General William 'Bill' E. Kepner.
Print of 2nd Air Division Headquarters aircraft, in the 2nd Air Division Memorial Library, Norwich, England. Original painting by Norwich based artist and aviation historian Mike Bailey.
1 April 1944 - A visit by the 'brass' to Debden was capped by this dinner featuring a host of famous faces.
Lt. Col. Oscar Coen (left, facing camera), Maj. Gen. William Kepner, Mr. Banks (standing), Lt. Col. Jim Clark, Gen. Dwight Eisenhower, Col. Don Blakeslee, Gen. Carl Spaatz, Capt. Don Gentile, Brig. Gen. Jesse Auton, Capt. Joe Lang, Col. Fallows (left, nearest camera), Brig. Gen. Curtis, Maj. Jim Goodson, Lt. Gen. Doolittle, Capt. Bob Johnson, Commander Harry Butcher, Capt. Alfred Markel, and Lt. William Rowles.
On the far row in the centre is Supreme Allied Commander Gen Dwight D. Eisenhower, and to his left is Col Don Blakeslee, Lt Gen Carl Spaatz, commander of US Strategic Air Forces, and Capt Don Gentile. Second from left in the back row is Maj Gen William Kepner, head of VII Fighter Command. Sitting opposite Gen Eisenhower is Brig Gen Jesse Auton, 65th Fighter Wing CO, and to his left is Maj James Godson and, turning, with his back to the camera, Mag Gen James Doolittle, commander of the Eighth Air Force.
(L-R) Gen. Kepner, Col. James, LtCol. Jenkins, Maj. Webb, Maj. Joel and Capt. Busching at Nuthampstead.
The ‘brass’ visit Debden on April 1, 1944. (L-R) Brig General Jesse Auton, 65th Fighter Wing CO; Supreme Allied Commander General Dwight D. Eisenhower; Lt General Carl Spaatz, commander of US Strategic Air Forces; Mag General James Doolittle, commander of the 8th Air Force; Maj General William Kepner, head of VII Fighter Command; Col Don Blakeslee, commander of the 4th Fighter Group.
Major-General William E. Kepner talks with personnel of the 389th Bomb Group. Printed caption on reverse: '74093 A.C. Major General William E. Kepner chats with an officer of the 2nd Bomb group Division, 8th Air Force, as he enjoys refreshments at an air base in England. U.S. AIR FORCE PHOTO.'
Colonel Don Blakeslee (left) and Major General Kepner (right) after the return home of Blakeslee and his Mustangs from the first Russia Shuttle Mission.
Official caption on back: "Col. Don Blakeslee, 26, of Fairport Harbor, Ohio, (left) alights from his North American P-51 Mustang in England upon His return from Russia, Hungry, Rumania, Italy and France, and it met by Maj. Gen. William E. Kepner, 8th Fighter Command Chief. Gen. Kepner chose Blakeslee, former Eagle Squadron Commander, to lead that 8th AAF Mustang Squadrons from Russian and Italian bases, Blakeslee led the fighters as the bombers attacked targets in Rumania, Hungary and Southern France. He shot down a ME-109 over Budapest, his 15th in combat (6 more on the ground)."
Page 15 of the 66th Fighter Wing unit history.
Many of the 8th Air Force Groups produced an unofficial unit history in the months after the war ended in Europe but before they were redeployed out of the ETO (European Theater of Operations).
Resembling a college yearbook, unit histories were an unofficial – and often tongue-in-cheek – record of the unit’s time based in the UK. They include photo montages showing different aspects of base life. Often the servicemen in the photos are unnamed. The American Air Museum hopes that by adding unit histories to the website as individual pages, the men in the photos will be identified and associated to their person entries. Many included lists of personnel and a mailing address, providing a means for servicemen to keep in contact with each other after the war. These lists are now incredibly useful records of where US airmen in England in 1945 called their home.
Inspecting a life raft dropped from the wing of a P-47 thunderbolt: L to R: Maj Gen William E Kepner, Gen Jesse Auton, Gen Carl A Spaatz, Lt Gen James Doolittle.
