James W Kahl|
too bad! How did I get those assignments? When they gave out serial #’s they started Pilot, 44th Bomb Group, 66th Squadron
I was assigned to the 66th Squadron, 44th Bomb Group in February 1942 at Barksdale Field along with classmat4s, Abernathy and McPhillamey. (Abernathy finished his missions with the 66th. He is now deceased. McPhillamey, was shot down in February 1943 and was a prisoner until the end of hostilities. He is now a retired government lawyer living in DC (He was best man at Jenny’s and my wedding.) We immediately began training and flying submarine patrol over the Gulf of Mexico. These were long missions at low levels.
In addition to my pilot activities, I was also assigned duties as the Assistant Operations Officer under Dexter Hodge and Officer of the Enlisted Men’s Mess. The food wasn’t with the K’s . How lucky!
According to my Individual Flight Record, I flew 31 combat/operational missions. The majority of which were from late 1942 through the middle of 1943. After that, I flew only as Command Pilot, probably once every 14 or 15 missions. Those early missions were without fighter support and many were without a full quota of aircraft. One in particular was against the Rouen Marshaling Yards to hit supplies for Rommel. We went in with 10 aircraft and were met over the target area by a beehive of fighters. I never ever could figure out why it always seemed that our bomb runs were always into the sun. The leader and the plane in my diamond went down on the first pass. That was one of the times I was afraid I wasn’t going to get out of the pilot’s seat after we landed safely.
It wasn’t too long in 1943, the four of my original crew were no longer with us. Only the Navigator, Ed Mikolowki, the waist gunner, Walter Hazelton (deceased), and myself completed our missions. The remainder of the original members went in with Tom Scrivner at Ploesti. It’s funny how their faces keep cropping up now and then!!
One of the hardest decisions I have every had to make involved the crew. It was early 1943; we were on our way to bomb submarine pens in Northern Germany. About five minutes to target I.P., the oxygen system in the rear of the plane went out, two gunners were down. Did we have enough emergency bottles? How long would they last? How many men could we spare up front? About that time an aborting B17 passed us at altitude; we waited about 30 seconds, then dove for the deck of the North Sea. Everyone survived. In those days every aborted plane warranted an inquiry. I think the board agreed that no pilot could ever look another crewmember in the face if it had turned out differently.
Our plane was “The Fighting Lady”, B24 D#41-23778F, named the “Jenny”, after my wife of several months. She later was named “Lucky Lady”. S.M Sgt. Walter Patrick wrote her story along with her picture, USAAF Retired (a replacement for one of the killed original crew members). It was published in on the issues of the Journal of the 44th. After that mission, which Patrick describes (the first to Germany proper), the crew was interviewed by Columbia’s famous London Correspondent, John Daly, for an overseas broadcast to the US. Our families had been contacted and all were listening.
That mission I flew with my original crew or their replacements were somehow different than those I flew as Command Pilot.
One of my favorite persons was Al Key. On one particular mission in late 1942 we were told that the take off would be into zero ceiling. At the time, I was the youngest pilot in the 66th. Maybe that had to do with the fact that I was informed at the briefing that Capt. Key would replace Tom Scrivner as Co-Pilot. I had flown with Capt. Key before but then as his Co-Pilot. When we took off, we had zero visibility before the wheels were up. We climbed at a set rate, making 180 degrees at set intervals to home back over the station radio beacon until we cleared the clouds at 14000 ft. Capt. Key never said a work and he only had to point at the rate of climb once. Assembling the group was hectic but with some maneuvering we joined Capt. Bill Brandon, as his righ wingman. When we landed Capt. Key said two things: “Slaphappy, you’ll do” and “If you ever get trouble, forget about those red lines on your engine instruments.
“Slaphappy”!! Now where did he ever come up with that? Capt. Key never called me that in public, but in private he never failed to do so. When I asked for permission to marry Jenny, who he had met before, he said, “Slaphappy, if I wasn’t married, I’d marry her myself!” He even called me Slaphappy when we talked after the war. He wanted me to come to Meridian to set up my Veterinary Practice.
The term “Slaphappy” came about when he asked me to be his Co-Pilot in April or May 1942 to fly to Hamilton Field, CA to meet his brother, Fred, who was returning from the Philippines. On the return trip at night we ran into some weather with electrical disturbance and were forced to fly at or near oxygen need levels. The ship was not equipped with oxygen at that time. Somewhere over Arizona or Nevada, he asked me to report our location to some station. I reached down to pick up the mike, put it up to my face and pressed the button, and the flashlight glare hit me full on the face, Slaphappy, right! That was also the only time I saw St. Elmo’s Fire. What an eerie sight around those propellers.
