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Pierce Winningham McKennon

Military

Major McKennon, was born 30 November 1919 in Clarksville, Arkansas, but grew up and was educated in Fort Smith. He earned a four-year music scholarship to the University of Arkansas. After a month in college he switched course and deserted the classics for the campus swing band. In his fourth year, in February 1941, he enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps as an Aviation Cadet. He was sent to Hicks Field in Fort Worth, Texas, where he trained in Stearman PT-17s, but washed out two months later due to extreme motion sickness.
Not to be denied in his ambition to fly, a month later he enlisted in the RCAF. After some admin' type duties, he finally was assigned to primary training, where he flew Fleet Finch biplanes. He went on to gain his Pilot Wings in just four months rather than the usual ten to twelve months normally expected.
On 21 March 1942 he arrived in England. Later that month he reported to an advanced pilot training unit, where he trained on Miles Masters and Hawker Hurricanes. He entered an Operational Training Unit in April to train in Spitfires. In May, while flying a Spit', he performed a low-level beat up of his former training unit and returned to base, where he was immediately arrested and locked up. At the end of June he was found guilty of unauthorised aerobatics, reduced in rank, and stripped of his wings.
For whatever reason, the authorities relented, and Mac was given a second chance, to be closely monitored for the following four months. On 14 October he won back his wings and was restored to his former rank of Sergeant Pilot.
In November 1942, after one year and seven months in the RCAF/RAF, he was granted an honorable discharge to join the USAAF, and recommended as an above average pilot. He became a second Lieutenant and spent three months learning to fly the P-47 Thunderbolt. He was assigned to the 4th Fighter Group, 335th Squadron in February 1943 - at last, where he wanted to be, a fighter pilot. He christened his plane "Ridge Runner", his nose art being an Arkansas razorback hog. Also, with his musical background, he would often play "Boogie Woogie" piano in the Officers' Mess.
Although he was an exceptionally good pilot, this did not prevent him being shot down twice by flak, and being seriously wounded on a third occasion.
While strafing trains in August 1944 he was shot down. He evaded and was picked up by the French Maquis, who helped him return to England a month later.
Six months later, leading his Group, preparing to strafe Neubrandenberg Airfield filled with parked aircraft, again his plane was hit. He had no choice but to bale out about five miles from the airfield, landing near his crashed plane. The Group watched and repelled German soldiers attempting to capture him. Then, Lt. George Green proceeded to land his P-51 Mustang, dispose his parachute and dinghy, and then pick up McKennon. With Green sitting on his lap at the controls, they took off and headed for home. Arriving back at Debden, the tower operator was astounded to hear their request for landing instructions for two!
Again strafing Rosenheim-Gahlingen Airfield on 16 April 1945, McKennon was hit by an explosive shell in the cockpit, wounding his head and neck and causing profuse bleeding. He managed to land at a forward base, where they bandaged his wounds and advised him not to fly back to Debden. He ignored the advice, leading his squadron home and completing, for him, his last combat mission.

After 560 combat hours, being shot down and evading twice, scoring 21-plus victories, and being Squadron CO for eight months; having been washed-out of US Flight Training, losing his RCAF wings by court Martial, and regaining them, his luck ran out.

On 18 June 1947 he was killed in a tragic flying accident involving an AT-6D near San Antonio, Texas.

Pierce had 21.68 enemy aircraft to his credit, and had been awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross with four Oak Leaf Clusters, the Air Medal with 16 Oak Leaf Clusters, the Purple Heart, and the French Croix de Guerre.

Service

People

  • George Green

    Military | Captain | Pilot
    Captain George D. Green is famous for his daring piggyback rescue of Major Pierce McKennon, his Squadron CO, in a P-51 Mustang on 18 March 1945. ...

  • Alfred Markel

    Military | Captain | Fighter Pilot
    Captain Alfred H. Markel of the 4th Fighter Group, 334th Fighter Squadron, was placed in charge of the Operational Training Unit for newly assigned pilots on 17 July 1944. He was later assigned to the 4th Fighter Group Headquarters Squadron.

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Units served with

  • 335th Fighter Squadron

    335th Fighter Squadron

    Squadron
    The 335th Fighter Squadron was the offspring of No. 121 (Eagle) Squadron RAF. Formed on 21 May 1941, No. 121 was the second of the three Eagle Squadrons composed of American volunteers flying out of England. They were known as the "Chiefs" and were...

Aircraft

  • 42-106911 'Yippe Joe'

    P-51 Mustang
    Assigned to 335FS, 4FG, 8AF USAAF. Became WD-A following Major Pierce W McKennon ending first tour. Lost on ramrod to St Dizier aerodrome, hit by flak, engine failed, abandoned A/C 9-May-44 - Lt Lloyd W Waterman POW. MACR 4686.

