Skip to main content
Edit entry 

Keith Karl Compton


Keith Karl Compton was an American Air Force Lieutenant General who was Vice Commander in Chief, in the United States Air Force's Strategic Air Command. He flew as the Element Lead Aircraft's Command Pilot with Gen. Uzal Ent, the Ploesti Mission Commander, on Operation Tidal Wave in the B-24D, Teggie Ann, over the Ploesti oil refineries, August 1, 1943.

In North Africa, Col. Keith Compton had been the commander of the 409th Bombing Squadron, then operations officer for the 93rd Bomb Group in 1942. In 1943 he became commander of the 376th Bomb Group and led the Ploesti Raid with General Uzal Ent. He, then, served as Assistant to the Air Chief of Staff for Operations, 15th AAF in North Africa in March, 1944 and returned to the U.S. in July, 1944 as Assistant Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations and Training, 2nd AAF, Colorado Springs, CO. His career as SAC's Chief of Staff, then AF Operations Deputy sitting with the Joint Chiefs of Staff for the Chief of Staff, US Air Force. Then, he was Vice Commander in Chief, SAC.

Although Compton was the Commander of the the Element Lead aircraft leading both the 93rd and the 376th Bomb Groups for the critically important Ploesti mission, at the railroad junction at Targovste, short of his first Initial Point, he was ordered by the Mission Commander, General Uzal Ent, riding with him in Teggie Ann, Compton's Element Lead airplane, to turn south toward Bucharest, instead of continuing north toward his assigned targets at Ploesti. Compton obeyed General Ent's order and refused to turn back north, even after desperate radio calls from the pilots of several of the following aircraft, and a warning from his own navigator, Harold Wickland, on their aircraft intercom, that he had made a disastrous wrong turn, he continued south toward Bucharest, finally turning back northeast, as he flew around Ploesti. But he and the planes following him never attacked their mission targets. Compton finally dropped his bombs harmlessly over the hills northwest of the Ploesti refineries and flew home to Benghazi, almost completely undamaged.

Several pilots from both the 93rd and the 376th Bomb Groups, after recovering from their shock at what they had seen their Element Leader do, finally, acted on their own, against their own attack plan orders, and turned their bombers back to the north and west, toward Ploesti's oil refinery area, in order to, at the very least, bomb targets of opportunity. For their unselfish acts of determination and bravery, a number of them were shot down and killed (KIA), or wounded, flying over the concentrated flak guns south of the refinery area, including, Col. Addison Baker, his copilot, Major John Jerstad, along with their entire crew on their B-24D, Hell's Wench. Also Major John Palm, and a number of others, flew north and west into the heavy flak and refinery areas south of Ploesti, all of whom were determined to bomb targets of opportunity, rather than fail to carry out their mission orders, even though it had already been compromised by events beyond their control, including their Mission Commander and their Element Commander's failure to carry out their mission's combat orders.

Compton’s formation made up of the 93rd, and the 376th Bomb Groups, had reached Rumania well ahead of Kane’s two groups. It descended to low level and made its planned turn to the south at Targoviste, miles short of the correct Identification Point (IP) approaching Ploesti. Col. Addison Baker, in, Hell's Wench, commanding the 93rd Bomb Group, following Compton, saw Ploesti to his left, and refused to follow Compton south. He turned his group, the 93rd Bomb Group, and led it toward it's targets at Ploesti. Baker, John Jerstad, and their entire crew were shot down and killed (KIA) before reaching their target. In the meantime, Compton had turned, almost reversing course, and flew back north and west toward Ploesti but never bombed any of his targets according to the attack plan, finally dropping his bombs harmlessly in the hills north of the city, and returned home with those who followed him, almost completely undamaged. Col. Compton and Gen. Ent, both received received Distinguished Service Cross medals for their actions over Ploesti. August 1, 1943.



  • Norman Appold

    Military | Colonel | B-24 Command Pilot | 376th Bomb Group
    Norman C. Appold graduated from the Aviation Cadet Training Program in 1942, commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant. After completing pilot training, he served as a B-24 pilot in the 376th Bomb Group, completing 63 missions. ...