AS the CO of the 66th (The PFF Sq. of the 44th at that time), I was honored to be Command Pilot of the 1st Group of the 8th AF heavy bombers to hit the Normandy Beachhead with Capt. Armstrong’s crew. This crew was one of the best. To my dismay, we were told to bomb 400-500 yds. inland if we couldn’t visually see the beach. To this day, I wonder if some of our D-Day casualties could have been lessened if that trained crew would have been allowed to go with their expertise.
Recent medical problems have brought back visions of the latrines we had on the Sahara near Benghazi. How many remember those 50 gal. drums dug into the sand of the desert? Remember how they were sanitized? We broke apart an incinerary bomb bundle, took an individual stick, rapped it against the barrel to set the fuse and dropped it inside. You couldn’t go near the thing for hours. In July and August of 1943, the group was hit with a bout of dysentery (among other things). If you really had to go and they had just been incinerated, you were in trouble. I think we finally got the procedure to sanitize every second or third one at intervals. For some of us, it was too late.
Which reminds me of the story my children thought was so funny, one of the few I ever told them. As I remember, it was our first raid on the airfields at Foggia. I was asked to take a makeshift crew on the mission . We assembled at low level and weren’t scheduled to reach bombing level until near the target area. When we crossed the enemy coast we were still not on oxygen. Suddenly from the nose of the plane, the most horrible odor entered the cockpit. The intercom conversation went like this:
Pilot – “What’s going on up there?”
Bombardier – “Sorry, I couldn’t wait!”
Pilot – “Where is it?”
Bombardier – “In my helmet!”
Pilot – “Throw it overboard”
To this day we don’t know which had the greater impact, our bombs or that souvenir helmet. If that bombardier is still around I’d like to meet him once again.
How many remember the fire we had on the desert about that same time? Lt. (at that time) Armstrong, had a bombardier (no name) who he wouldn’t fly with anymore for certain reasons known to all. At any rate, in the middle of the Armstrong officers’ crew tent, ants had started building an ant hole, which would obviously mean that the tent would have to be moved. On a day when Armstrong and his crew were on a mission, the no name bombardier took it upon himself to get rid of the ants. He poured 100 octane down the ant hole and sat back on his cot and calmly lit a cigarette. He was lucky to get out alive; whatever people we had left on the ground did their best to minimize the damage. Thank God the wind was in the right direction. Col. Fred Dent and myself determined the no name bombardier’s fate at a later date.
The next memory only concerned the 66th, although in the end we might have invited others, as the 66th probably didn’t have enough personnel to complete the task at hand. The Allies had just taken the southeast corner of Sicily. Lt. (at the time) Flaherty made a forced landing in that area. While his plane was being repaired, he and his crew made friends with a Sicilian farmer whose land had just been reclaimed by the Allied troops. He had this secret wine cellar, which he had successfully kept from the enemy. When Flahertly’s plane was ready, the farmer presented the crew with this large cask of Sicilian Red. When Flaherty got back to base, he wanted to have a big squadron wingding. But because of the big pending mission, Major Hodge had me commandeer the wine and stow it in our tent. I swear, Dexter and I never cheated; It remained untapped until after Ploesti. It was a somber occasion when the canteens were finally filled. As I recall, two canteens were about all anyone could handle of the stuff, potent, wow!
Along those lines, does anyone remember when we got our first ration of American canned beer there on the Sahara? Bud, as I remember, warm as the desert sand. Within 10 minutes it was loaded in the back of a B24 that needed an altitude check or whatever. The check flight lasted just long enough so the beer didn’t freeze. Damn, that beer was good. A short time later, three more planes were in the air for altitude checks. That’s what happens when you have an Operation Officer from beer country. You either put it in a nice cold stream or send it up to altitude.
Fast forward to September 1945, the duck-hunting season in Minnesota was scheduled to begin the first Saturday in October. At that point in time, I held the post of Director of Flying at Westover Field, MA under Col. McHenry, a classmate of 5 star General Hap Arnold at West Point. I had already signed up for Regular Air Force. By the middle of September the yearning for those things that I loved in the past was disrupting my thinking and my work. I grew up enjoying the Mississippi with hunting dogs, guns and fishing rods. My father and I had survived the disastrous Armistice Day Storm in 1940 that took so many duck hunter’s lives between Red Wing, Minnesota and LaCrosse, Wisonsin. I think I was ready to settle down in one place. It was time for a family discussion. Jenny, my wife liked animals as much as I did. The end result was an agreement to go through hard times and enter the field of veterinary medicine. The next day, I met with Colonel McHenry to change my request for Regular Air Force and ask for a release from Active Duty. He resisted at first, but eventually agreed. We arrived in Minnesota the day before duck season opening. We followed the ducks all the way to Louisiana. I entered college and graduated from Michigan State in 1951.
