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Leland J Kessler


On 6 September 1942 while serving as Ball Turret Gunner aboard B-17F 41-24516 'Meltin' Pot' the aircraft lost 2 engines off Londonderry after flight from Newfoundland and was ditched off of Magilligan Point, Northern Ireland. The aircraft came down in shallow water and all ten crew walked ashore.

19-May-1943, was in B-17 42-29786 which crashed at Dunsby in a training accident.

Shot down 21 May 1943 in B-17 42-3214. Prisoner of War (POW) Stalag 17B. Careful research concluded he was shot down by an Me-109 flown by Uffz Helmut Beckmann of 2/JG-27. Resides in Canton, Ohio. First Over Germany reveals he was the hero getting other crewmen out of the stricken plane. Captured immediately and taken to Wilhelmshaven Naval Base and in front of Admiral Doenitz who was there. Spent nine days at Dulag Luft interrigation Center. Sent to Stalag 7A Moosberg, then to Stalag 17B; then forced marched west and then liberated in the woods by tank division of Patton's 3rd Army 02 May 1945.

He completed 16 missions.

He was the first enlisted combat man assigned to the 368th. He was also the so called Sqd. Artist and painted all of the planes' titles and pictures on the noses. He did a couple planes for other Sqd. Crews. He also painted the squadron insignias on the ceiling of the Aero Club at Thurleigh for Mrs. Hesther Levitts, Red Cross prop. He was in April 2003 President of the 306th Association.



Units served with


  • 41-24516 Meltin' Pot

    B-17 Flying Fortress
    Assigned 368BS/306BG Westover 24-August-42; Gander, Nfd 6-September 1942, ditched Lough Foyle, N.I. near Magilligan Point, Londonderry, 6-September-1942 en route Prestwick, then Thurleigh. Down in shallow water, crew walked ashore (10RTD) Written off...

  • 42-29786

    B-17 Flying Fortress
    Delivered Cheyenne 18/2/43; Salina 5/3/43; Gore 8/3/43; Tinker 19/3/43; Morrison 31/3/43; Assigned 96BG Grafton Underwood 2/4/43; transferred 368BS/306BG [BO-N] Thurleigh 20/5/43; on training mission with Max Judas, Co-pilot: Jim Cummings, Bombardier:...

  • 42-3127

    B-17 Flying Fortress
    Delivered Cheyenne 21/2/43; Morrison 20/3/43; Assigned 367BS/306BG [GY-M] Thurleigh 5/5/43; Missing in Action Emden 21/5/43 with Martin Wieand, Co-pilot: Bill Moore, Navigator: Fred McGuidwin, Bombardier: Bill Braden, Flight engineer/top turret gunner:...

  • 42-3214

    B-17 Flying Fortress
    Delivered Cheyenne 30/3/43; Sioux City 8/5/43; Assigned 423BS/306BG [RD-F] Thurleigh 5/5/43; transferred 368BS [BO-F]; Missing in Action Wilhelmshafen 21/5/43 with Max Judas, Navigator: Jim Cummings, Flight engineer/top turret gunner: Leland Kessler,...


  • VIII Bomber Command 60

    21 May 1943
    The German naval and port facilities at Wilhelmshaven and Emden, Germany are the two primary targets for this mission. Once again, there is a two-fold strategic objective: entice the Luftwaffe to commit its fighter forces; and further degrade the naval...

Associated Place

  • Thurleigh

    Military site : airfield
    Built for RAF use in 1941-42, Thurleigh was initially used by RAF Bomber Command before being handed over to the Eighth Air Force. Its runways and hardstandings were improved, and the B-17s of the 306th Bomb Group began using the base. It was their...


Event Location Date
Born Canton, Ohio 25 May 1921
Ditched Magilligan Point, Limavady, Limavady BT49, UK 6 September 1942

Aircraft B-17F 41-24516 lost two engines en-route to Thurleigh and was ditched into the sea near Magilligan Point, Northern, Ireland.

Training Accident 19 May 1943

Involved in a training accident 19-May-43 in B-17F 42-29786.

Prisoner of War (POW) Krems an der Donau, Austria 21 May 1943 – 1 June 1945

Shot down with B-17F 42-3214. Held at Stalag 17B, Braunau-Gneikendorf, near Krems, Austria, marched west and liberated by Patton's 3rd Army in the woods on 2-May-1945. Officially Returned to Military Control (RMC) 1-Jun-45.

Died 3 October 2003
Buried Calvary Cemetery Canton, Ohio


Date Contributor Update
10 February 2021 10:41:25 Helen Changes to biography

306th Echoes April 2003

Date Contributor Update
28 April 2015 16:33:22 Lucy May Changes to aircraft associations

Combined two entries. Now contains information from the following source:
MACR 16173 / Paul Andrews, Project Bits and Pieces, 8th Air Force Roll of Honor database

Date Contributor Update
28 April 2015 16:31:04 Lucy May Changes to biography and media associations

See quote in FRE 5932 caption.

Date Contributor Update
13 November 2014 22:47:01 Lee8thbuff Changes to biography, awards, events, place associations, aircraft associations and mission associations

Lee Cunningham 13-Nov-2014. Missing AIr Crew Report (MACR) 15096; National Archives Records Administration (NARA) WWII POW database.

Date Contributor Update
27 September 2014 18:18:24 AAM AAM ingest

306th BG Association Directory, 1 September 1999 Edition; MACR 16173; T. Kracker, Losses of the 8th & 9th AFs Vol. 1 by Bishop & Hey pp. 30-31, 128, 129 First Over Germany by Strong p. 26 & 119, 306th BGA Collection, Russell Strong / Drawn from the records of the National Museum of the Mighty Eighth Air Force, Savannah, Georgia /