Kenneth Edward Dougherty

Kenneth Edward Dougherty.  Honored by Patricia Dougherty Bloom.

Dad (Kenneth Edward Dougherty) enlisted after Pearl Harbor when he was 22 yo and trained to be a pilot of B-17s (flying fortress). He was assigned to 390th heavy bombers (there is a museum in Tucson dedicated to this group) army/air force – 8th air force – based in Framlingham, England. He arrived in England in August of ’43 and flew 25 missions, his last mission completed on Christmas Eve of ’43. His first plane (Hot Rocks) crash landed in the English Channel on his second mission. The navigator was killed and Dad was wounded – for which he rec’d the Purple Heart. He started as a lieutenant and was promoted to captain after completing the 25 missions. Of the 12 crews who started, only 2 completed their 25 missions. Dad was 23 at the time. They renamed their ship after the dead navigator’s wife, Rose Marie, and Dad flew that for most of his remaining missions. The Rose Marie was shot down when it was being flown by another crew. Dad rec’d the Distinguished Flying Cross for an Oct. 10 mission over Muenster, Germany, for shooting down a number of enemy planes. He also rec’d the Oak Leaf Cluster medal. Dad returned to states in Jan of ’44 for a series of speaking engagements as the war hero of Hicksville, NY. He then became a pilot instructor of B-17s. In Fall of ’44 he retrained as a B-29 (super fortress) pilot. He flew 16 missions in the Pacific between June ’45 and July ’45. He was stationed on an island in the Pacific when the atomic bombs struck Japan. He returned to the states for good in Nov. ’45 at age 25. He left the army as a major. There were 10 crewmembers in each B-17. 4 officers up front (usually lieutenants or higher): Pilot, Co-Pilot, Navigator, and Bombardier. 6 sergeants (top gunner-engineer, radio man, belly gunner, left and right waist gunner, and tail gunner). That’s why so many 8th Air Force crews were killed (higher casualties than the Navy and Marines combined in WWII), and thousands became POWs. On some missions in 1943, sixty out of 300 planes were shot down. That’s 600 guys lost on one mission. You can see why with 20% losses, most crewmen never expected to get past 5-7 missions. Dad’s original squadron (four squadrons in the 390th Bomb Group), had 12 crews. Ten of those crews did not complete their 25 missions. They were shot down, and were either KIA (killed) or taken prisoner after bailing out and becoming POWs. So Dad always felt very fortunate to have survived his tour. Later in the war, as the Americans developed the long range escort fighters (P51 Mustang), to fly with the bombers all the way to and from the target, bomber losses began to decline, and crew survival improved. Minimum mission requirements grew to 30 and later to 35. The only surviving crewmember (John Keema, bombardier) @ age 92 said the reason he was alive was because Dad was such a great pilot. He really was a true war hero who was responsible for the survival of nine other men. I have the Air Medal with four oak leaf clusters that was awarded after completing 25 missions. He also won the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) and the Purple Heart (for wounds suffered in combat). google 390th.org.

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