First name

John Simmons


Young, Jr.

Profile picture for user Kickapoo


Kickapoo - John S Young Jr - l am a retired aircraft mechanic and a contributor to The American Air Museum In Britain. My father was Lt. John Simmons Young from Dallas, Texas. He flew B-24D Liberator bombers in WWll in the 9th Air Force, the 98th Bomb Group, and the 344th Bomb Squadron. Like John Young, most of his fellow air cadets were volunteers from all over north Texas. After deployment to North Africa, Lt. Young and the 98th Bomb Group began moving east, first based at Tunis,Tunisia, Cairo, Egypt, Tobruk, and Benghazi, Libya, in 1942-3. After his first B-24 was shot down by German fighters, in an air fight over the island of Crete, he was assigned another Consolidated B-24D that he named, Kickapoo, which he flew until it was assigned to a replacement crew for Operation Tidal Wave. It crashed shortly after on takeoff for the big mission to destroy the German held oil refineries at Ploesti, Romania, in 1943. The pilots on, Kickapoo, were killed along with eight of the replacement crewmen, also who were also killed in action, (8-KIA) minus two, who were badly burned in the crash, yet miraculously escaped the burning wreckage, and healed from their burns after a long recovery, and returned to service in 1944 after transitioning to Boeing B-29s in the Pacific Theater of Operations, (2-WIA-RTS) . Before the Ploesti raid, Lt. Young and his fellow "Pyramiders" in the 98th Bomb Group attached to the British oExpeditionary Force and the USAAF’s 9th Bomber Command, flew tactical missions, all over the Mediterranean area. They flew missions against assigned targets and targets of opportunity, German land targets, enemy troops, trucks, tanks, equipment, enemy shipping in the Mediterranean Sea, enemy shipping ports and port facilities in Libya, Egypt, Tunisia, Greece, Sicily, and Italy. Young admired the flying skill, and the aggressiveness in combat he heard about and observed in his Group Commander, Col. John R. "Killer" Kane, named as such by the Germans ! Young considered Col. Kane to be an exceptional pilot, commander, and military leader, an example to follow, and a mentor. During the two years he was in the MTO before the Ploesti raid, John Young and his crew had flown and and survived over 300 combat flight hours and 28 total combat missions, bombing and strafing the Germans at very low levels, sometimes, right on the deck. On a bombing mission over Naples, Italy, Young’s B-24 had a #4 engine seizure and had to drop out of their formation. Pretty soon, he and his crew were attacked just off the island of Crete, by two squadrons of mixed ME-109s and FW-190 German fighter planes flying out of Sicily. Lt. Young used a technique he learned from British Short Stirling bomber pilots he talked to in Britain, and peeled his huge B-24 off into a steep spiraling power off corkscrew maneuver, to descend as fast as he could down to the ocean’s surface, first of all, in order to make his plane as difficult a target as he could on the way down, and to rob the Germans of their vertical plane of attack until he and his copilot leveled out just above sea level and shoved for the safety of the British held island of Malta, with the eight attacking German fighters in trail, making gunnery runs on the Americans. As the enemy fighters would approach from the rear, Young’s gunners timed and called the “ breaks” (timed steep turns) for him over their plane’s intercom, “Two low, at three o’clock, Big John, break right ! “ , and, “ One, eight o’clock high, Johnny, break left! “, so the two pilots could pull their big bomber into full throttle steep defensive turns just above the water’s surface, and right into the fighters, causing the faster German planes to overshoot and fly over them, giving the gunners passing shots as the fighters could not turn with the B-24 at it’s slower speeds. These tactics worked well enough for Young’s gunners to shoot down three of the attacking German fighters, including one of the FW-190s, shot down by Lt. Norman Whalen, Young’s navigator / nose gunner from Denton, Texas. Whalen hit the FW190 he was shooting at, squarely and blew it up, causing Lt. Whalen to let out as loud a war cry, “as good as any cowboy.”. Young wrote about the incident later, “ When I heard Norm yell over the intercom, l thought for a moment we were back in Texas ! “ With three of the Germans shot down, and two damaged and not likely to make it home, the remaining fighters disengaged, leaving Young and his copilot to successfully nurse their shot up B-24 trailing smoke and gasoline back to Malta to ditch their failing B-24 just off one of Malta’s ocean beaches with no one in their crew, killed or injured. Young was awarded his first Silver Star for that engagement, and he and his copilot and gunners, all received their first Distinguished Flying Cross medals. Finally, for his very last combat mission, starting in June and July of 1943, Col. Kane asked Lt. Young to assist him with the planning and training for the upcoming Ploesti mission. Kane also assigned Young to fly with him as his pilot, in Kane’s element lead bomber, Hail Columbia, one of the five designated element lead aircraft for the mission. Kane asked for Commander General Uzal Ent, to be moved from flying in, Hail Columbia, during the Ploesti Mission, for