  • 43-6896

    P-51 Mustang
    Assigned to 335FS, 4FG, 8AF USAAF. One-time personal aircraft of 1st Lt Pierce McKennon. He downed five German fighters in this machine between 6 March and 18 April 1944. ...

  • 44-13883

    P-51 Mustang
    Assigned to 335FS, 4FG, 8AF USAAF. One-time personal aircraft of Pierce McKennon. Ground strafing mission Strasbourg, hit by 40mm Flak from strafed train. Engine quit pilot Capt Pierce McKennon baled out and evaded. MACR 8298.

  • 44-14570 'Thunderbird' 'Ridge Runner'

    P-51 Mustang
    Assigned to 335FS, 4FG, 8AF USAAF.

  • 44-14221 'Ridge Runner III'

    P-51 Mustang
    Assigned to 335FS, 4FG, 8AF USAAF. One-time personal aircraft of Major Pierce W McKennon.

  • 41-6621

    P-47 Thunderbolt
    Assigned to 335FS, 4FG, 8AF USAAF. One-time personal aircraft of 2nd Lt Pierce McKennon.

  • 42-6896

    P-51 Mustang
    One-time personal aircraft of 1st Lt. Pierce McKennon. He downed five German fighters in this machine between 6 March and 18 April 1944.

  • 44-13555 'Thunder Bird'

    P-51 Mustang
    Assigned to 335FS, 4FG, 8AF USAAF. This was the penultimate P-51D Mustang assigned to Captain Ted Lines of the 335th Fighter Squadron.

  • 44-72308 'Ridge Runner IV'

    P-51 Mustang
    This aircraft was the last in a series of RIDGE RUNNER's flown by Major Pierce McKennon, CO of the 335th fighter Squadron. ...

  • P8095 'Halifax II'

    Spitfire
    Supermarine Spitfire P8095 Mk IIa, Built at Castle Bromwich Aircraft Factory. ...

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Associated Place

  • Debden

    Military site : airfield
    RAF Debden, construction of which began in 1935, is perhaps most famous as a Battle of Britain fighter airfield, partly responsible for the defence of London in 1940. In 1942 it was also home to three RAF 'Eagle Squadrons’ of volunteer American pilots...

Events

Event Location Date
Born Clarksville, AR 72830, USA 30 November 1919
Died San Antonio, TX, USA 18 June 1947

Flying accident.

Lived in Fort Smith, AR, USA

Revisions

Date Contributor Update
27 February 2017 23:39:11 WD-C Mustang Changes to media associations
Sources

Associated media with McKennon's name in the caption

Date Contributor Update
27 February 2017 06:07:00 fugari Changes to media associations
Sources

cook

Date Contributor Update
27 February 2017 06:04:36 fugari Changes to service number, role and media associations
Sources

cook

Date Contributor Update
18 February 2017 22:13:04 WD-C Mustang Changes to nickname
Sources

Merged with duplicate entry to include details from:
Ted Damick, VIII Fighter Command pilots list

Date Contributor Update
10 September 2016 20:26:27 fugari Changes to awards
Sources

fugari

Date Contributor Update
03 August 2016 10:23:30 general ira snapsorter Changes to biography
Sources

Merged with duplicate entry to include details from:
- the records of the National Museum of the Mighty Eighth Air Force, Savannah, Georgia;
- Fighter Aces of the U. S. A. and Mustang Aces of the Eighth Air Force;
- MACR 8298;
- Losses of the 8th & 9th AFs Vol. I by Bishop & Hey p. 225 w. picture

Date Contributor Update
11 May 2016 22:15:22 WD-C Mustang Changes to media associations
Sources

Associated media already in database

Date Contributor Update
23 April 2016 23:19:56 WD-C Mustang Changes to media associations
Sources

Associated media

Date Contributor Update
08 April 2016 21:37:09 WD-C Mustang Changes to middlename
Sources

Aces of WWII (http://acesofww2.com/)

Date Contributor Update
27 April 2015 20:00:56 apollo11 Changes to biography and events
Sources

Personal research & 4th Fighter Group 'Debden Eagles' by Chris Bucholtz.

Date Contributor Update
09 March 2015 19:58:13 apollo11 Changes to surname, middlename, nickname, highest rank, biography, awards, events and place associations
Sources

Personal research & 'Eighty-One Aces of the 4th Fighter Group' by Frank Speer.

Date Contributor Update
27 September 2014 18:21:33 AAM AAM ingest
Sources

MACR 8298 / Paul Andrews, Project Bits and Pieces, 8th Air Force Roll of Honor database

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