 1942. His next assignment was to the Naval School of Photography, also located at Pensacola, and then to Marine Photographic Squadron 1 (VMD-1) at NAS North Island, San Diego, California, July 1942.
Lieutenant Foss requested training as a fighter pilot but he was considered to be too old. (He was 26.) While at San Diego, though, Foss was able to transition to the Grumman F4F Wildcat. He was promoted to the rank of captain, 11 August 1942. He was assigned to Marine Fighter Squadron 121 (VMF-121) as the unit’s executive officer.
VMF-121 was sent to Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands aboard USS Copahee (ACV-12), a Bogue-class escort carrier. While still about 350 miles away from the island, the squadron was launched for Henderson Field, 9 October 1942. Joe Foss flew his first combat mission 13 October during which he shot down a Mitsubishi A6M Zero fighter (Allied reporting name, “Zeke”). His F4F Wildcat was badly damaged by enemy fighters.
Captain Foss had extraordinary gunnery skills and frequently shot down more than one enemy aircraft per mission. His combat victories included nineteen Mitsubishi A6M Zero fighters, a Nakajima A6M2-N “Rufe” (a float plane variant of the Zero), three Mitsubishi G4M “Betty” medium bombers, two Mitsubishi F1M2 “Pete” reconnaissance float planes and an Aichi E13A “Jake” reconnaissance float plane.
During the his three month period, Captain Foss had to make three engine out landings as a result of damage sustained by his Wildcat from enemy aircraft, and was himself shot down near the island of Malaita. He was rescued by local fishermen.
Joe Foss was stricken by malaria and was sent to Australia for treatment. In April 1943 he was returned to the United States and assigned to Headquarters Marine Corps at Washington, D.C.
In a ceremony at the White House, 18 May 1943, President Franklin D. Roosevelt presented Captain Foss the Medal of Honor.
Joe Foss was promoted to the rank of major, 1 June 1943. On 17 July took command of Marine Fighter Squadron 115 (VMF-115), then training at Marine Corps Air Station Santa Barbara, Goleta, California. The new fighter squadron was equipped with Chance Vought F4U-1 and Goodyear FG-1 Corsairs. The squadron departed San Diego, California, 13 February 1944 aboard USS Pocomoke (AV-9), a seaplane tender, and arrived at Espiritu Santo in the New Hebrides on 4 March. The fighters flew to a new base at Emirau in the Bismarck archipelago on 2 May and VMF-115 was assigned to Marine Air Group 12. The unit was in combat the following day. In the last half of the month, the squadron was visited by Col. Charles A Lindbergh. He flew four combat missions with VMF-115, 26–30 May.
Major Foss had a recurrence of malaria. On 21 September 1944, he was relieved of command of VMF-115 and returned to the United States for medical treatment, assigned to NAS Klamath Falls. In February 1945, he was back at MCAS Santa Barbara as an operations and training officer.
Major Joe Foss was released from active duty on 8 December 1945. On 20 September 1946 Foss was appointed a lieutenant colonel in the South Dakota Air National Guard. His resignation from the Marine Corps, dated 29 January 1947, was accepted as effective 19 September 1946. He commanded the 175th Fighter Squadron, which was equipped with the North American P-51D Mustang.
The 175th was redesignated as a Fighter Interceptor Squadron in 1951. Colonel Foss was recalled to active duty in the Air Force during the Korean War. He served as Director of Operations and Training, Air Defense Command, and was promoted to brigadier general, 20 September 1953. The 175th FIS began re-equipping with the Lockheed F-94A Starfire in 1 November 1954. In 1958, the squadron shifted to the Northrop F-89 Scorpion, and then the Convair F-102A Delta Dagger in 1960. Ten years later, North American Aviation F-100D Super Sabres came to the 175th.
While all this was happening, Joe Foss was involved in a political career. After serving two terms in the state legislature, Joseph J. Foss was elected Governor of the State of South Dakota in November 1954. The state’s 20th governor, he was the youngest to hold that office. He was elected a second time and served until 1959. He also served as a commissioner of the American Battle Monuments Commission.
Joe Foss was Commissioner of the American Football League and President of the National Rifle Association.
