Claiborne H. Kinnard Jr.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Claiborne H. Kinnard Jr.
Lt. Col. Claiborne H. Kinnard Jr. in flight suit with goggles c. 1944.jpeg
Nickname(s)Clay, Zoot
Born(1912-10-29)October 29, 1912
Franklin, Tennessee
DiedSeptember 18, 1966(1966-09-18) (aged 53)
AllegianceUnited States
Service/branchUnited States Army Air Forces
Years of service1938 - 1966
Service numberO-383753
Commands held360th Fighter Squadron
354th Fighter Squadron
4th Fighter Group
355th Fighter Group
Battles/warsWorld War II

Claiborne Holmes Kinnard Jr. (October 28, 1912– September 18, 1966) was a pilot from Franklin, Tennessee, who in World War II became a flying ace in the United States Army Air Force with the rank of Colonel.[1][2] He is officially credited with the destruction of 8 enemy aircraft in aerial combat and another 17 on the ground while strafing heavily-defended enemy airfields.

Early life[edit]

He was born and raised in Franklin, Tennessee in the historic Claiborne Kinnard House on a farm owned by his father, Claiborne Kinnard Sr. The family farm was located at the corner of Lewisburg Pike and Carnton Lane (now the Heath Place subdivision).[3] The property has historical significance as being the site of the eastern flank of the Civil War Battle of Franklin in 1864. Kinnard's farm was the encampment site of Gen. John Bell Hood's army in 1864.[4] The Kinnard family built a large swimming pool on the property, a business venture known as "Willow Plunge" which was very popular and remained in business from 1924 to 1967.[5][3] Kinnard managed the swimming pool and its associated nine-hole golf course in his youth and helped run other family businesses. Kinnard attended Vanderbilt University and graduated with a degree in civil engineering.


He became a skilled golfer and competed in state and regional tournaments.[6][7] He joined the U.S. Army Air Corps as an aviation cadet in 1938 and was commissioned a second lieutenant in 1939. He trained at Randolph Field and had experience in flying every type of American fighter plane available at that time.[8] He became an instructor pilot there until 1940. Kinnard married Ruth McDowell of Montgomery, Alabama, whom he met during a tour of duty at Maxwell Field. [8] They had three children, Judith, John and Claiborne.[9]: 21 

World War II[edit]

Claiborne Kinnard

Kinnard became commander of the 360th Fighter Squadron of the 356th Fighter Group in May 1943. He was commander of the 354th Fighter Squadron of the 355th Fighter Group from November 1943 to June 1944.[10] He was with headquarters 355th Fighter Group from July to September 1944 and from February to May 1945. He was with the 4th Fighter Group from September to December 1944 and commander from November to December before returning to the 355th Fighter Group.

Awards and decorations[edit]

Replica of Kinnard's 4th Fighter Group P-51D Mustang (44-14292) Man O’ War

Kinnard was an ace with 8 enemy aircraft destroyed in aerial combat[11]: 106  and an additional 17 on the ground while strafing heavily-defended enemy airfields.[1]: 147  He was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross,[a] The Silver Star, the Distinguished Flying Cross with six oak leaf clusters; the Air Medal with six oak leaf clusters; the Croix de Guerre, avec palme; the Distinguished Unit Badge and the European Theater Ribbon with seven stars which represent the Air Offensive in Europe.[8]

Life after the war[edit]

After the war, Kinnard returned to Tennessee to live on his family farm. With partner Howard Johnson, he owned the Superlock Block Company in Franklin.[12] Other business interests were Breeko Block and Brick Company and Span Deck, a machine company.[9]: 21  With his father, he co-managed the Willow Plunge Pool and recreation area that occupied a portion of the farm. Kinnard purchased an airplane and built an airstrip on the property in 1947, and for a couple of years, offered plane rides to Willow Plunge patrons. [13] Kinnard died in 1966 from a brain tumor.[14]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Kinnard's Distinguished Service Citation reads: "For extraordinary heroism in action against the enemy, 7 July 1944 while leading his Group in the escort of heavy bombers at Halle, Germany. Circling the target area, Colonel Kinnard observed 20 enemy airplanes attacking the bomber formation. Approaching to intercept them Colonel Kinnard discovered he had become separated from his Group and was leading a flight of only three airplanes. Despite the odds against him he immediately attacked, destroying one enemy fighter and dispersing the entire formation. In the encounter Colonel Kinnard's wing man was lost, and, at this moment, 30 enemy airplanes which had been acting as top cover launched their attack. Colonel Kinnard, in his firm resolve to protect the bomber formation, launched a fearless and daring attack on the enemy, notwithstanding their numerical superiority. So skillful and vicious was his attack that he was able to destroy two more of the enemy and protect his wing man while the latter destroyed another. The outstanding heroism and devotion to duty displayed by Colonel Kinnard on this occasion reflect highest credit upon himself and the Armed Forces of the United States."[8]


  1. ^ a b Norman J. Fortier (18 December 2007). An Ace of the Eighth: An American Fighter Pilot's Air War in Europe. Random House Publishing Group. ISBN 978-0-307-41455-7.
  2. ^ Bill Marshall (1984). Angels, bulldogs & dragons. Champlin Fighter Museum. ISBN 978-0-912173-02-3.
  3. ^ a b Harmuth, Zach (May 31, 2017). "Willow Plunge: The Place Where Williamson County Used to Spend Its Summers". Williamson Source. Retrieved July 22, 2022.
  4. ^ Burch, Bonnie (November 30, 1999). "Play War/ Civil War Pageants Staged in 1960s Inspire Today's Re-enactors". No. 95:334. The Tennessean. pp. 1–W, 9–W. Retrieved July 28, 2022.
  5. ^ Morris, Chuck (May 22, 1997). "Swimmers Flocked to Willow Plunge". Vol. 93, no. 142. The Tennessean. pp. 4–W, 5–W. Retrieved July 27, 2022.
  6. ^ O'Donnell, Red (July 7, 1938). "Kinnard Shooting Best Golf of Career". No. 32:701. The Nashville Tennessean. p. 13. Retrieved July 28, 2022.
  7. ^ "Claiborne Kinnard Leads Tennessee Valley Tourney". Vol. 26, no. 12. The Tennessean. August 13, 1931. p. 7. Retrieved July 23, 2022.
  8. ^ a b c d Morgan, Marshall (November 21, 1950). "Air Ace Leaves Laurels To Manage Franklin Firm". No. 75:193. Nashville Banner. pp. 3, 9. Retrieved August 12, 2022.
  9. ^ a b "Claiborne Kinnard Services Today". No. 61:141. The Tennessean. September 19, 1966. Retrieved August 14, 2022.
  10. ^ Maurer, M. (1983). Air Force combat units of World War II. Washington, D.C.: Office of Air Force History. pp. 36 & 237. ISBN 0912799021. Retrieved August 13, 2022.
  11. ^ "USAF Credits for the Destruction of Enemy Aircraft, Word War II" (PDF). Office of Air Force History, Headquarters, USAF. 1978. Retrieved August 13, 2022. USAF Historical Study No. 85
  12. ^ "Did You Know? Superlock Building Blocks Began 50 Years Ago". No. 93:92. The Tennessean. April 2, 1997. Retrieved August 12, 2022.
  13. ^ "Recreational Area Includes Airport". No. 72:94. Nashville Banner. July 29, 1947. p. 3. Retrieved July 29, 2022.
  14. ^ "Claiborne Holmes Kinnard Jr". Imperial War Museums 2022. Retrieved August 14, 2022.

External links[edit]