June 23, 1944 — Ploesti Raid, Romania
On June 23, 1944, the 97th Bombardment Group, 15th Air Force left on a mission to bomb vital enemy installations in Ploesti Raid, Romania. While flying over enemy airspace, the plane was hit and forced out of formation before the mission could be completed. Lt. David R. Kingsley was the bombardier of the B17 aircraft, and while the pilot continued on course despite continued enemy fire, Lt. Kingsley managed to drop his bombs and hit the required targets.
While the pilot and Lt. Kingsley were focusing on the targets, tail-gunner Michael J. Sullivan received injuries in his head and shoulder from attacking ME-109 aircrafts. Lt. Kingsley, who also worked as the first aid technician, was notified of Sullivan's wounds and headed back to the radio room to help. In order to administer first-aid, Sgt. Sullivan’s parachute and heavy clothes were removed and he was wrapped in blankets. Although Kingsley succeeded in dressing the wound and stopping the bleeding, eight ME-109s continued to attack the aircraft. While the plane struggled to remain in the air, Lt. Kingsley moved to administer first aid to another injured crew-member, the ball turret gunner Stanley J. Kmiec.
As Kingsley worked on Sgt. Kmiec, Captain Anderson gave the order to bail out of the plane. Quickly, Kingsley assisted the two wounded in getting on their parachutes. In the confusion, the tail gunner’s parachute pack had been damaged and could not be located amid the bundles of clothes, blankets, and bandages. Without hesitation, David Kingsley removed his parachute and strapped it safely to Michael Sullivan, the tail gunner. In Sullivan’s own written account, Kingsley “gave his chute harness to the tail gunner.” In the crew’s accounts, Kingsley was last seen standing on the bomb bay catwalk. The plane shortly crashed over Bulgaria and his body was found in the wreckage.
The nine other members of the crew were arrested as Prisoners of War and later returned to the United States where they resumed their duties. 2nd Lt. David R. Kingsley received the Medal of Honor on April 9, 1945, “For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of life above and beyond the call of duty.” Because of David Kingsley’s sacrifice Michael J. Sullivan survived to return to his family. David Kingsley became a statistic in the history books, statistics that show no faces. Although, to those who knew him, David R. Kingsley was a hero who willingly and without hesitation, gave his chute to a comrade knowing it meant giving up his own life.