Brigadier General Joseph J. Foss, U.S. Air Force, Air Chief of Staff, South Dakota Air National Guard, retired from military service, 15 April 1975. He had been awarded the Medal of Honor, Distinguished Flying Cross, Air Medal with two 5⁄16-inch gold stars (three awards), Presidential Unit Citation (Air Force) with oak leaf cluster (second award), Presidential Unit Citation (Navy and Marine Corps) with bronze star (second award), American Defense Service Medal, American Campaign Medal, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with two bronze stars (three campaigns), the World War II Victory Medal and the National Defense Service Medal with bronze star (second award), Air Force Longevity Service Ribbon with oak leaf cluster, Armed Forces Reserve Medal with silver hourglass device (20 years service), and the Air Force Small Arms Expert Marksman Ribbon.
Joseph Jacob Foss died at Scottsdale, Arizona, 1 January 2003. He was 87 years old. General Foss is buried at Arlington National Cemetery.
11 January 1944: Major James Howell Howard, Air Corps, United States Army, commander of the 356th Fighter Squadron, 354th Fighter Group, Ninth Air Force, led fifty P-51 Mustangs escorting three divisions of B-17 Flying Fortresses on a raid against Oschersleben, near Berlin, Germany.
As defending Luftwaffe fighters attacked the bomber formation, Major Howard immediately went on the offensive and shot down a twin engine Messerschmitt Bf 110 Zerstörer long range fighter. During this engagement, Howard became separated from his group, but climbed back to rejoin the bombers.
More than thirty German fighters were attacking the bomber formation and Major Howard single-handedly went after them. He shot down two, probably shot down two more and damaged at least another two. He continued to attack even after he had run out of ammunition and was low on fuel. When he returned to his base at RAF Boxted, his Mustang had just a single bullet hole.
For this action, James H. Howard was awarded the Medal of Honor, presented by Lieutenant General Carl Spaatz 11 January 1945. He is the only fighter pilot in the European Theater to have received this Medal. Howard was promoted to the rank of colonel.
The President of the United States in the name of The Congress takes pleasure in presenting the Medal of Honor to
HOWARD, JAMES H. (Air Mission)
Rank and organization: Lieutenant Colonel, U.S. Army Air Corps. Place and date: Over Oschersleben, Germany, 11 January 1944. Entered service at: St. Louis, Missouri. Birth: Canton, China. G.O. No.: 45, 5 June 1944.
Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty in action with the enemy near Oschersleben, Germany, on 11 January 1944. On that day Col. Howard was the leader of a group of P-51 aircraft providing support for a heavy bomber formation on a long-range mission deep in enemy territory. As Col. Howard’s group met the bombers in the target area the bomber force was attacked by numerous enemy fighters. Col. Howard, with his group, and at once engaged the enemy and himself destroyed a German ME. 110. As a result of this attack Col. Howard lost contact with his group, and at once returned to the level of the bomber formation. He then saw that the bombers were being heavily attacked by enemy planes and that no other friendly fighters were at hand. While Col. Howard could have waited to attempt to assemble his group before engaging the enemy, he chose instead to attack singlehanded a formation of more than 30 German airplanes. With utter disregard for his own safety he immediately pressed home determined attacks for some thirty minutes, during which time he destroyed 3 enemy airplanes and probably destroyed and damaged others. Toward the end of this engagement 3 of his guns went out of action and his fuel supply was becoming dangerously low. Despite these handicaps and the almost insuperable odds against him, Col. Howard continued his aggressive action in an attempt to protect the bombers from the numerous fighters. His skill, courage, and intrepidity on this occasion set an example of heroism which will be an inspiration to the U.S. Armed Forces.
James Howell Howard was born 8 April 1913 at Canton (Guangzhou), China. He was the second of three children of Dr. Harvey James Howard, an ophthalmologist at the University Medical School in Canton China (formerly, the Canton Christian College), and later, chief of the Department of Ophthalmology at the Peking Union Medical College Hospital in Beijing. His mother was the former Maude Irene Strobel.
When James was 11 years old, he and his father were kidnapped by Manchurian bandits and held for ten weeks before they were able to escape. The family left Shaghai aboard the 535-foot Pacific Mail cargo liner S.S. President Lincoln on 21 July 1923 and sailed for San Francisco, California, arriving there on 8 August 1923.
