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Col John R "KILLER" Kane, C.O. of the 98th Bomb Group
1943 | Africa
Upon graduation from Balor University, in Waco, TEXAS, in 1928, Kane moved to Shreveport, Louisiana, and later joined the Army Air Corps in June 1931. He was a flying cadet at Randolph Field in San Antonio, Texas, and received his commission and wings in 1932. He was assigned to March Field in California in the Reserves. Kane returned to active duty in 1935 and to the Shreveport area at nearby Barksdale Field in Bossier City. He eventually became the base commander before being assigned to MacDill Field in Florida as an Operations officer and later to Lackland Field as a squadron commander.
By July 1942, Kane was a major and was assigned to the 98th Bomb Group, known by their nickname of the "Pyramiders", flying missions in Africa. While there, he flew 43 combat missions. He was promoted to full colonel and assumed command of the 98th. It was during this time that his nickname, Killer Kane, became cemented both among his men and the enemy. He had received the nickname originally from the fact that one of his friends had been named Rogers. Because they were always seen together, they became known as Buck Rogers and Killer Kane. The nickname stuck because of his tenacity and stubbornness.
Kane became well known in aviation circles when he led the 98th as part of Operation Tida Wave, the August 1, 1943, attack on the Ploesti oil refineries in Romania. Flying a D-model B-24 "Hail Columbia" serial number 41-11825, Kane's group took off early in the morning for the 2400 mile round trip. (Hail, Columbia was the unofficial anthem of the United States until 1931, when the Star-Spangled Banner became official. Today it is the official entrance march of the Vice President, and has been renamed Hail to the Chief.) Enroute to the target, the 98th and the 44th Bomb Group became separated from the other three bomb groups due to dense cloud conditions over a mountain range. Once the 98th reached the refineries, it found that another group had already bombed its targets and that the defenses were fully prepared for the new wave of bombers. Despite the threat of anti-aircraft fire, unexploded ordnance, oil fires, and dense smoke, Colonel Kane led his formation on its attack run.
Following its briefed path, the 98th, flanked by the 44th Bomb Group, which was led by Colonel Leon W. Johnson, flew alongside the north/south railroad line, which led into the refineries. It was there that both groups were engaged by flak batteries that were hidden inside box cars on a moving train. The disguised train was the brainchild of General Gerstenberg, the German commander of the defenses around Ploesti. Colonel Kane personally engaged the enemy flak pieces with a fixed .50 caliber machine gun that he had mounted in the nose of his B-24. When he had exhausted the weapon's ammunition, he ordered his other gunners to destroy the train’s engine. Once they reached the target (White IV), his group released its bombs on the Asta Romana refinery, evaded heavy concentrations of German and Romanian fighter attacks, and then headed with a number of other crippled aircraft to Cyprus. It was there that the heavily damaged "Hail Columbia" would crash upon landing, 14 hours after takeoff. Colonel Kane would be awarded the Medal of Honor a few days later on a cricket field in Cairo.
After the war, he commanded various bases in the United States but never rose above the rank of Colonel, due mostly to his propensity to care more for his men than for his superiors and to his tendency for telling generals how he truly felt instead of what they wanted to hear.
Colonel Kane retired in 1956 and to a farm in Logan County, Arkansas, along with his wife Phyllis, where he built his house by himself. Upon his wife’s death in 1987, he moved to Pennsylvania to be near his son, John Franklin Kane. He died May 29, 1996, while living at a Veterans Administration nursing home.
In 1998, Kane's former command, Barksdale Air Force Base, named its simulator facility after him.