  • Uzal Ent

    Military | Major General | Commanding General | 376th Bomb Group
    Uzal Girard Ent was an American Army Air Force officer who served as the commander of the 9th Air Force and subsequently the 2nd Air Force during World War II. He flew as mission commander on the Aug 1, 1943, Ploesti oil refinery raid, Operation Tidal...

  • Donaldson Hurd

    Military | Captain | B-24D Command Pilot | 376th Bomb Group
    Lt. Donaldson B. Hurd was assigned to the 9th Air Force, the 376th Bomb Group, and the 515th Bomb Squadron, in the Middle East. He was in Benghazi, Libya for the Ploesti mission. Lt. Hurd flew the B-24D, 42-40319, Dopey Goldberg, on Operation Tidal...

  • Leon Johnson

    Military | Brigadier General | B-24 Command Pilot - Commanding Officer 44th Bomb Group | 44th Bomb Group The Flying Eightballs
    Col. Leon Johnson, the commander of the 44th Bomb Group from the 8th Air Force in Britain provided superior leadership in planning and training his pilots from the 8th Air force from the U.K. to employ very low altitude flying, before and during...

  • John Kane

    Military | Colonel | B-24 Bomb Group Commanding Officer / B-24 Command Pilot | 98th Bomb Group
    John Riley Kane was a colonel in the United States Army Air Corps and, later, in the United States Air Force. He received the U.S. military's highest decoration, the Congressional Medal of Honor, in World War II, for his leadership, courage, and...

  • John Palm

    Military | First Lieutenant | Pilot | 376th Bomb Group

  • Ramsay Potts

    Military | Major General | Command Pilot, Operations Officer, Commanding Officer, Observer | 389th Bomb Group
    Lt. Col. Ramsay Potts flew 41 x combat missions in WWII, including deep penetrations from England to the Messerschmidt factory at Weiner Neustadt, Austria and German synthetic fuel plants. On 21-Nov-42, he was engaged by 5 x JU-88's over the Bay of...

  • Walter Stewart

    Military | Colonel | B-24 Pilot | 93rd Bomb Group
    In 1941, Walter Stewart was a 24 year old, U.S. Army Air Force cadet at the University of Utah. He wrote, "We were pulling guns around with horses as a plane flew overhead. Jack Adamson, who had been my Morman mission companion, said to me, "There's a...

Show more

Units served with

  • 376th Bomb Group

    376th Bomb Group

    Constituted as 376th Bombardment Group (Heavy) on 19 Oct 1942 and activated in Palestine on 31 Oct. Began combat immediately, using B-24 aircraft. Operated with Ninth AF from bases in the Middle East, Nov 1942-Sep 1943, and with Twelfth AF from Tunisia...

  • 409th Bomb Group
  • 93rd Bomb Group

    93rd Bomb Group

    The 93rd Bombardment Group (Heavy) was activated 1 Mar 42 at Barksdale Field, Louisiana. On 15 May 42. the Group moved to Ft. Myers, Florida, to continue advanced flight training and also to fly antisubmarine patrols over the Gulf of Mexico. They...


  • 42-40664 - Honey Chile - Liberandos - Teggie Ann

    B-24 Liberator
    The B-24D, named, Teggie Ann, 42-40664, should not be mistaken for another of two other B-24Ds, two of three B-24Ds, 41-23754, and 41-11613, also named, Teggie Ann, that were in the 8th Air Force in the U.K in 1942-43. Later, 42-40664, Teggie Ann's,...

  • 41-11636 Wash's Tub, Liberandos

    B-24 Liberator
    The B-24D, Liberator bomber, 41-11636, first named, Wash's Tub, was first flown by Martin Walsh and was originally Halpro aircraft, #24, first, in the Halverson Project in 1942 in the 9th Air Force. It was later transferred to the 8th Air Force, the...