Howard attended The Haverford School, Montgomery, Pennsylvania, and later, John Burroughs School, St. Louis, Missouri. He graduated from Pomona College in southern California in 1937 with a Bachelor of Arts degree.
He had blond hair and blue eyes, was 6 feet, 2 inches (1.88 meters) tall and weighed 160 pounds (72.6 kilograms). He enlisted as an aviation cadet in the United States Naval Reserve, and began flight training at NAS Pensacola, Florida, 29 December 1937. He graduated as a Naval Aviator, 1 February 1939, and was commissioned an ensign, USNR.
In 1939, Ensign Howard served with Fighting Squadron SIX (VF-6) aboard USS Enterprise (CV-6) In 1940, he was assigned to the Naval Air Station San Diego San Diego on the southern coast of California.
On 21 June 1941, Ensign Howard resigned from the Navy and went to Burma as an employee of the Central Aircraft Manufacturing Company, which was a cover operation for the 1st American Volunteer Group, better known as the “Flying Tigers.” He commanded the AVG 2nd Pursuit Squadron. Flying the Curtiss-Wright Hawk 81-A3, Howard was credited with six Imperial Japanese Army Nakajima Ki-27 Army Type 97 fighters destroyed.
Howard was commissioned as a captain, United States Army Air Corps, 31 January 1943, and assigned to the 354th Fighter Group. The group deployed overseas. Then Major Howard commanded the 356th Fighter Squadron at RAF Boxted. Major Howard was promoted to lieutenant colonel, February 1944, and to Colonel, 25 November 1945. As World War II came to an end, he was released from active duty, 30 November 1945.
Following the war, Colonel Howard remained active in the Army Air Forces reserve. In 1947, he was transferred to the newly established United States Air Force Reserve. He was promoted to the rank of brigadier general, 22 March 1948. He commanded thhe 96th Bomb Wing.
On 18 July 1948, General Howard married Lieutenant Mary G. Balles, Women’s Army Corps, at Smoky Hill Air Force Base, Salina, Kansas. Lieutenant Balles was a personnel officer with the 52nd Fighter Wing at Mitchel Field, New York. They divorced six months later.
Howard later married the former Mrs. Florence Ochs Buteau, 31 December 1953 at Brooksville, Maryland..
In addition to the medal of Honor, General Howard was also awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Bronze Star Medal with oak leaf cluster (two awards), and ten Air Medals.
Brigadier General Howard retired from the U.S. Air Force 1 June 1965.
He was the author of Roar of the Tiger (Orion Books, New York, 1991).
Brigadier General James Howell Howard, United States Air Force (Retired), died at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Bay Pines, Florida, 18 March 1995. He was buried at the Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia.
James Howard’s P-51 Mustang was named DING HAO! and carried the victory marks from his AVG combat missions.¹ [“Ding Hao” was an American World War II slang term based on the Chinese phrase, 挺好的 (“ting hao de“) meaning “very good” or “number one”.]
The North American Aviation P-51 Mustang is a single-place, single-engine long range fighter. It is a low-wing monoplane with retractable landing gear and is of all-metal construction. The fighter is powered by a liquid-cooled V-12 engine. It was originally produced for the United Kingdom’s Royal Air Force as the Mustang Mk.I. Two examples were provided to the U.S. Army Air Corps, designated XP-51. This resulted in orders for the P-51A and A-36 Apache dive bomber variant. These early Mustangs were powered by the Allison V-1750 engine driving a three-bladed propeller, which also powered the Lockheed P-38 Lightning and Curtiss P-40 Warhawk.
In 1942, soon after the first production Mustang Mk.I arrived in England, Rolls-Royce began experimenting with a borrowed airplane, AM121, in which they installed the Supermarine Spitfire’s Merlin 61 engine. This resulted in an airplane of superior performance.
In the United States, the Packard Motor Car Company of Detroit, Michigan, had begun building Merlin engines under license from Rolls-Royce. These American engines were designated V-1650. North American modified two P-51s from the production line to install the Packard V-1650-3. These were designated XP-51B. Testing revealed that the new variant was so good that the Army Air Corps limited its order for P-51As to 310 airplanes and production was changed to the P-51B.