Col John "Killer Kane" Congressional Medal of Honor
9 Aug. 1943 | Europe
"C.O. John R KILLER Kane;
The citation for Colonel Kane's Medal of HonorKANE, JOHN R. (Air Mission) Rank and organization: Colonel, U.S. Army Air Corps, 9th Air Force. Place and date: Ploesti Raid, Rumania, August 1, 1943. Entered service at: Shreveport, Louisiana. Birth: McGregor, Texas. G.O. No.: 54, August 9, 1943:
For conspicuous gallantry in action and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty on 1 August 1943. On this date he led the third element of heavy bombardment aircraft in a mass low-level bombing attack against the vitally important enemy target of the Ploesti oil refineries. En route to the target, which necessitated a round-trip flight of over 2,400 miles, Col. Kane's element became separated from the leading portion of the massed formation in avoiding dense and dangerous cumulous cloud conditions over mountainous terrain. Rather than turn back from such a vital mission he elected to proceed to his target. Upon arrival at the target area it was discovered that another group had apparently missed its target and had previously attacked and damaged the target assigned to Colonel Kane's element. Despite the thoroughly warned defenses, the intensive antiaircraft fire, enemy fighter airplanes, extreme hazards on a low-level attack of exploding delayed action bombs from the previous element, of oil fires and explosions and dense smoke over the target area, Colonel Kane elected to lead his formation into the attack. By his gallant courage, brilliant leadership, and superior flying skill, he and the formation under his command successfully attacked this vast refinery so essential to our enemies' war effort. Through his conspicuous gallantry in this most hazardous action against the enemy, and by his intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty, Colonel Kane personally contributed vitally to the success of this daring mission and thereby rendered most distinguished service in the furtherance of the defeat of our enemies."
Col John "Killer" Kane
Aug. 1943 | Romania
Colonel John R. "Killer" Kane
During Operation Tidal Wave, the most highly decorated military mission in U.S. history, 179 B-24s took off on an 18-hour, 2,400 mile round trip mission to destroy the largest of the Nazi-held oil refineries at Ploesti, 30 miles north of Bucharest, Romania. This day, Aug. 1, 1943, would end with five U.S. Air Force airmen, including Col. John R. Kane, earning the Medal of Honor for bravery, three posthumously. Fifty-four aircraft never returned.
Kane was born in MacGregor, Texas, in January 1907 and grew up in the Wichita Falls, Texas, area. The son of a Baptist preacher, he attended Baylor University, arriving in Shreveport, La., in 1933, the same year Barksdale Field was opened by the Army in nearby Bossier Parish.
Kane entered the military at Shreveport. His Air Force career remained inconspicuous until August 1943, when he led the third element of Operation Tidal Wave against the Ploesti oilfields. The attack was a mass low-level bombing attack. En route to the target, more than 1,350 miles away, Kane's element became separated from the leading portion of the massed formation when it encountered dense cumulous cloud condition over mountainous terrain.
Rather than turn back from such a vital mission, he elected to proceed to his target. Upon arrival at the oilfields, he discovered another group had previously attacked and damaged the target assigned to his element. This previous bombing had fully alerted the Nazi defenses. Despite the intensive antiaircraft fire, enemy fighter airplanes, extreme hazards on a low level attack of exploding delayed action bombs from the previous elements, of oil fires and explosions and dense smoke over the target area, Kane decided to lead his formation into the attack.
By the time Kane's bomber left the target, it had lost an engine, been struck more than 20 times by antiaircraft artillery fire and had uncountable bullet holes. His decision to circle as the command aircraft used up any reserve fuel the plane had for its return to base in North Africa. Kane's airplane, "Hail Columbia," crash landed in Cyprus on the return leg.
Kane was awarded the Medal of Honor on Aug. 9, 1943.
Kane retired from the service in 1956. He settled into a farm in Logan County, Arkansas, but moved to Pennsylvania to be near his children in 1987. He was living in a Veterans Administration nursing home in Pennsylvania when he passed away on May 29, 1996. He was 89 years old. He was buried with military honors at Arlington National Cemetery, Va., on June 18, 1996.
On Feb. 2, 1998, Barksdale Air Force Base named its B-52 combat crew training school after Kane. The Ploesti raid, undertaken in a day long before mid-air refueling was perfected and made part of standard military practice, demonstrated that strategic bombing was not only possible, but was inevitable in the context of modern war.
Sources compiled from 8th Air Force Museum, 8th Air Force History Office, John Andrew Prime and Arlington Cemetary.