Maj Gen William E Kepner and members of his command.
Rear L to R: Col Hubert Zemke, Lt Col Donald J M Blakeslee, Col Frank B James, Lt Col Einar A Malmstrom, Col Joe Lennard Mason, Lt Col Thomas Jonathan Jackson Christian Jr.
Middle L to R: lt Col Edwin Shepard Chickering, Col James J Stone Jr, Lt Col Glenn E Duncan, Col William James Cummings Jr, Col Avelin Paul Tacon Jr, Col Barton M Russell.
Seated L to R: Col Edward W Anderson, Col Murray Clark Woodbury, Maj Gen William E Kepner, Col Jesse Auton, Col Francis H Griswold.
NARA Ref 342-FH-3A47576-55088AC.
From 1909 to 1913, Kepner served in the US Marine Corps. By 1916 he was a second lieutenant in the Indiana National Guard. After a short spell in the US cavalry, in 1917 he transferred to the infantry as a captain and commanded a company at the Battle of Chateau-Thierry. He subsequently lead the 3rd Battalion of the 4th US Infantry in the Meuse-Argonne offensive. In 1920, at the age of 27, he transferred to the US Army Air Corps and trained as a balloon pilot, then subsequently as an airship pilot.
From 1927 to 1929 he participated very prominently in several US national and international balloon races, most notably winning the prestigious Gordon Bennett Cup with co-pilot William Olmstead Eareckson in June 1928.
In August 1929 he was commissioned as test pilot of the radical metal-hulled airship ZMC-2, newly completed at Grosse Ile, Michigan. After a successful series of evaluation flights, he flew the airship in September of that year to what was to become its sole home base at Lakehurst, New Jersey, arriving without mishap except for a small perforation in the envelope which press reports of the time claimed to be the result of a pot-shot en route from someone on the ground.
Promoted to the rank of major in October 1930, he took command of the Materiel Division's Lighter-than-Air Branch at Wright Field, Ohio.
In the period 1930-32, he learned to fly fixed-wing aircraft.
In the summer of 1934, Kepner took command of the joint National Geographic Society - US Army Air Corps Stratosphere Flight near Rapid City, South Dakota to make an attempt with the specially constructed balloon Explorer on the manned balloon altitude record. On 29 July, the balloon ascended with himself and two fellow US Army Air Corp officers, Capt. Albert W. Stevens and Capt. Orvil A. Anderson as crew. However, the attempt nearly ended in tragedy when the balloon envelope ruptured near maximum height, sending the spherical pressurised gondola plunging earthwards. Fortunately, as the gondola reached lower altitudes, all three occupants were able to exit and safely parachute to earth shortly before it crashed.
Ascending through the ranks, in February 1942 he was eventually promoted to Major General in April 1943, and in September of that year took command of 8th Fighter Command in the European Theatre. There he supervised the vital role that the fighters played both as guardians of the 8th Air Force's bombers and as ground-attack support for ground forces, not least in the crucial period around D-Day.
In August 1944, Kepner took command of the 8th Air Force's 2nd Bomb Division. During the war he personally flew 24 combat missions in fighters and bombers and received various decorations from his own country and also from several allied nations.
Immediately after the war he took command of the 12th Tactical Air Command. Various appointments followed, including command of the Atomic Energy Division, U.S. Air Force Headquarters. In 1950, Kepner was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant General and became commander-in-chief of US Air Force Alaska Command.
He retired from military service on 28 February 1953, and after moving to Orlando, Florida, died there on 3 July 1982. (Bio courtesy of Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Ellsworth_Kepner)
Military | Sergeant | Ground Crew - Mechanic | 467th Bomb Group
Mechanic on 'Witchcraft' which flew 130 non abort missions over Europe duriing WWII. (A 16 scale model is suspended from ceiling in this museum.)
Named his engine "Doris + ?". (Ray's wife was pregnant at the time he named the engine!)
||Miami, IN, USA
||6 January 1893
||Orlando, FL, USA
||3 July 1982