The P-51B and P-51C are virtually Identical. The P-51Bs were built by North American Aviation, Inc., at Inglewood, California. P-51Cs were built at North American’s Dallas, Texas. plant. They were 32 feet, 2.97 inches (9.829 meters) long, with a wingspan of 37 feet, 0.31-inch (11.282 meters) and overall height of 13 feet, 8 inches (4.167 meters) high. The fighter had an empty weight of 6,985 pounds (3,168 kilograms) and a maximum gross weight of 11,800 pounds (5,352 kilograms).
P-51Bs and Cs were powered by a right-hand tractor, liquid-cooled, supercharged, 1,649-cubic-inch-displacement (27.04-liter) Packard V-1650-3 or -7 Merlin single overhead cam (SOHC) 60° V-12 engine which produced 1,380 horsepower at Sea Level, turning 3,000 r.p.m at 60 inches of manifold pressure (V-1650-3) or 1,490 horsepower at Sea Level, turning 3,000 r.p.m. at 61 inches of manifold pressure (V-1650-7). (Military Power rating, 15 minute limit.) These were license-built versions of the Rolls-Royce Merlin 63 and 66. The engine drove a four-bladed Hamilton Standard Hydromatic constant-speed propeller with a diameter of 11 feet, 2 inches (3.404 meters) through a 0.479:1 gear reduction.
The P-51B/C had a cruise speed of 362 miles per hour (583 kilometers per hour) and the maximum speed was 439 miles per hour (707 kilometers per hour) at 25,000 feet (7,620 meters). The service ceiling was 41,900 feet (12,771 meters). With internal fuel, the combat range was 755 miles (1,215 kilometers).
In military service, armament consisted of four air-cooled Browning AN-M2 .50-caliber machine guns, mounted two in each wing, with 350 rounds per gun for the inboard guns and 280 rounds per gun for the outboard.
1,988 P-51B Mustangs were built at North American’s Inglewood, California plant and another 1,750 P-51Cs were produced at Dallas, Texas. This was nearly 23% of the total P-51 production.
DING HAO!, James H. Howard’s P-51B Mustang, was lost in combat 23 July 1944.
¹ Major Howard may have flown a different airplane on 11 January 1944. A handwritten caption of the reverse of the top photograph reads, “Howard in own P-51B at Boxted, 25/4/44 not AC in which he won MOH, lt Col James Howard was awarded only Medal of Honour (highest US Award) to go to a fighter pilot flying in the ETO. Action on 11/1/44.“
9 January 1941: Test pilot Captain Harry Albert (“Sam”) Brown, O.B.E., (1896–1953) makes the first flight of the Avro Lancaster prototype, BT308, at RAF Ringway, Cheshire, England, south of Manchester.
Throughout World War II, 7,377 of these long range heavy bombers were produced for the Royal Air Force. The majority were powered by Rolls-Royce or Packard Merlin V-12 engines—the same engines that powered the Supermarine Spitfire and North American P-51 Mustang fighters.
The bomber was designed by Roy Chadwick, F.R.S.A., F.R.Ae.S., the Chief Designer and Engineer of A. V. Roe & Company Limited, based on the earlier twin-engine Avro Manchester Mk.I. Because of this, it was originally designated as the Manchester Mk.III, before being re-named Lancaster. Chadwick was appointed Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, 2 June 1943, for his work.
The first prototype, BT308, was unarmed and had three small vertical fins.
With the second prototype, DG595, the small center vertical fin was deleted and two larger fins were used at the outboard ends of a longer horizontal tailplane. DG595 was also equipped with power gun turrets at the nose, dorsal and ventral positions, and at the tail.
The first production model, Lancaster Mk.I, was operated by a crew of seven: pilot, flight engineer, navigator/bombardier, radio operator and three gunners. It was a large, all-metal, mid-wing monoplane with retractable landing gear. It was 68 feet, 11 inches (21.001 meters) long with a wingspan of 102 feet, 0 inches (31.090) meters and an overall height of 19 feet, 6 inches (5.944 meters). The Mk.I had an empty weight of 36,900 pounds (16,738 kilograms) and its maximum takeoff weight was 68,000 pounds (30,909 kilograms).
