Second Lieutenant David R. Kingsley, USAAF (June 23, 1944)

David Richard Kingsley was born on June 27, 1918 in Portland, Oregon. He volunteered for the United States Army Air Corps on April 14, 1942.

He was eventually commissioned as an officer in the United States Army Air Forces, and was trained as both a navigator and bombardier aboard the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress. He was a member of the 341st Bombardment Squadron, 97th Bombardment Group (Heavy), Fifteenth Air Force.

During a mission to bomb oil refineries at Ploesti, Romania on June 23, 1944, Kingsley dropped his damaged plane’s bombs on target and then rendered first aid to wounded crewmembers aboard the plane. When it became clear that the aircraft was doomed and the pilot ordered the crew to bail out, one of the wounded gunners’ parachutes couldn’t be found.

The only text that does justice to what happened really, is the Medal of Honor citation for David Kingsley.

From Medal of Honor Citations for World War II (G-L):

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Image: Fold3

*KINGSLEY, DAVID R.

Rank and organization: Second Lieutenant, U.S. Army Air Corps, 97th Bombardment Group, 15th Air Force. Place and date: Ploesti Raid, Rumania, 23 June 1944. (Air Mission) Entered service at. Portland, Oreg. 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.

Kingsley’s remains were eventually recovered, returned to the United States, and laid to rest in Arlington National Cemetery.

The descendent of the 97th Bombardment Group is the United States Air Force‘s 97th Operations Group of the 97th Air Mobility Wing, stationed at Altus Air Force Base, Oklahoma. The 341st Bombardment Squadron was last active in 1963.

The man Lieutenant Kingsley gave his parachute to, Staff Sergeant Michael J. Sullivan, survived his wounds. He worked for many years as a commercial artist and passed away at age 84 on October 29, 2003. He was survived by his wife Gloria, his brother, two daughters, and six grandchildren.

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