We established a Veterinary Practice in my hometown of Winona, MN. One of my clients was the Animal Feed Division of Watkins Products, Inc. We not only did the work on their Research Farm, but my staff also developed a Diagnostic Laboratory for the benefit of their sales organization. In 1968, I was asked to become their Director of Research and Development for their Agricultural Division. It was a challenge we could not turn down. We sold our practice and the Kahl Animal Hospital to two associates and started investigating the mysteries of Animal Nutrition in the United States and Canada. I was fortunate to be elected (paid my dues) to the Academy of Veterinary Nutritionists of which I am now a life member, I retired from Watkins in 1985.
You know, when I think back, those people who flew in those airplanes, in non-pilot positions had a different kind of courage. Of course, we can’t forget those people who kept us in the air, whether they were cooks, clerks, medics, - the list is long. Fortunately, a few have kept in tough with my wife and I. Bill Barteet (66th crew chief) and his wife kept my wife company the last night of the Bossier City reunion, while I was in the hospital. Bill is from Shreveport and visited regularly whenever we went to see Jenny’s mother and Bill paid his respects at her mother’s funeral. Quite a few of the ground personnel were from Minnesota and few years back we held a 66th reunion at Red Wing, MN.
One of the biggest supporters of the 66th men was Private Elias. He called me Major “Moe” – in fact he called everyone “Moe”. It was rumored that his father was connected with the underworld in Chicago, no one really knew. Elias had an unlimited bankroll. Someone said his father sent him large amounts every month. He loaned money to everyone who asked and he never kept any written records. On payday, he would stand at the end of the pay line and day; “Hey Moe”, you owe me ______ lbs. Then turn to the next one and say, “Hey Moe” , you owe me ______lbs. and so on. He was a friend of everybody. No----I didn’t borrow from him. I often wondered where he ended up. He was a little guy – he looked just over five feet tall.
My biography and memories end here except to say that I am still catching a lot of Walleye and going ice fishing almost everyday in winter for panfish.
JAMES W. KAHL WORLD WAR II MEMOIRS
SERGEANT ON BIG BOMBER'S CATWALK PLUGS "GAS" LEAK
Risks Life on Narrow Steel Beam 25,000 feet above Earth
(Boston Globe, Tuesday, February 23, 1943)
Nat A. Barrows
(Special cable to the Boston Globe -
Copyright, 1943 by the Boston Globe and Chicago Daily News)
At a United States bomber field, somewhere in England, February 23. This is one of America's aerial front lines in the round-the-clock United States Army Air Force and the Royal Air Force high-explosive blasting of every conceivable enemy target in Europe.
This is where some of America's finest manhood is flying huge Liberator B-24s in daylight precision strategy to disrupt and knock out Nazi factories, submarine pens, railroads, naval bases and warehouses by the most concentrated and relentless air attacks ever planned.
This is where youngsters you know, former students and clerks and farmers and bus drivers and soda jerkers, are filling a tremendous chapter in the wartime story of heroism and courage and skill.
Sit around with these Liberator combat crews after their mission has been "scrubbed" on account of the weather and you'll hear many a thrilling tale of life - and death - up there in the terribly cold world of the bomber plane.
For instance, take that Wilhelmshaven mission on January 27: "Jenny" was holding her tight formation position, exactly lined up with the other Liberators following the flying fortresses. All together, this pattern of Liberators afford mass gunfire coverages against German fighters - a huge flatform from which several guns could be brought to bear regardless of where the German pilots tried their "javelin thrust."
Before 1st Pilot Lt. James W. Kahl, Winona, Minn., and his copilot, Lt. Thomas E. Scrivener, Lindsay, Calif., had ended their evasive action tactics and given bombardier Lt. Edward C. Brennan, Indianapolis, a chance to line up the pin-point target kin his bombsight, Jenny suddenly gave a violent shudder that knocked some of the crew off their feet.
An enemy cannon shell had exploded between the bomb bay doors and the fuselage, slashing the hydraulic system in one of the auxiliary gas lines and fraying the control cables until they were little more than cobwebs. More important to all, the shell had put the bomb bay mechanism out of commission.
The doors had been opened just before the shell hit and the bottom of the ship was open for the free drop of Jenny's bombs. Brennan salvoed the entire load as soon as he had lined up the target. What they had come to do had been accomplished, but now Kahl and his teammates were faced with survival.
The ship was fling crazily from her wounds and to make it worse the bomb bay doors could not be pulled down from the side and back into positions over the bottom of the catwalk. They dangled wildly along the fuselage, giving Jenny a bad drag and adding to the possibility that she would become a straggler and thus easy prey for lurking Messerschmitts and Focke-Wulfs.