BT308 and early production Lancasters were equipped with four liquid-cooled, supercharged, 1,648.96-cubic-inch-displacement (27.01 liter), Roll-Royce Merlin XX single overhead camshaft (SOHC) 60° V-12 engines, which were rated at 1,480 horsepower at 3,000 r.p.m. to 6,000 feet (1,829 meters). The Merlins drove three-bladed de Havilland Hydromatic quick-feathering, constant-speed airscrews (propellers), which had a diameter of 13 feet, 0 inches (3.962 meters), through a 0.420:1 gear reduction.
DG595 was used for performance testing at the Aeroplane and Armament Experimental Establishment (A&AEE) at Boscombe Down. The Mark I had a maximum economic cruise speed of 267 miles per hour (430 kilometers per hour) at 20,800 feet (6,340 meters), and a maximum speed of 286 miles per hour (460 kilometers per hour) at 20,000 feet (6,096 meters) at a gross weight of 45,300 pounds (20,548 kilograms).¹ Its service ceiling was 20,000 feet (6,096 meters) at 64,500 pounds (29,257 kilograms). It had a range of 2,530 miles (4,072 kilometers) with a 7,000 pound (3,175 kilogram) bomb load.
The Lancaster was designed to carry a 14,000 pound (6,350 kilogram) bomb load, but modified bombers carried the 22,000 pound (9,979 kilogram) Grand Slam bomb. For defense, the standard Lancaster had eight Browning .303-caliber Mark II machine guns in three power-operated turrets, with a total of 14,000 rounds of ammunition.
According to the Royal Air Force, “Almost half all Lancasters delivered during the war (3,345 of 7,373) were lost on operations with the loss of over 21,000 crew members.”
Only two airworthy Avro Lancasters are in existence.
Rank and organization: Brigadier General, U.S. Army Air Corps, Commander of V Bomber Command.
Place and date: Rabaul, New Britain, 5 January 1943.
Entered service at: Colorado.
Birth: Cerrillos, New Mexico
G.O. No.: 13, 11 March 1943.
For conspicuous leadership above and beyond the call of duty involving personal valor and intrepidity at an extreme hazard to life. As commander of the 5th Bomber Command during the period from 5 September 1942, to 5 January 1943, Brig. Gen. Walker repeatedly accompanied his units on bombing missions deep into enemy-held territory. From the lessons personally gained under combat conditions, he developed a highly efficient technique for bombing when opposed by enemy fighter airplanes and by antiaircraft fire. On 5 January 1943, in the face of extremely heavy antiaircraft fire and determined opposition by enemy fighters, he led an effective daylight bombing attack against shipping in the harbor at Rabaul, New Britain, which resulted in direct hits on 9 enemy vessels. During this action his airplane was disabled and forced down by the attack of an overwhelming number of enemy fighters.
On the morning of 5 January 1943, six Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress and six Consolidated B-24 Liberator heavy bombers departed 7 Mile Drome, an airfield near Port Moresby at the eastern end of the island of New Guinea. Their mission was to attack an enemy shipping convoy believed to be approaching the Japanese military base at Rabaul on the neighboring island of New Britain.
Leading the attack force was B-17 41-24458, San Antonio Rose, flown by Major Allen Lindberg, commanding officer, 64th Bombardment Squadron (Heavy) and Captain Benton Hayes Daniel, Jr. Also on board as observers were Lieutenant Colonel Jack Bleasdale, the executive officer of the 43rd Bombardment Group (Heavy), and Brigadier General Kenneth Newton Walker, commanding general, V Bomber Command, Fifth Air Force. There were a total of 11 airmen on board.¹
The bombers arrived over Rabaul at 8,500 feet (2,591 meters) at 12:00 p.m., local time, and the formation broke up to make individual attacks against the ships in the harbor. Anti-aircraft artillery fire was light and ineffective. The bomber crews claimed several ships sunk and damaged.²
As the bombing force left the target, it was attacked by enemy fighter aircraft, which were described as Mitsubishi A6M Navy Type 0 (Allied reporting name, “Zeke,” but best known as the “Zero”) or Nakajima Ki-43 Army Type 1 Fighters (the Hayabusa, Allied reporting name, “Oscar”).
One of the B-24s had been badly damaged and diverted to Milne Bay. Four of the five B-17s which returned to Port Moreseby were damaged.