  • Operation Tidal Wave

    1 August 1943
    Operation TIDAL WAVE. B-24D Liberators attack the oil refineries at Ploesti, Romania. The bombers flew low to avoid radar detection and dropped time delayed bombs. Out of the 177 B-24s that took part in the raid 167 managed to attack their targets. 57...

Associated Place


Event Location Date
Born Saint Joseph, MO, USA 9 December 1915

1915 in St. Joseph, Missouri, USA.

Promoted February 1953

Vice Commander in Chief, Strategic Air Command, Feb 1953.

Retired 1 August 1969

Retired 1st August, 1969.

Died San Antonio, TX, USA 15 June 2004

15th June, 2004, San Antonio, Texas, USA.

Buried July 2004

Arlington National Cemetery
Arlington, Virginia


Date Contributor Update
25 August 2021 13:11:44 Kickapoo Changes to biography

Ploesti - An Anatomy of Disaster - General Hoyt S. Vandenberg, Jr. ---- Black Sunday - Michael Hill

Date Contributor Update
25 August 2021 13:01:15 Kickapoo Changes to biography

Ploesti - An Anatomy of Disaster - General Hoyt S. Vandenberg, Jr. ---- Black Sunday - Michael Hill

Date Contributor Update
09 August 2021 08:47:02 Kickapoo Changes to biography

Black Sunday - Michael Hill

Date Contributor Update
22 April 2021 11:04:37 Al_Skiff Changes to service number and events

Date Contributor Update
22 April 2021 00:24:28 Kickapoo Changes to biography

Ploesti - An Anatomy Of A Disaster - Gen. Hoyt S. Vandenberg ---- Black Sunday - Michael Hill ---- Into the Fire - Duane Schultz

Date Contributor Update
22 April 2021 00:13:06 Kickapoo Changes to biography

Ploesti - An Anatomy Of A Disaster - Gen. Hoyt S. Vandenberg ---- Black Sunday - Michael Hill ---- Into the Fire - Duane Schultz

Date Contributor Update
29 August 2020 14:17:31 decwriter Changes to service number, highest rank and awards

NARA files verified DSC for 1 August 1943 Ploesti low level mission, LOM w/1 oak leaf cluster, DFC w/1 oak leaf cluster. His file for the AM accounts for the initial Air Medal and 4 oak leaf clusters in World War II. His first Legion of Merit was issued during World War II and the 1st oak leaf cluster was issued in 1957. He wears the Army Distinguished Service Medal, Army Commendation Medal and the Air Force Commendation Medal in his official biography photo as well. Of note, in his official photo, he does not wear campaign stars on the EAME Campaign Medal, so the campaigns are unknown without further research. He retired on 1 August 1969 as a Lieutenant General.

Date Contributor Update
13 August 2019 01:20:16 Kickapoo Changes to biography
Sources ---- Anatomy Of A Disaster - Gen. Hoyt S. Vandenberg ---- Black Sunday - Michael Hill ---- Into the Fire - Duane Schultz

Date Contributor Update
13 August 2019 01:18:21 Kickapoo Changes to biography
Sources ---- Anatomy Of A Disaster - Gen. Hoyt S. Vandenberg ---- Black Sunday - Michael Hill ---- Into the Fire - Duane Schultz

Date Contributor Update
30 November 2018 04:09:38 Kickapoo Changes to role, biography, person associations and place associations

Find A Grave

Date Contributor Update
21 December 2016 11:41:17 general ira snapsorter Changes to middlename, highest rank, role, biography, events and unit associations

Merged with duplicate entry to include details from :
- 93rd BG ;
- the records of the National Museum of the Mighty Eighth Air Force, Savannah, Georgia.

Additional biographical details from

Date Contributor Update
30 March 2015 10:03:36 Al_Skiff Changes to middlename

USAAF Photo.

Date Contributor Update
29 March 2015 21:08:19 Al_Skiff Created entry with surname, middlename, firstname, nationality, highest rank, role, biography, events, unit associations, aircraft associations, mission associations and media associations

USAAF Photo.