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Walter Earl Kelly


A Norristown, PA tavern keeper's son, Walter Kelly graduated from Villanova University with a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering. He enlisted in the Air Corps in June 1941 and started training as a pilot. After receiving his wings, he flew on many training flights before learning to fly B-17s at McDill Air Force Base near Tampa, FL. Assigned to the 97th Bomber Group, he was sent to Europe in the Spring of 1942. He was pilot of "Heidi Ho" Serial 41-9017 on the 8th Air Force's first Heavy Bomber mission to Rouen, France on August 17, 1942. After a number of other operations, he was transferred to North Africa with the 97th in November 1942. Promoted to Captain in 1943 by General James Doolittle, he flew for a short time as the General's personal pilot. Walter totalled 52 missions against Germany and 38 against the Japanese after his transfer to the Pacific. He ended his military career as a Colonel in the USAF.


Units served with

  • 97th Bomb Group

    97th Bomb Group

    The 97th Bomb Group flew the Eighth Air Force's first heavy bomber mission from the UK when they bombed a marshalling yard at Rouen on 17 August 1942. Just a month later though the Group were reassigned to the Twelfth Air Force and left England for the...

  • 342nd Bomb Squadron



  • VIII Bomber Command 1

    17 August 1942
    The US 8AF launches its first strategic bombing raid of the war, sending 12 Boeing B-17Es of the 97BG on a strike against the railyards of Sotteville-lès-Rouen, France, while another six fly a diversionary route. The attacking force is split into two...

Associated Place

  • Grafton Underwood

    Military site : airfield
    Grafton Underwood was built in 1941 by George Wimpey and Co. Ltd. It was the first airfield in England to receive an Eighth Air Force flying unit, when in May 1942 personnel of the 15th Bomb Squadron took up residence. As a satellite airfield for...


Event Location Date
Born Norristown, Pennsylvania, United States 3 April 1919

the son of Thomas Elwood Kelly and Mary (Maurer) Kelly

Lived in Norristown, Pennsylvania, United States 1941
Enlisted Fort Indiantown Gap, Annville, Indiana, United States 30 June 1941

as an Aviation Cadet in the Air Corps

Died Melbourne, Florida, United States 20 July 2014
Buried October 2014


Date Contributor Update
04 November 2017 11:29:00 ED-BB Changes to media associations

Deleted connection with Image FRE 2250 as that September 1943 photo shows a Private Walter E. Kelly from Chicago, Illinois... and definitely NOT then Captain Walter E. Kelly from Norristown, PA...

Date Contributor Update
04 November 2017 11:06:32 ED-BB Changes to middlename, service number, highest rank, biography, events, place associations and mission associations

NARA WWII Enlistment Records
Gerald Astor's "The Mighty Eighth"
US 1930 Census
Article at

Date Contributor Update
27 September 2014 18:26:50 AAM AAM ingest

97th Bomb Group Association, Inc., Roster - June 1, 2000; great-nephew / Drawn from the records of the National Museum of the Mighty Eighth Air Force, Savannah, Georgia