San Antonio Rose, the B-17 carrying General Walker, was seen trailing smoke and diving through clouds. A Fifth Air Force message stated, “Later B-17 was observed heading south just east of Vunakanau [10 miles (16 kilometers) south-southwest of Rabaul] at about 5,000 feet, left outboard engine smoking but later appeared alright, was being closely pursued by four to five Zekes and last seen going into clouds.” A Japanese fighter pilot wrote that the B-17 was seen flying to the south, about 25 miles south of Rabaul. It was not seen again.
San Antonio Rose and its crew never returned from the mission. Searches over the next several days were unsuccessful. The 11 airmen were listed as Missing in Action.³
On 12 December 1945, the crew of San Antonio Rose were reclassified as Killed in Action.
An 8 minute, 34 second, film of the 5 January 1943 mission from the National Archives and Records Administration is available on YouTube:
Kenneth Newton Walker was born 17 July 1898 at Los Cerrillos, a tiny community along the “Turquoise Trail” in the Territory of New Mexico. He was the son of Wallace Walker and Emma Helen Overturf Walker. His father abandoned them when he was very young. Mrs Walker took Kenneth to Denver, Colorado, and later to Kansas City, where he attended Central High School. He graduated from the Omaha High School of Commerce in Omaha, Nebraska in 1915. Ken Walker studied business through a college extension course.
The United States entered World War I on 6 April, 1917. Ten months later, 10 December 1917, Kenneth Newton Walker enlisted in the Signal Enlisted Reserve Corps, United States Army, at Denver, Colorado. Walker was 5 feet, 8 inches (1.73 meters) tall, with a high forehead and ruddy complexion. He had brown hair and green eyes.
Walker was promoted to private first class, Aviation Section, Sig. E.R.C., 7 March 1918. Pfc. Walker was then assigned to the University of California School of Military Aeronautics, and in June 1918, he began flight training at the Air Service Flying School, Mather Field, near Sacramento, California. On completion of his flight training, Pfc. Walker was discharged from his enlistment, effective 1 November 1918, to accept a commission as a second lieutenant, Aviation Section, Signal Corps, United States Army, the following day.
2nd Lieutenant Walker was sent to Brooks Field at San Antonio, Texas, where he trained as a flight instructor. He was then assigned to Barron Field, south of Fort Worth, Texas. In 1919, Walker was reassigned to Post Field at Fort Sill, Oklahoma.
Under the National Defense Act of 1920, the Aviation Section became the Air Service, a distinct combatant branch of the Army, and was no longer a part of the Signal Corps. This resulted in changes in officers’ commissions.
2nd Lieutenant Walker’s commission was vacated on 15 September 1920. Retroactively, he received a commission as a 2nd Lieutenant, Air Service, United States Army, effective 1 July 1920, and was promoted to 1st lieutenant with the same date of effect. The new commission was accepted 15 September 1920. His rank as 1st lieutenant was accepted 13 April 1921.
2nd Lieutenant Walker married Miss Marguerite Potter, 28 September 1922. The ceremony was performed by Rev. H. Leach Hoover at St. Andrew’s Church, Lawton, Nebraska. The Walkers would have two sons: Kenneth Newton Walker, Jr., born in 1927, and Douglas Potter Walker, born in 1933.
Also in 1922, Lieutenant Walker graduated from the Air Service Observation School, as a qualified aerial observer. On 15 December 1922, Walker was discharged as a 1st lieutenant, A.S., U.S.A., and appointed a 2nd lieutenant.
Lieutenant Walker was assigned to Nichols Field, south of Manila on the island of Luzon, in the Philippine Islands. He was once again promoted to 1st lieutenant, 24 July 1924.
1929, Air Corps Tactical School, Langley Field, 1929; faculty, senior instructor
On 18 August 1934, Lieutenant Walker married Ms. Juliet G. Wimberly in Madison County, Alabama. This was the second marriage for both. A second wedding ceremony took place in Franklin County, Tennessee, 8 September 1934, officiated by L.J. Sisk, Justice of the Peace. They would have one son, John W. Walker. This marriage ended in divorce at Reno, Nevada, in February 1940.
Command and General Staff School, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, 1935. Promoted to captain, 1 August 1935, then less than three months later, 20 October 1935, to the rank of major (temporary).