Kahl knew that he and his men faced certain destruction if he lost his position in the formation away from their guns covering his blind spots. He and Scrivner fought at the controls like madmen.
By nothing less than a miracle of skill, Jenny was held in position with the other Liberators.
Meanwhile, Tech. Sgt. Chaning N. Satterfield, Detroit, Jenny's radioman, was risking his life out on the unprotected catwalk as he balanced himself with notihig but a narrow steel beam between him and the earth, 20,000 or 25,000 feet below. Messerschmitts and Focke-Wulfs flashed by, pouring lead into the Liberators, including Jenny and Satterfield, clinging with one hand and trying to control a gas line leak with the other, was hardly much of an insurance risk.
A Focke-Wulf caught in a "sitting position," blew up close to Jenny. Satterfield struggled with the gas tank leak unmindful that the open bomb bay gave him no protection from flak splinters or fighter bullets fired at an angle from below.
He got the gas line patched up and returned forward exhausted, and half-conscious from lack of oxygen. Groping and stumbling, he found one of the turret gunners glass-eyed from defective oxygen supply. Quickly, he attended him and got him back into action at the gun, unquestionably saving his life.
After that there wasn't much to do except to fight every second with all guns going and struggle to prevent Jenny from becoming a straggler. Navigator Lt. Edward Mikoloski, Worcester, made his own calculations in case they fell behind out of formation. It was routine. They all knew from experience how slim are the chances of a straggler getting back.
Kahl brought her in for a perfect landing despite her wounds.
JAMES W. KAHL
World War II
Memories and Biography
(Taken from a letter to Will Lundy)
Dear Will Lundy:
I have gone through my files and have found very little of which I feel has any historical value. However, I will let you decide and am therefore enclosing any of my personnel orders which mention other members of the 66th. I have also included a copy of the broadcast my crew made from England - the only one made form the 44th - This has an interesting side tale - John Daly, the broadcaster invited me to visit him in London whenever I was on leave. So one evening, Captain Reed and I did and who was keeping Mr. Daly company was this beautiful young blond who happened to be Judge Earl Warren's daughter. After the war, Daly and his wife separated and divorced and John married the Warren girl. They made their home in the Napa Valley and lived just a short ways from my sister and her husband who had a vineyard there. Needless to say, they met and my sister reminded him of the broadcast.
Two other anecdotes:
The Beer Story - While on one of the trips to Africa, we received a shipment of canned American beer, Bud, I think. Well, there it was, 115 in the shade if you could find any - what were we to do? Well, the 66th always led the way, so into the back of old #779 went the beer and up to 18,000 ft. where it was 52 below. Man did that beer taste good. Shortly, we received a call from one of the other operations officers and within minutes several more planes were being test flighted at 18,000.
The Wine Story - Shortly after the 7th Army landed in Sicily and was making some headway inland, one of the 66th planes piloted by Joe Flaherty made a forced landing on one of the captured airstrips. During their stay, the crew made friends with a Sicilian farmer who had hid all of his Sicilian Red Wine underground to prevent the Germans from taking it. When Flaherty returned, he brought with him a full keg of the aged stuff. What a party we had!
After I left the 44th, I was an air controller at 2nd Air Division. From there I was sent to the U.S. and went to Westover Field where I was Supervisor of Flying. While there, I decided the Regular Air Force was not my career. I was discharged as a Lt. Col and went into the field of Veterinary Medicine receiving my degree in 1951.
If I think of anything more, I will let you know.
JAMES W. KAHL
World War II
Memories and Biography
(Taken from a letter to Will Lundy)
578 West King Street
Winona, Minnesota 55987
November 4, 2002
Attached, please find the obituary for Bill Barteet (66th Ground Crew). Bill and his family were good friends.
After talking with Art Hand, I went back through the 66th OP records regarding my flights. I have compiled a list of dates and hours of flights (enclosed). All flights shown were listed as combat. The records do not show diversionary or aborted missions. My change in status though, reflects the staggering losses that occurred. By June of 1943, I became squad OP officer and in September became Squadron CO (at age 21 - I wasn't even dry behind the ears).
For the record, all my flights after June 1943 were as command or deputy command pilot except August 16, 1943 when, because of ... of crews I flew - I wonder if it was to Rome with a Lt. Griffiths or copilot.
Griffiths was later killed flying his own crew - he had been Brandon's copilot originally.
I do not believe there were any aborted missions or command pilot (Maybe 2/9/44).
As long as we have gone into this, it probably would be nice to know exactly where I went each time so I can start bragging to the grandkids.
Appreciate your interest and help.