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John Riley Kane


John Riley Kane (January 5, 1907 – May 29, 1996) was a colonel in the United States Army Air Corps and later 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 heroism for leading the 98th, the 44th, and the 389th Bombardment Groups in Operation Tidal Wave, the low altitude attack on the oil refineries at Ploesti in 1943, all of whom successfully bombed their assigned targets, including Kane's target, the Astra Romano Refinery at Ploesti Rumania, on Aug. 1, 1943

A native of Texas, Kane joined the Army Air Corps after graduating from Baylor University. In WWII in July 1942, he was sent to the Mediterranean Theater of War where he flew 43 combat missions against shipping in the Mediterranean Sea and over Italian ports for a total of 250 combat hours in Africa, the Middle East, and, later, Europe.

In North Africa, Kane commanded the 98th Bombardment Group, a B-24 Liberator unit nicknamed the "Pyramiders". His daring flying operations caused German intelligence reports to dub him "Killer Kane."

Kane earned the Silver Star during a mission when his plane became separated from the formation and was attacked from the rear by an enemy fighter. Although the tail and top turrets of his bomber became inoperative, he successfully outmaneuvered the pursuing ME-110 through eight different attacks. The fighter eventually exhausted its ammunition and was forced to break off the attack without causing any appreciable damage to Kane's aircraft.

Kane chose his friend, Lt. John S. Young, a fellow Texan from Dallas, to be his copilot on Kane's lead aircraft for the Ploesti mission, 'Hail Columbia' and also Young's crew from Young's personal B-24, the 'KICKAPOO'. This last minute change proved very fortunate for Lt. Young and his regular crew when, subsequently, 'KICKAPOO' lost it's #4 engine on takeoff for the mission and crashed, killing it's two replacement pilots, Lt. Robert Nespor, Lt. John Riley, and all but two of it's replacement crew. After the war, Col. Kane commanded a series of airfields in the U.S. and served another year and a half in North Africa before his retirement.



  • Neville Benson

    Military | Staff Sergeant | Waist Gunner | 98th Bomb Group
    SSgt. Neville C. Bensen took part in Operation Tidal Wave, the raid on Ploesti on 1 August 1943. He was a waist gunner in the Element Lead B-24D Liberator, # 41-11825, 'Hail Columbia', piloted by Col. John R. "Killer" Kane and Lt. John S. Young. He...

  • Keith Compton

    Military | Lieutenant General | B-24 Command Pilot - Squadron Commander - Commanding Officer | 376th Bomb Group
    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...

  • 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...

  • Gilbert Hadley

    Military | First Lieutenant | B-24D Pilot | 98th Bomb Group
    First Lieutenant Gilbert Benny Hadley was a B-24D Liberator bomber pilot with the 9th Air Force, the 98th Bomb Group, "The Pyramiders", and the 344th Bombing Squadron, from Texas, based at Cairo, Egypt, Tobruk, and Benghazi, Libya, in the Mediterranean...

  • Ronald Helder

    Military | Second Lieutenant | B-24D Co-Pilot | 389th Bomb Group
    2nd Lt. Ronald Lee Helder was a B-24 pilot in the 8th Air Force, the 389th Bomb Group, and the 564th Bombing Squadron in WWII. He flew as Co-pilot with his friend, Command Pilot Lt. Lloyd H. Hughes, in the B-24D Lt. Helder called, 'Ole Kickapoo',...

  • Raymond Hubbard

    Military | First Lieutenant | Radio Operator | 98th Bomb Group
    Lt. Raymond B. Hubbard was assigned to the 9th Air force, the 98th Bombardment Group, and the 344th Bombing Squadron in Libya, North Africa, 1943. He took part in Operation Tidal Wave, the raid on Ploesti on 1 August 1943, flying as a Waist Gunner and...

  • Lloyd Hughes

    Military | Second Lieutenant | B-24 Command Pilot | 389th Bomb Group

  • Harold Korger

    Military | Colonel | Bombardier Navigator | 98th Bomb Group
    Lt. Harold Korger was a bombardier in the 344th Bombardment Squadron, 98th Bomb Group, 9th Air Force. He flew on the famous mission, Operation Tidal Wave, Aug 1, 1943, to knock out the oil refineries at Ploesti, Romania. ...

  • Joseph LaBranche

    Military | Sergeant | Gunner | 98th Bomb Group
    Took part in Operation Tidal Wave, the raid on Ploesti on 1 August 1943, flying in B-24 Liberator 41-11825.

  • Frederick Leard

    Military | Technical Sergeant | Right Waist Gunner | 98th Bomb Group
    Technical Sgt. Frederick A. Leard was a waist gunner assigned to the Element Lead B-24D Liberator bomber, named 'Hail Columbia', SN # 41-11825, flown by Col. John R. "Killer" Kane and Lt. John S. Young on Operation Tidal Wave, the large mission to...

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Units served with

  • 9th Air Force
  • 98th Bomb Group

    98th Bomb Group

    The 98th trained for bombardment missions with B-24 Liberators during the first half of 1942. ...