On 23 December 1937, Captain Walker was piloting one of three Douglas B-18 twin-engine bombers which had picked up recent graduates from the Air Corps Technical School at Rantoul, Illinois, and were returning them to Hamilton Field, Novato, California. After a stop at Denver Municipal Airport (now Stapleton International Airport, DEN), Captain Walker’s airplane was the second to takeoff. Just after becoming airborne, the B-18 crashed.
Captain Walker said,
#000000; font-family: times new roman, times; font-size: 12pt;">“We were about 20 feet off the ground and going about 80 miles an hour when the ship just seemed to lose power,” he said. “I kicked hard on the left rudder and we swung around at right angles after sliding across that little gully,” indicating a ravine at the roadside.
The B-18 hit the runway, slid about 200 feet (61 meters) then cut through a fence and came to rest on a roadway between a ravine and railroad tracks. None of the nine men on board ⁴ were injured but the B-18 was seriously damaged. It had flown just 49 hours since new. (49:00 TTSN)
Major Walker commanded the 18th Pursuit Group (Interceptor), Wheeler Field, Territory of Hawaii.
Attended the General Staff School from 10 March 1942 to 1 July 1942. Walker was promoted to the temporary rank of Brigadier General, Army of the United States, on 17 June 1942.
In addition to the Medal of Honor, Brigadier General Kenneth Newton Walker was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, the Silver Star, the Legion of Merit and the Purple Heart.
General Walker’s remains have not been recovered. There is a cenotaph in his memory is at the Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia. His name, along with the other airmen of San Antonio Rose, appears on the Walls of the Missing, Manila American Cemetery, Taguig City, Philippines. In 1948, Roswell Army Air Field was renamed Walker Air Force Base in his honor.
San Antonio Rose was a Boeing B-17F-10-BO Flying Fortress, c/n 3143, Army Air Corps serial number 41-24458. The bomber was built during the summer of 1942, in the same production block with another famous B-17, Memphis Belle (41-24485). It was delivered to the United States Army Air Corps 8 July 1942.
Deep within my heart lies a melody A song of old San Antone Where in dreams I live with a memory Beneath the stars all alone
It was there I found beside the Alamo Enchantment strange as the blue, up above A moonlit path that only she would know Still hears my broken song of love
Moon in all your splendor knows only my heart Call back my Rose, Rose of San Antone Lips so sweet and tender like petals fallin’ apart Speak once again of my love, my own
Broken song, empty words I know Still live in my heart all alone For that moonlit pass by the Alamo And Rose, my Rose of San Antone
—”New San Antonio Rose,” by Bob Wills, 1941
¹ Major Allen Lindberg, Pilot, Aircraft Commander; Captain Benton H. Daniel, Jr., co-pilot; 1st Lieutenant John W. Hanson, Navigator; 2nd Lieutenant Robert L. Hand, Bombardier; Technical Sergeant Dennis T. Craig, Engineer/Top Turret Gunner; Staff Sergeant Quentin W. Blakeley, Radio Operator/Top Gunner; Sergeant Leslie A. Stewart, Gunner; Private 1st Class William G. Fraser, Jr., Gunner; and Private Leland W. Stone, Gunner.
² Postwar analysis found that one ship, the transport Keifuku Maru, 5,833 tones, had been bracketed by two bombs and sank. Another freighter, Kagu Maru, and the Minikaze-class destroyer Tachikaze, were damaged. (Tachikaze had been damaged in an earlier air attack, 27 December 1942, and its commanding officer killed.) On 5 January 1943, the destroyer was alongside Yamabiko Maru, a passenger-cargo steamer which had been converted to a repair ship for the Imperial Japanese Navy.
³ It is possible that two airmen, Lieutenant Colonel Bleasdale and Lieutenant Daniel, bailed out of the bomber and were later captured and held as prisoners of war. Neither survived the war, however.
⁴ Captain Walker, pilot; Lieutenant William Capp, co-pilot; Staff Sergeant William J. Oglesby, crew chief; Corporal Burton Vanderwerhen, gunner; with J.D. Rhodes, H.E. Perkins, G.J. Ambrose, J.S. Doherty, and J.S. Chamberlain.