2nd Lt. David R. Kingsley

2nd Lt. David R. Kingsley

Born at Portland, Oregon, June 27, 1918, he earned the Medal of Honor during World War II, where he served as a bombardier on a B-17 on a raid into Romania on June 23, 1944. During the mission the aircraft was badly damaged by enemy fire and forced to drop out of the formation. The pilot continued on to the target, the Ploesti Oil Fields, and there he dropped his bombs, severely damaging the installation. The aircraft was unable to keep up with the formation on the return trip and was attacked by enemy aircraft, during which the plane was further damaged and the tail gunner badly wounded. Kingsley gave aid to the gunner and then went to give aid to the ball gunner who had also been wounded. The pilot gave the order to bail out but Kingsley found that the tail gunner's parachute was missing. He placed his own chute on the wounded man and then he helped the wounded men bail out of the burning plane. The last sight of him was as he stood on the bomb bay catwalk while the plane flew on auto pilot until it crashed a few minutes later.

His body was subsequently located and returned to the U.S. where it was buried in Section 34 of Arlington National Cemetery.

Medal Citation

Rank and Organization: Second Lieutenant, U.S. Army Air Corps, 97th Bombardment Group, 15th Air Force.

Place and Date: Ploesti Raid, Romania, 23 June 1944.

Entered Service At: Portland, Oregon

Birth: Oregon.

G.O. No.: 26, 9 April 1945.

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.

A Rather Special Award

By John L. Frisbee, Contributing Editor, Air Force Association magazine

As the crippled B-17 neared its end, 2d Lt. David Kingsley faced a decision that would be immutable.

Ploesti always will be a symbol of surpassing valor in air warfare. More Medals of Honor--seven in all--were awarded for extraordinary heroism over that Romanian city than for great deeds performed at any other USAAF target of World War II.

The Ploesti area was said to be the third most heavily defended in the European theater, and for good reason. Oil fields and refineries in and around the city provided from one quarter to one third of the petroleum used by Hitler's armed forces and industry.

The first large-scale (five B-24 groups) USAAF attack on Ploesti was on Aug. 1, 1943.  An estimated 40 percent of refining capacity was put out of service, but at a terrible cost of men and planes. USAAF was not able to follow up decisively because of other commitments, including support of the imminent invasion of Italy. Ploesti was soon back on line.

Fifteenth Air Force raids were considerably larger than the attack of August 1943. On June 23, 1944, in one of its major strikes, the Fifteenth sent 761 bombers to Romanian oil targets. In the nose of one 97th Bombardment Group B-17 was bombardier 2d Lt. David R. Kingsley, four days short of his 26th birthday. This was his 20th combat mission, but not his first to Ploesti, where the flak was intense, German fighter pilots tenacious, and targets usually obscured by smoke generators. It would be his job to put the B-17s bomb load on an oil storage facility at Giurgiu, about 70 miles south of Ploesti.

As the bomber stream approached the city, the 97th Group broke off and headed for Giurgiu, which, not unexpectedly, was shrouded by smoke. On the bomb run, Kingsley's B-17 was knocked out of formation by flak hits, but was able to proceed alone to bomb its target. Unable to hold altitude, the damaged bomber fell behind its formation. The straggler was attacked viciously by three Me-109s, which further damaged the bomber and severely wounded the tail gunner. Kingsley was called to the radio compartment to administer first aid. He removed the wounded man's damaged parachute harness and flight clothing, managed to check the bleeding, and did what he could to alleviate the gunner's suffering.

Could the B-17, torn by flak and raked by the Me-109s' 20-mm fire, make the 500-mile flight over Yugoslavia's 8,000-foot mountains to its base at Amendola, Italy? That question was answered as eight Me-109s bored in on the faltering bomber, wounding the ball turret gunner. With the B-17 now barely controllable--and apparently about to break up, the pilot ordered his crew to prepare for bailout.

Kingsley immediately began helping the wounded crewmen into their parachute harnesses, but the tailgunner's damaged harness could not be found in the welter of debris and blood-soaked clothing and blankets. Kingsley faced a fateful decision: Should he save himself by abandoning the wounded gunner, or give the man his chute harness at the cost of his own life? Kingsley chose the latter, fitting his harness to the injured man. Moments later, on the order to jump, Lieutenant Kingsley helped both wounded men to bail out through the open bomb bay. When last seen by surviving crew members, Kingsley was standing alone by the bomb bay catwalk, awaiting the inevitable end. His body was later found in the plane's wreckage.

For the gallant sacrifice of his life to save another, 2d Lt. David Kingsley was awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously.

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