  • 344th Bomb Squadron

    344th Bomb Squadron

    The 344th Bombing Squadron was first activated at MacDill Field, Florida as one of the original three squadrons assigned to the 98th Bombardment Group. The 344th soon moved to Barksdale Field, Louisiana, where it began to train as a Consolidated B-24...


  • 41-23817 'Suzy Q'

    B-24 Liberator
    The B-24D, named, 'Suzy Q', flown by Pilot Lt. Robert I. Brown and commanded by Col. Leon Johnson, led the 44th Bomb Group on the Aug 1, 1943 Ploesti raid and was the most famous ship of the 67th Squadron. The plane was lost on Aug 16, 1943 on a...

  • 42-40402 'The Sandman'

    B-24 Liberator
    The B-24D, named 'The Sandman' and flown by Lt. Robert Sternfels in the 9th Air force, the 98th Bomb Group, and the 345th Bomb Squadron, flew on the famous mission to destroy the German held oil refineries at Ploesti, Romania. Lt. Sternfels flew in...

  • 41-24198 'THE VULGAR VIRGIN' - 'Hell From Heaven' - 'Shoot You're Faded'

    B-24 Liberator
    - Not to be confused with #42-40608, 'THE VULGAR VIRGIN' of the 8th Air Force - 93rd Bomb Group - 328th Bomb Squadron - It also flew on the Ploesti mission, piloted by Lt. Claude Turner - Interned Turkey Aug 1, 1943 - Lt. Turner escaped from the...

  • 41-24311 'Hadley's Harem'

    B-24 Liberator
    The B-24D, named 'Hadley's Harem' was Lt. Gilbert Hadley's personal airplane and the one he flew on the mission to destroy Hitler's oil refineries at Ploesti Romania in 1943. ...

  • 41-11761 'Sleepy' - 'The Squaw'

    B-24 Liberator
    The B-24D Liberator bomber, SN #41-11761, was first named, 'Sleepy', and, later, renamed, 'The Squaw'. It flew on the famous Ploesti bombing mission, returning to Cyprus, piloted by Lt. Royden L. Lebrecht. After Ploesti and and the completion of his ...

  • 41-11825 'Hail Columbia' 'Grumpy' 'Little Chief Big Dog'

    B-24 Liberator
    The B-24D, 'Hail Columbia', # 41-11825, originally served in the 9th Air Force, the 98th Bomb Group, and the 344th Bombing Squadron. It was, first, the 344th Squadron's CO, Col. John R. Kane's, personal aircraft until Kane became the 98th Bomb Group's...

  • 41-11768 'KICKAPOO'

    B-24 Liberator
    The B-24D Liberator, SN # 41-11768, 'KICKAPOO', was piloted by Lt. John S. Young from Dallas, Texas as part of the 9th Air Force, the 98th Bomb Group, and the 344th Bombing Squadron, which arrived in North Africa in early 1943. This airplane was...

  • 42-40753 'Ole Kickapoo'

    B-24 Liberator
    # 42-40753 - B-24D 'OLE KICKAPOO' - A Consolidated B-24D bomber from the 389th Bombardment Group of the 8th Air Force, and the 564th Bomb Squadron from England, with it's Command Pilot, 2nd Lt. Lloyd Hughes, and his crew, who flew on "Operation Tidal...


  • Operation Tidal Wave

    1 August 1943
    Operation TIDAL WAVE. B24D 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 B...

Associated Place


Event Location Date
Born McGregor, TX, USA 5 January 1907

January 5, 1907. McGregor, Texas, USA.

Operation Tidal Wave Ploiești, Romania 1 August 1943

He was awarded the Medal of Honor for leading the 98th in Operation Tidal Wave, a low-altitude attack on oil refineries in Ploieşti, Romania.

Died Veteran's Administration Nursing Home, Philadelphia, PA 19104, USA 29 May 1996

May 29, 1996. Veterans Administration nursing home, Pennsylvania, USA.


Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia, USA.


Date Contributor Update
04 June 2020 18:46:55 Kickapoo Changes to biography

Black Sunday ~ Michael Hill ---- John S. Young, Jr. ~ personal archives

Date Contributor Update
25 December 2018 03:17:14 Kickapoo Changes to role

Black Sunday - Michael Hill

Date Contributor Update
25 December 2018 03:15:49 Kickapoo Changes to role, biography, person associations, unit associations and place associations

Black Sunday - Michael Hill

Date Contributor Update
30 August 2018 16:11:24 Emily Changes to role, biography, events and unit associations

Minor edits to biography text and events

Date Contributor Update
06 March 2018 08:25:13 Kickapoo Changes to unit associations

Operation Tidal Wave

Date Contributor Update
06 March 2018 08:07:16 Kickapoo Changes to middlename and media associations

Operation Tidal Wave

Date Contributor Update
28 February 2018 09:59:27 Kickapoo Changes to role and biography

U.S. Air Force Archives

Date Contributor Update
28 February 2018 09:54:59 Kickapoo Changes to biography

United States Air Force Archive

Date Contributor Update
28 February 2018 09:35:08 Kickapoo Changes to awards

Operation Tidal Wave

Date Contributor Update
06 April 2015 16:39:34 Al_Skiff Created entry with surname, middlename, firstname, nickname, nationality, highest rank, role, biography, events, unit associations, aircraft associations and mission associations