Monday, September 16, 2019

Klamath Falls


Yes, we've seen this picture before.  It was taken at the parade field at Lackland AFB Joint Base Lackland.  Be that as it may, it is a monument to the USAF (and its antecedents) recipients of the Medal of Honor.  It was taken a few years ago and hopefully has been amended to include Tech Sergeant John Chapman.  I may have to visit again and check.

But, I was doing some research on a subject that has been rattling around in my brain (Yes, Beans, I know...Not a lot there to cause a rattling noise) since I started writing this series of articles.  A comment by William last week about "...how political  the Medal of Honor is" kinda hit home on that rattling sound.

However, and needless to say, I'm gonna want to step very carefully on that posting.  It may, nay probably, will never see the light of day.

So, we're going to look into another of the names on the above monument.  I think this one is a cut and dried case. No politics involved.

I was reviewing references I'd had on Operation Tidal Wave, the raid on the Ploesti Oil Refineries on 1 August 1943.  I've got postings here, here and here on Medal of Honor recipients from that raid.  5 Medals were awarded, 3 posthumously, the most awarded for a single battle in Air Force History.  Later, I reported another recipient in a later raid on that target.

So, I was searching using "Medal of Honor Ploesti" as the search term and came up with a 7th name. I went back to the above photo and yep, that name is there. 

2LT David R. Kingsley. Lt Kingsley was working as a firefighter in Oregon before Pearl Harbor.  He joined the Army Air Corps in April 1942. Lt Kingsley was qualified as both a Navigator and Bombardier on B-17s completing combat training and deploying to Italy in March of 1944.  Source


Source
His crew and he had completed 20 combat missions by 23 June 1944.  On that day they are scheduled for a sortie with the target being Ploesti.

After releasing their bombs during the attack run, the B-17 was hit by AAA (HISS!!!) and sustained damage to an engine that caused them to lose altitude and slowed them down.  The loss of the other bomber's protection drew the attention of 3 Messerschmidt BF-109s.

During this period, the bomber loses another engine and one of the crew is wounded.  As Lt Kingsley's primary role in this mission is complete, he moves aft to try and assist the wounded crewman.

The fighter's continue their attack, and wound the tail gunner.  As he crawls forward, Lt Kingsley removes the crewman's parachute and wraps him in blankets to keep him comfortable.  Meanwhile, the ball turret gunner is injured also.  Lt Kingsley provides assistance to him also.

Eight more BF-109's join the fight, and the bomber is sustaining more serious damage.  Finally, the Pilot sounds the Bail Out alarm.  Lt Kingsley assists the ball turret gunner back into his chute and gets him out the bomb bay.  He then returns for the tail gunner, however his chute can't be located.

As their searching, the aircraft starts to fly erratically and they both realize that time is running out.

At that point, Lt Kingsley gives the tail gunner his chute, puts the rip cord in his hand, and assists him out of the airplane.

The plane shortly thereafter crashes.  Lt Kingsley is the only crew fatality.


Source

Unfortunately, the bomber hits the ground near a village in Bulgaria and a family of 7 is also killed.
Source
A memorial to the 8 was constructed out of pieces of the wrecked bomber.  After the war, Lt Kingsley's remains were recovered and re-interred at Arlington National Cemetery.

The tail gunner later remarked "David then took me in his arms and struggled to the bomb bay, where he told me to keep my hand on the rip cord and said to pull it when I was clear of the ship…Then he told me to bail out. I watched the ground go by for a few seconds and then I jumped. I looked at Dave the look he had on his face was firm and solemn. He must have known what was coming because there was no fear in his eyes at all. That was the last time I saw....Dave standing in the bomb bay."

John 15:13 

Why the title?  Well there is an airfield at Klamath Falls.  It's named Kingsley field.  It's home to the Oregon Air National Guard and they fly this airplane.

Lt Kingsley's Citation:

"For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of life above and beyond the call of duty, 23 June 1944 near Ploesti, Rumania, while flying as bombardier of a B17 type aircraft.
On the bomb run 2d Lt. Kingsley's aircraft was severely damaged by intense flak and forced to drop out of formation but the pilot proceeded over the target and 2d Lt. Kingsley successfully dropped his bombs, causing severe damage to vital installations.
The damaged aircraft, forced to lose altitude and to lag behind the formation, was aggressively attacked by 3 ME-109 aircraft, causing more damage to the aircraft and severely wounding the tail gunner in the upper arm. The radio operator and engineer notified 2d Lt. Kingsley that the tail gunner had been wounded and that assistance was needed to check the bleeding. 2d Lt. Kingsley made his way back to the radio room, skillfully applied first aid to the wound, and succeeded in checking the bleeding. The tail gunner's parachute harness and heavy clothes were removed and he was covered with blankets, making him as comfortable as possible.
Eight ME-109 aircraft again aggressively attacked 2d Lt. Kingsley's aircraft and the ball turret gunner was wounded by 20mm. shell fragments. He went forward to the radio room to have 2d Lt. Kingsley administer first aid.
A few minutes later when the pilot gave the order to prepare to bail out, 2d Lt. Kingsley immediately began to assist the wounded gunners in putting on their parachute harness. In the confusion the tail gunner's harness, believed to have been damaged, could not be located in the bundle of blankets and flying clothes which had been removed from the wounded men.
With utter disregard for his own means of escape, 2d Lt. Kingsley unhesitatingly removed his parachute harness and adjusted it to the wounded tail gunner. Due to the extensive damage caused by the accurate and concentrated 20mm. fire by the enemy aircraft the pilot gave the order to bail out, as it appeared that the aircraft would disintegrate at any moment.
2d Lt. Kingsley aided the wounded men in bailing out and when last seen by the crewmembers he was standing on the bomb bay catwalk. The aircraft continued to fly on automatic pilot for a short distance, then crashed and burned. His body was later found in the wreckage.
2d Lt. Kingsley by his gallant heroic action was directly responsible for saving the life of the wounded gunner. 

