Colin Kelly

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Colin Kelly
Colin Kelly.jpg
Painted in 1942 by Deane Keller
Born July 11, 1915 (1915-07-11)
Madison, Florida
Died December 10, 1941(1941-12-10) (aged 26)
Allegiance United States of America
Service/branch United States Army Air Corps
Years of service 1933-1941 Credit with Academy Time
Rank Captain
Unit 42d Bomb Squadron
Commands held B-17 Aircraft Commander
Battles/wars World War II
Awards Distinguished Service Cross (United States) DSC

Colin Purdie Kelly, Jr. (/ˈklɨn/; July 11, 1915 – December 10, 1941) was a World War II B-17 Flying Fortress pilot who flew bombing runs against the Japanese navy in the first days after the Pearl Harbor attack. He is remembered as one of the first American heroes of the war for sacrificing his own life to save his crew when his plane became the first American B-17 to be shot down in combat.

Life[edit]

Kelly was born in Madison, Florida in 1915 and graduated from high school there in 1932. He went on to West Point in 1933, graduated in the Class of 1937, and was assigned to a B-17 bomber group. He was the first Army officer to fly the Boeing Flying Fortress in the Far East.[1]

Death[edit]

On December 10, 1941, Kelly's B-17C, USAAF 40-2045, (19th BG / 30th BS), took off from Clark Field in the Philippines. During its bombing run, Kelly's plane hit the Japanese cruiser Natori.[2] On its return flight, the bomber came under attack by Zeros from the Tainan Air Group, one of which was piloted by famed Japanese flying ace Saburo Sakai. Kelly stayed at the controls of the badly-damaged aircraft so that the surviving crew members could bail out. Just as he and his co-pilot attempted to escape, the plane exploded, ejecting both men. Kelly's co-pilot, Lieutenant Donald Robins, was able to open his parachute in time. Kelly hit the ground, parachute unopened.

Early reports misidentified the Japanese heavy cruiser Ashigara, which was present, as the battleship Haruna, which was not, and also mistakenly reported that Kelly had crashed his plane into the smokestack of Haruna, becoming the first suicide pilot of the war. Many highly reputable sources, including Webster's New Biographical Dictionary, still continue to report, though, that Kelly bombed and sank the Japanese battleship Haruna and not the cruiser Natori or the Ashigara and that the date of the sinking was December 9, 1941 and not December 10, 1941.[3]

Honors[edit]

For his extraordinary heroism and selfless bravery, Kelly was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Cross. Kelly had earlier in peace time also been awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.[4]

Aviation artist Robert Taylor painted a picture entitled The Legend of Colin Kelly.

In World War II, the United States liberty ship SS Colin P. Kelly, Jr. was named in his honor.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt wrote a letter, "To the President of the United States of America in 1956" asking for an appointment for Kelly's infant son. In 1959, President Dwight D. Eisenhower honored the request appointed Colin P. Kelly, III graduated in 1963 from West Point.

Colin P. Kelly Jr. Street in San Francisco, near AT&T Park, is named in his honor in 1942. The street had previously been named Japan Street.

Colin Kelly Dr. in Dayton, OH is one of many streets near Wright Patterson Air Force Base named to honor Air Force heroes. Colin Kelly Drive in Forest Acres, SC is also named in his honor, as is Colin Kelly Street in Cranford, NJ.

The patriotic song There's a Star-Spangled Banner Waving Somewhere by Paul Roberts and Shelby Darnell (recorded by Elton Britt) places Colin Kelly alongside other legendary Americans in the line "I'll see Lincoln, Custer, Washington and Perry, / Nathan Hale and Colin Kelly too".

The "Four Freedoms Monument" and Colin Kelly Highway, both in Madison, Florida, are dedicated in his honor.

Colin Kelly Middle School in Eugene, Oregon was named in his honor in 1945 by the school's first students, who preferred an "ordinary Joe" as a namesake, rather than prestigious military or political figures. The school colors are kelly green and white, and the nickname is "Bombers."

Colin P. Kelly Elementary School in Compton, California is named in his honor.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Captain Colin P. Kelly, Jr. Post Office, House of Representatives, March 21, 2000, Library of Congress
  2. ^ HIJMS NATORI: Tabular Record of Movement
  3. ^ Webster's New Biographical Dictionary, Springfield: Merriam-Webster, Inc. (1981), p. 551
  4. ^ [1] Gannet Military Times Hall of Valor

Bibliography[edit]

  • Burton, John (2006). Fortnight of Infamy: The Collapse of Allied Airpower West of Pearl Harbor. US Naval Institute Press. ISBN 1-59114-096-X. 

External links[edit]