John R Kane
1987 | Shreveport, LA
Birth: 5 Jan 1907 - McLennan Co., Texas, United States
Death: 29 May 1996 - Coatesville, Chester, Pennsylvania, United States
Parents: John Franklin Kane, Birdie Minnie Wright
John; Married to Pansy Inabnett of Shreveport, LA. one child, John F Kane, born about 1939.
Colonel John Riley "Killer" Kane retired from service in 1956. He settled onto a farm in Logan County, Arkansas.
But upon the death of his second wife, *** Phyllis, in 1987 *** he moved to Pennsylvania to be near his only child, son John Franklin Kane, and John's wife, Donna. It was while living at at Veterans Administration Nursing Home in Pennsylvania that Colonel Kane, one of the true but understated heroes of World War II, died on May 29, 1996. He was 89 years old. On June 18, 1996, Colonel John Riley "Killer" Kane was buried
with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery.
Arlington National Cemetery; Medal of Honor Reciepeint.
JOHN 'KILLER' KANE, 88, A WWII HERO: Newspaper Obituary and Death Notice
Philadelphia Inquirer, The (PA) - Saturday, June 1, 1996
Deceased Name: JOHN 'KILLER' KANE, 88, A WWII HERO
John Riley ''Killer'' Kane, 88, a bomber pilot who earned the Congressional
Medal of Honor for leading a daring attack on the Ploesti oil fields in
southern Romania in World War II, died in his sleep Wednesday at the Veterans
Medical Center nursing home in Coatesville.
Col. Kane, who served 25 years in the military, completed 43 combat
missions in the Middle East, where he saw 250 hours of combat that earned him the
nation's highest military award and other honors.
During one 1943 mission in the Balkans, his B-24 Liberator bomber was
separated from other aircraft in the formation, but survived a machine-gun attack
by a pursuing Nazi fighter plane. The bomber's tail and top turret guns
were disabled, but Col. Kane was able to outmaneuver the enemy fighter and flew
his aircraft home safely.
He earned the Silver Star for that exploit.
Later in 1943, Col. Kane participated in a low-altitude bombing assault on
the oil fields in Ploesti, which at the time was virtually the only oil
supply for German forces.
On the way to the oil refineries - a 2,400-mile round trip from Benghazi,
Libya, without fighter escort protection - the three bomber groups on the
mission were beset with problems.
The lead navigator plane crashed into the Mediterranean, and the backup
navigator plane had to turn back because of mechanical problems. Visibility was
poor, and some bombers in the group were separated from the main formation
and headed south for Bucharest, about 80 miles off course.
Col. Kane guided his group on course at treetop level to avoid radar
detection. When the planes arrived at the target, Col. Kane saw that another
bomber group had missed its target and had bombed the area assigned to his 98th
Although the well-warned enemy now had anti-aircraft batteries and fighters
at the ready, Col. Kane's formation went in and destroyed the target, and
in the process his aircraft lost two of its four engines and was forced to
land in Cyprus.
Of the 164 aircraft that took off, 53 did not return.
In addition to Medal of Honor for his leadership, flying skill and courage,
Col. Kane also earned the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Legion of
His nickname, friends said, was taken from a character in the Buck Rogers
Col. Kane was born in Eagle Spring, Texas, graduated from Baylor
University, where he played football and basketball, and completed one year of medical
school in St. Louis, Mo.
''But he didn't like cutting up dead people and he dropped out,'' said his
daughter-in-law, Donna Kane of Havertown.
He joined the military in 1931 in Shreveport, La., as an air cadet and
learned to fly at various military fields in Texas. He was stationed at
installations of the Army Air Corps, which preceded the Air Force, and he eventually
went to England before serving in the Middle East.
Col. Kane also is survived by a son, John F., and two grandchildren.
Services will be at 1 p.m. June 18 at Arlington National Cemetery.
COL KANE (ALSO); He won a Distinguished Flying Cross for a raid on Naples, Italy, in December 1942.