Rest in Peace, Warrior!

44 comments:

  1. What a MAN. What an honourable man.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Very nice summation, STxAR. Couldn't have said it better myself.

      Delete
    2. Ditto, juvat - nicely put STxAR! and I have to go look at my AC system - it just blew a bunch of dust into my office, I think ...

      Delete
  2. Thank you for posting this, the source under his flight gear photo gives a good background of his upbringing..........didn't know it could get this dusty under such humid conditions here this morning........

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah, every so often, the Air Force does it right. They did so on this one. It was pretty dusty here yesterday also.

      Delete
  3. This fills in some of our travels. We stayed at an RV Park across from Kingsley Field several years ago. I enjoyed watching the F-15's taking off in full grunt. Thanks for posting this.

    OT, we will be in your AOR in early November. Our friends wedding is being held at Pedernales Cellars in Stonewall. Unfortunately that will be too late for the Stonewall peaches, dang it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. My pleasure. While researching yesterday, I came across this video and had it on the second screen as I was working. If you can't keep an airplane from flying out the top of your camera's FOV, you're climbing pretty fast.

      I think you'll enjoy Pedernales Cellars, it's probably the best view in the county. The wines are pretty good also. Try the Tempranillo if you're a red drinker, or the Albariño if you prefer whites. If you'd like to get together for lunch or something, contact Sarge, he can give you my contact info.

      Had some fresh peaches with vanilla ice cream for dessert last night. PDG!

      Delete
  4. Wow...

    Gave up his own 'chute to save one of his crewmembers, no greater love...

    A dusty post for a Monday. 'Tis good we remember these heroes.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah. We should...USAF Museum, you listening?

      Delete
  5. We’re gonna be at K Falls today. Good to know something about where the airport got its name.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Have a nice trip. Hope you get to see some Eagles.

      Delete
  6. What Skip said. I did not know that either, and I went to high school just down the road (and across the border) in Tulelake (class of '71). I may have mentioned that I saw my first PB4Y-2 Privateer while helping to fight a grass fire there.

    I will be headed to Klamath Falls in early November to attend a memorial service for my late Aunt. She was almost 90, had had a stroke some years back, and been in a wheelchair ever since. She was tired and ready to go, and had said as much. IIRC, last time I was there was in the late 80's.

    I will make it a point to render a silent salute passing by the airfield. Sad to say, except for my aunt and uncle, the story of Lt. Kingsley would only be of passing interest to that side of my extended family.

    ReplyDelete
  7. The interesting thing, in a sad way, about WWII parachutes is they were designed for a rapid descent at a 'safe' speed for a man about 150lbs or so. Better to get to the ground in mostly one piece than to hang too long.

    So there was no way the good LT could have buddy jumped with the tailgunner. As both would have died.

    A true warrior's sacrifice. Godspeed Lt. Kingsley, Godspeed.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank goodness, parachute technology has advanced a bit. I'd have been in deep kimchi!

      Delete
    2. Well, regular jump chutes and rescue chutes have been scaled for larger people. Those reserve chutes, well, they'll get you down, varying results from landing to be expected...

      Delete
    3. Supposedly, and I'm not offering to volunteer to test the data, you could eject out of an inverted F-15 in level flight 100' above the ground and have the chute open before you touched down. However, in a supersonic dive of 45 degrees, you had to squeeze the handles at I think 5K' in order to make it. Physics is physics.

      As I've said before, I am very grateful that I have the same number of takeoffs as landings in the aircraft I flew.

      Delete
  8. MofH political? Maybe in a few cases but very few IMO. Far more not recognized because the REMFs didn't want to do the paperwork. Yes, I'm cynical.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It helped to be in the right Theater at the right time. Thus, one of the first (if not the first, on 10-9-43) US flyer to shoot down 7 enemy planes in one battle didn't receive the CMOH.

      Delete
    2. Beans, But in a different one, someone who shot down 40 over his tour there, did. That's one of the two cases where I think politics or at least the politics of the situation were different. As I said, gonna tread lightly.

      Delete
    3. WSF,
      I agree. I happen to know a case or two like that.

      Delete
    4. Yeah, for all I know, knowing the gentleman as I do, he may have begged to not get the award. Dunno. Just seemed and seems so variable.

