I am John S. Young, Jr. - I'm a private pilot and and have worked as an aircraft mechanic for the Boeing Company and a west coast airline for over thirty years. My father was Major John S. Young. He was born and lived in Dallas, Texas, all of his life. He was a WWII B-24D Liberator bomber pilot and served in WWII with the 9th Air Force, the 98th Bomb Group - The Pyramiders, and the 344th Bombardment Squadron. On a training mission out of Luke Field, Louisiana, he and his crew bombed and sank a German submarine in the Gulf of Mexico before deploying to North Africa in late 1942. After deployment to North Africa, he was based for combat at Tunis, Tunisia, Cairo, Egypt, Tobruk, and Benghazi, Libya, in 1942-3. After his first B-24 was shot down in an air fight, he was assigned another Consolidated B-24D, that he named, Kickapoo. Kickapoo, crashed on takeoff on the mission to Ploesti, which killed all but two of it's replacement crew. He flew tactical missions from July 1942 to June or July in 1943, attached to the British Expeditionary Force, against assigned targets and targets of opportunity : German land targets, troops, trucks, tanks, and equipment, in North Africa, enemy shipping in the Mediterranean Sea, and enemy shipping, ports, and port facilities in North Africa, Italy, Crete, Greece, and Sicily. He admired the skill, aggressiveness, and tenacity of his Group Commander, Col. John R. "Killer" Kane, in combat, and considered him a mentor. Lt. Young and his crew flew and survived over 300 combat flight hours and 28 total combat missions.
On one occasion, after bombing Naples, he was attacked by two squadrons of German fighters, mixed ME-109s and FW-190s. In that air fight, Young's gunners shot down three of the attacking fighters, including one of the FW-190s, which was shot down by Lt. Norman Whalen, his navigator, with three of the remaining five, damaged before they disengaged. After the fight, Young and his copilot, were able to successfully ditch their shot up and failing B-24 in the shallow water just off the beach at the Island of Malta, with no one in his crew, killed or seriously injured. Young was awarded the Silver Star for that air fight, and his gunners, all received the Distinguished Flying Cross medal - Finally, for his very last combat mission, starting in June and July of 1943, John Young was asked to help with the planning and training for the Ploesti mission, and flew with John Kane, as his copilot in, Hail Columbia, one of the five element lead aircraft for the mission. John Young was asked by Col. John Kane to fly as his copilot, to replace Major General Uzal Ent, who was reassigned to fly with Col. K.K. Compton in the B-24D, Teggie Ann. Lt. Norman Whalen, Young's excellent navigator, Lt. Harry Korger, his bombardier, and the rest of Young's regular crew from, Kickapoo, were also reassigned to fly with Kane in, Hail Columbia, for the Ploesti mission.
On takeoff for the mission, John Young's plane, Kickapoo, flown by a replacement crew for the mission, suffered a massive failure of the #4 engine, which caught on fire. With multiple engines failing, shortly thereafter, Kickapoo crashed in flames, as it's replacement pilot, a personal friend, Lt. Robert Nespor, also from Young's 344th Bombing Squadron, attempted to save the valuable B-24 and return it to Lete to land. The crash and fire killed all, but two, of the 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 crewmen in, Hail Columbia, were injured over Ploesti, by flak splinters, as the airplane absorbed over a hundred and fifty flak hits, over and approaching, their target refinery complex. Col. Kane, my father, and their flight crew found and bombed their target, White IV. They escaped the target area and nursed their shot up, crippled airplane away from Ploesti, to crash land on the British airbase at Nicosia, Cyprus. Lt. Gilbert Hadley in his plane, Hadley's Harem, Col. Walter Stewart in, Utah Man, Lt. Robert Sternfels in the B-24D he named, The Sandman, and Lt. Royden LeBrecht in, The Squaw, all followed Kane in, Hail Columbia, out of the greater Ploesti area and flew on south, through Turkey, knowing that, with the exception of Royden Lebrecht, who was undamaged and flew cover for the other planes, they couldn't make it home to Benghazi. Norm Whelan navigated them all to Cyprus, minus "Gib" Hadley and his shot up B-24D, Hadley's Harem. Hadley and his copilot, were killed - trapped and drowned, in his beloved airplane, Hadley's Harem, after it ran out of gas, crashed, and sank, as Hadley was descending for ditching in the Mediterranean Sea, just off the Turkish coast. Bob Sternfels gave Col. Kane and my dad a ride home to Benghazi, a day or so later after the Ploesti mission. Col. Kane, 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 an Oak Leaf Cluster to his Distinguished Flying Cross and another one to his Air Medal. Lt. Whelan, and Walter Stewart both received Distinguished Service Cross medals for their parts in the mission. Col. John Kane was awarded the Medal Of Honor. John Young returned home after the Ploesti mission and went on a year long war bond tour, flying, The Blue Streak, with Lt. Royden LeBrecht flying his plane, The Squaw, and Walter Stewart flying the B-24D, Bomerang. John Young was promoted to Captain, shortly thereafter, and remained a flight officer in Fort Worth, Texas, until he was honorably discharged from the Army Air Force, in 1946, with the final rank of Major. - John Young died in 1983. - John S. Young, Jr. - dcwriter / Randolph Wells - Your research, historical information, and additions are much appreciated. Thank you, and please keep in touch. The same is true for anyone else with any historical information or suggestions to share. JSY, Jr. firstname.lastname@example.org