I am John S. Young, Jr. - I am a private pilot and and worked as an aircraft mechanic for the Boeing Company and a west coast airline for thirty years. - My father was Major John Simmons Young. He was born and lived in Dallas, Texas all of his life. He was a WWII B-24D bomber pilot with the 9th Air Force, the 98th Bombing Group - The Pyramiders, and flew with the 344th Bombing Squadron. Flying a training mission out of Luke Field, Louisiana, he bombed and sank a German submarine in the Gulf of Mexico before deploying to North Africa in 1942. After deployment to North Africa, he was based for combat at Tunis, Tunisia, Cairo, Egypt, Tobruk, and Benghazi, Libya, in 1942-3. His personal airplane for part of his time in combat was a Consolidated B-24D, he named, 'KICKAPOO'. He flew tactical missions from July 1942 to 1943 attached to the British Expeditionary Force against assigned targets and targets of opportunity, German land targets in North Africa, shipping in the Mediterranean Sea, and against enemy ports and port facilities in North Africa, Italy, Crete, Greece, and Sicily. He flew and survived over 300 combat flight hours and 28 total combat missions. On one occasion after bombing Naples, he was attacked by two squadrons of German fighters, ME109s and FW190s, and was awarded the Silver Star for that air fight in which his gunners, including Lt. Norman Whalen, his navigator, shot down one of the FW-190s that attacked his B-24. Another of the fighters was shot down, and three of the remaining six of the German fighters were damaged before they disengaged. Lt. Young was able to successfully ditch his failing, shot up B-24 in the shallow water just off the beach at the island of Crete, with no one in his crew lost or seriously injured. - Finally, for his very last combat mission, starting in June and July of 1943, he helped plan, train, and flew as a copilot, in one of the five lead aircraft on the desperate mission to destroy the Romanian oil refineries at Ploesti, Romania. Young was picked by the 98th Bombing Group's commander, Col. John R. (Killer) Kane to fly as Kane's copilot in the 98th Bomb Group's lead B-24, 'Hail Columbia' and to replace Major General Uzal Ent, who was reassigned to fly with Col. K.K. Compton. Lt. Norman Whalen, Young's navigator, Lt. Harry Korger, his bombardier, and the rest of John Young's regular crew from 'KICKAPOO' were also reassigned to fly with Kane and Young in 'Hail Columbia'.
On takeoff for the Ploesti mission, 'KICKAPOO' had an engine fail and catch on fire, with multiple engines failing shortly thereafter, and crashed in flames, as it's replacement pilot, Lt. Robert Nespor, also from Young's 344th Bombing Squadron, was attempting to save the valuable B-24 and land. The crash and fire killed all but two of the replacement crew members, including the 27 year old Lt. Nespor, a personal friend of John Young's. The 98th Bomb Group suffered 46 per cent casualties over Ploesti. Several crewmen in 'Hail Columbia' were injured by flak, as 'Hail Columbia' absorbed over a hundred and fifty flak hits over Ploesti. Kane and Young escaped the target area and flew on to crash land their badly damaged airplane on the British airbase at Nicosia, Cyprus. Lt. Gilbert Hadley in 'Hadley's Harem', Col. Walter Stewart in 'Utah Man', Lt. Robert Sternfels in the B-24D he named 'The Sandman', and Lt. Royden LeBrecht in 'The Squaw', all followed Kane and Young in 'Hail Columbia' out of the greater Ploesti area and on south through Turkey. Knowing they couldn't make it home to Benghazi, they all followed Col. Kane and landed safely on the British airbase at Nicosia, Cyprus, minus Lt. "Gib" Hadley and his shot up plane. Hadley was killed, trapped and drowned, in his beloved airplane, 'Hadley's Harem' when it ran out of gas and sank after ditching in the Aegean Sea just off the Turkish coast. Lt. Sternfels gave Col. Kane and Lt. Young a ride back to Benghazi in 'The Sandman' a day, or so, later. Capt. Young, Col. Kane, Col Stewart, Lt. Sternfels. and Lt. LeBrecht and their crews all survived the Ploesti mission. For his part in the mission, Lt. John Young was awarded an Oak Leaf Cluster to his Distinguished Flying Cross and his Air Medal. John Young returned home after the Ploesti mission and went on a year long war bond tour, as did his friend, Lt Royden LeBrecht with his plane, 'The Squaw'. John Young remained a flight officer in Fort Worth, Texas, until he was honorably discharged from the Army Air Force with the final rank of Major in 1946 - John Young died in 1983. -- John S. Young, Jr. - dcwriter / Randolph Wells - Your research information and historical additions are very much appreciated. Thank you, and please keep in touch JSY, Jr. firstname.lastname@example.org