      Just weird, you know. The awards system should be more objective than it has been and it is now.

      Delete
    5. It might b
      3
      3
      3
      3
      3
      3
      3
      3
      33333

      Oops, Cat decided to add to this comment. He's probably more of an expert than I.

      So, it might be interesting if there was a restriction on combat operations for MOH recipients put in place. I don't think there was up through WWI, but maybe for WWII, and I'd bet there was for Vietnam. I'm pretty sure, Col Day and Col Thorsness didn't actually receive them, nor were they announced, until after their release.

      Delete
  9. I have often wondered for every act of heroism that was remembered and recorded, you wonder how many similar were remembered only by a few?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Too many. So many lost during the moment because witnesses all died.

      Then there are (rumors only, haven't been able to actually lay my hands or eyes on actual records, but I heard it from people I respect, though OldAFSarge probably knows, he always knows...) the strange awards recommendations, from the ENEMY! Happened a few times fighting the Germans in both wars, supposedly.

      Delete
    2. Beans - Yes, absolute fact, at least two documented cases of the Victoria Cross being awarded in WWII based on the recommendations of the enemy (Germans in this case), as mentioned here.

      Delete
    3. While doing research, I looked into the history of the requirements for the award. Suffice it to say, it was considerably easier to receive it, the further back in history you went. 19 people have had it awarded twice. I think Smedley Butler was one of , if not THE, last of those. However, his is a little different, as a Marine, he was supporting an Army assault where he received the Army Medal of Honor. As a Marine, he also received the Navy Medal of Honor for the same actions. That occurred in WWI, things tightened up a little between the wars, and considerably after WWII. Nowadays, the rules are fairly strict. Not to say, that shenanigans don't happen, just a bit more proof required.

      Delete
    4. Sarge,
      I don't know how, but I missed that post. Very nicely done.

      Delete
    5. And see? My disease-addled mind does remember that OldAFSarge did, in fact, know about what I was talking. Yay, me!

      Delete
    6. I've long ago given up on trying to stump the guy. No money in it.

      Delete
  10. Why talk about who did or didn't get The Big Medal? Each man like Lt. Kingsley is a reminder that air combat is combat; that real people suffer and bleed to carry out their duties. More men than any of us know have said "you guys go on- I'll hold them off and then catch up with you." Or they've taken on five enemy fighters figuring "they may get me but they won't get the ten guys in that bomber." A man like Kingsley is a fine symbol for them. He is known; many of them are unknown or the memories are lost. That's okay, he'll stand in willingly, I expect.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. All valid points, and the primary reason for my reluctance to post. I had a person I greatly respect (he's on the masthead) tell me once that the difference between a Medal of Honor and the Air Force Cross was the talents of the writer of the award nomination. I think there's truth in that.

      Delete
    2. Maybe because the CMOH recipients have actual written recommendations and histories based upon what they've done, easily accessible to most one and all. Before the internet it was much harder to find information on the non-CMOH recipients.

      The modern internet information-on-tap system has changed the access of information greatly.

      Oftentimes, as my dad used to say, showing up at a new base named for someone no-one ever heard of and you go to the base-ops building and there will be a plaque mentioning why base/fort/post/port is named after Joe non-Schmucatelli.

      Now, go to the base's website and there you go. Or just type in last name and base and award and 'poof' there it is.

      Delete
  11. Yet another excellent post and, again, brings to mind another book. "The Forgotten 500" by Gregory Freemman. Over 500 American airmen trapped behind German lines in Yugoslavia after their planes were shot down while on missions to attack Romanian oil fields. The OSS, with local Serbians, literally constructed a dirt strip, landed multiple C-47's, and rescued over 500 airmen without alerting the Germans. A very good read. - Barry

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for the recommendation, I'll take you up on it.

      Delete
    2. I read "Eight Bailed Out", just a month or so before the Yugoslavian mess erupted in the early 90's. It was truly strange to hear the same names on the news at night that I'd just read about.

      Those poor guys were stuck with American loving, but German allied partisans. The part where they were strafed by US fighters is pretty terrifying.

      Delete
    3. More reading material. Thanks. No, I meant that.

      Delete
  12. When I first read about Ploesti it was in a section of Ed Jablonski's book "Airwar." I was probably 8-9 years old. The image I most remember for some reason is of a single column of smoke rising above the Mediterranean, and the photo caption that told of the loss of "Wongo-Wongo," which simply fell out of formation and crashed. Plane and crew gone, no explanation, no one will ever know. It happens time and time and time again, all that training, all that dedication and willingness, and so very many fall before they ever get in the fight. It's just the reality of martial life.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The bombers on that mission were way (way, way, way?) over weight limitations. There's a picture of them in formation over the water. You can see by the angle between their fuselage and the horizon, that they're flying at a high Angle of Attack. (For other reader's edification the higher the AOA, the closer the aircraft is to stalling e.g. no longer flying. That's bad.) Given that, almost anything could cause them to stall, even a crewman moving from front to back. Coupled with the ultra low altitude, a stall would most likely be unrecoverable. In my opinion, that's what happened to Wongo-Wongo.

      Delete

Just be polite... that's all I ask. (For Buck)