reasons that became known after the mission. General Philip Ardery reported in his book, “Bomber Pilot”, “Protocol was that element, group, and squadron command pilots’ normal policy would be to ride as command pilots leading their squadrons, and, as such, they would occupy the copilot’s right hand seat to be free of the duty of piloting, in order to monitor their formations properly and make command decisions affecting the whole formation.” Kane observed this policy, assigning John Young to be his pilot in the left seat of, Hail Columbia, for the first part and some of the last part of the Ploesti mission’s flight. Kane did switch seats with Young before they made their final descent approaching Ploesti, and he continued flying, Hail Columbia, from the left seat approaching and bombing their target at White IV. Harold Korger, Norman Whalen, and the rest of Young’s, Kickapoo, crew, we’re also assigned to fly in, Hail Columbia, for the Ploesti mission. On takeoff for the mission, Kickapoo’s replacement pilot, Lt. Robert “Bob” Nespor crashed, Kickapoo, in an explosion of flames, as, Kickapoo’s number 4 engine seized and caught on fire, as he attempted to save his valuable B-24 and return to Lete Airbase to land. The crash and resulting fire killed all, but two of, Kickapoo's replacement crew members, including 27 year old Lt. Nespor, who died of his burns two weeks later. The 98th Bomb Group suffered 46 per cent casualties over Ploesti. Several of Youngs' crewmen flying in, Hail Columbia, were injured over Ploesti, by flak splinters, as the airplane absorbed over a hundred and fifty flak hits, approaching and flying over White IV, their target refinery complex. Col. Kane. Lt. Young, and Harold Korger, found their target, the Astra Romano refinery complex, in the smoke, fires, and explosions, but under the extreme stress and circumstances of the moment, they missed hitting their target's important cracking plants with their bombs. They escaped the target area and the "hellish" ground flak south of Ploesti by nursing their crippled airplane south and low, away from Ploesti, to crash land on the British airbase at Nicosia, Cyprus, hours later after dark. Lt. Gilbert “Gib” Hadley in his plane, Hadley's Harem, Col. Walter Stewart in his plane, Utah Man, Lt. Robert Sternfels in the B-24D he named, The Sandman, and Lt. Royden LeBrecht in, The Squaw, all followed John Kane’s lead in, Hail Columbia, out of the greater Ploesti area and flew on south, through Turkey, knowing that, with the exception of Royden Lebrecht, whose B-24 was relatively undamaged by flak, and flying cover for the other planes, that they could not make it back to home base. With  Element Commander John Kane, Pilot John Young, and Navigator Norman Whalen also knowing they couldn't make it home to Benghazi, they decided to try for the much closer island of Cyprus. So Lt. Whalen successfully navigated them all, all the way to Nicosia, Cyprus, minus "Gib" Hadley and his shot up B-24D, Hadley's Harem, which crashed into the sea in the dark as Hadley was attempting to descend for a ditching attempt.The rest of Kane’s shot up stragglers made successful landings at Cyprus, excepting Kane and Young’s landing, which was a crash landing. Robert Sternfels in, The Sandman, gave Col. Kane a ride from Cyprus to Cairo, Egypt, the next day after the Ploesti mission, and flew him back to Benghazi, Libya, three days later. Col. Kane, Lt. Young, Col. Stewart, Lt. Sternfels, Lt. LeBrecht, and their crews all survived the Ploesti mission.1 Aug 1943. For his part in the mission, Lt. John Young was awarded another Oak Leaf Cluster to his Distinguished Flying Cross medal, another one to his Air Medal, and another one to his Silver Star. Lt. Norman Whelan, and Deputy Lead Walter Stewart both received Distinguished Service Cross medals and oak leaf clusters to their DFC medals, for their leadership on the mission. Col. John Kane was awarded the Medal Of Honor. Shortly after the Ploesti raid, John Young returned to Britain, and, not too long after that, He flew home to Fort Worth, Texas, and began a year long war bond tour starting at the Consolidated Plant 4, B-24 Factory, in Fort Worth,Texas, For the nationwide tour, he flew the iconic B-24D, The Blue Streak, with Lt. Royden LeBrecht flying his own plane, The Squaw. Walter Stewart flew the B-24D, Bomerang. After his war bond tour, Lt. Young was promoted to Captain, and remained a flight officer in Fort Worth, Texas, until he was honorably discharged from the U.S.Army Air Force, in 1945, with the final rank of Major. John Young died in 1983. ——-

Member for

5 years 11 months

Content activity

Date Content Type Title Changes Edit
10 Sep 2023 04:38:28 Person James Howell Howard
10 Sep 2023 04:36:10 Person James Howell Howard Changes to Summary Biography
10 Sep 2023 04:31:29 Person James Howell Howard Changes to Awards, Summary Biography, Mascot?, Media and Middle Name
7 Sep 2023 01:01:55 Person John Simmons Young Changes to Summary Biography
7 Sep 2023 00:06:15 Person John Simmons Young

Media activity

Date Media type Title Update Edit
23 Mar 2023 05:24:16 User uploaded image UPL 47758
23 Mar 2023 05:23:18 User uploaded image UPL 47758
23 Mar 2023 05:06:38 User uploaded image UPL 47758
7 Mar 2023 08:33:20 User uploaded image FRE 8670
2 Mar 2023 22:38:41 User uploaded image UPL 37807