02 Jan 1914 1
23 Jun 2010 1

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Full Name:
Frank Albert Kappeler 1
02 Jan 1914 1
23 Jun 2010 1
Last Residence: Santa Rosa, CA 1
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Card Issued: California 1

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Frank Kappler, Doolittle Raider /323rd BG Pilot (B-26) ETO

British Isles

Doolittle Raider Monument
3 images

Frank Albert Kappeler, 0-419579, Lieutenant Colonel
Navigator Crew 11

Served in the European Theater of Operations from November, 1943 until June, 1945.   323rd Bomb Group, 454th Bomb Squad, Navigator.

Graduated high school in 1932 and Polytechnic College of Engineering, Oakland, California. Transferred to Aviation Cadet training in December, 1939 and was commissioned a second lieutenant, June, 1941 at McChord Field, Washington with rating as navigator. Later received training as bombardier. Remained in China-Burma-India Theater after Tokyo Raid until August, 1942. Served in European Theater of Operations from November, 1943 until June, 1945. Stateside assignments after the war included bases in Texas, Ohio, California before returning overseas to Japan where he served from May, 1951, until February, 1952. Deputy Commander, Minuteman Site Activation Task Force, Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota. Decorations include Distinguished Flying Cross, Air Medal with 2 Silver Oak Leaf Clusters, Bronze Star Medal, and Chinese Army, Navy, and Air Corps Medal, Class A, 1st Grade.

Born January 2, 1914, San Francisco, California
Died June, 23rd, 2010, Santa Rosa, California


Airplane #40-2249 Take off at 0856 (8:56am) Ship Time

Ø   Took off from Hornet without difficulty.

Ø   Navigation accomplished at minimum altitude. Twenty-five knot head wind observed to landfall.

Ø   Landfall made considerably north of expected course. Continued low altitude navigation overland. Crossed an active airfield unexpectedly. Intercepted approximately ten minutes later by four new type fighters (Later proved to be the Japanese Toni) and underwent sustained attack. One was observed to be hit by turret gunner which wobbled off and was believed to have crashed. The second hit was seen in flames. Slight damage sustained by remaining two fighters when turret gunner exhausted ammunition.

Ø   All four 500 lb. incendiary cluster bombs dropped on a large oil refinery and storage area which were well camouflaged but easily detected from low altitude. Bombs dropped from 600 feet because of fighter opposition. After bombs were dropped it was not difficult to outrun fighters. Smoke column from target observed billowing to several thousand feet at least fifty miles from target.

Ø   Three patrol boats were attacked with machine gun fire near mouth of Tokyo Bay. One was left burning.

Ø   Tail wind discovered while heading south for China coast. Navigation accomplished at minimum altitude except for 20 minutes spent in cloud deck at 2,500 feet to inspect plane for damage. Right engine missed irregularly on withdrawal.

Ø   Bad weather encountered 100 to 150 miles from China coast. Proceeded on instruments and crew bailed out 200 miles inland from China coast. Plane left on A.F.C.E. and flew another 150 miles before crashing.

Ø   Lt. Reddy suffered a broken knee cap and a severe cut on the forehead. Sgt. Gardner sprained both ankles slightly. Crew arrived safely at Chuchow on the late evening of April 20th.

Ø   Bail out occurred at 2330 (11:30pm), over fourteen and one half hours after take off.

Doolittle Tokyo Raider "Crew #11 Photo description;  Forty-eight hours after the crew of bomber #11 bailed out, they pose for a picture after being reunited in a small Chinese town before being moved to Chuhsien.
From left are, Sgt. William Birch, bombardier; Lt. Frank Kappeler, navigator; Capt. C. Ross Greening, pilot; Lt. Ken Reddy, co-pilot; and Sgt. Melvin Gardner, engineer/gunner.

***** Served in the European Theater of Operations from November, 1943 until June, 1945. ********

March, 2012; From the 323rd BG Historian Roy Bozych;

The other night I was reading an article about the upcoming annual reunion of the Doolittle Raiders at the National Museum of the US Air Force this coming April 17th to April 20th., 2012 ... Listed in the article where the names of the surviving Doolittle Raiders. In looking at the list I noticed Frank Kappeler’s name was missing. For those of you were unaware, one of Frank’s later WWII assignments was as a lead navigator with the 323rd BG. He was alsothe navigator on plane # 11 in the Doolittle Raid. I wrote a short article about him on page 14 of our spring 2010 news letter.

A quick internet search produced an obit for Frank from June 23, 2010 which I have attached to this e-mail for everyone. Please join me in offering his wife Betty and the rest of Frank’s family our belated condolences and prayers on the passing of a great WWII Veteran.


Roy R. Bozych
323rd BG Historian

LTC Frank Kappeler


B-26 of the 323rd Bom,b Group taking FLAK over France.


Kappeler, whose failing health prompted his wife of 53 years to request hospice care just this week, was 96.

“We thought he had weeks, maybe months, but it didn't turn out that way,” Betty Jo Kappeler said.

Frank Kappeler was one of 79 U.S. Army Air Corps aviators who volunteered to fly with Lt. Col. James H. “Jimmy” Doolittle on an audacious retaliatory bombing mission against Japan on April 18, 1942.

Kappeler's death leaves just seven survivors of the raid, which ranks among the most courageous from the early days of the war. The 16 mid-sized B-25 bombers launched from an aircraft carrier in the Pacific — a first — and all 80 Raiders knew they would run out of fuel after dropping their bombs and would have to ditch somewhere in Asia.

Kappeler served as navigator aboard the mission's No. 11 B-25 and bailed out along with his fellow crewmen when its engines stopped 10,000 feet over China. With the help of Chinese people he escaped capture by Japanese soldiers.

Kappeler served the rest of the war in the European theater, completing 53 combat missions. He went on to serve his entire career with the Air Corps/U.S. Air Force, retiring in 1966 as a lieutenant colonel.

For more than 50 years, Kappeler and his wife traveled to many of the Raiders' reunions, held each April since 1945 at a host city somewhere in America.

The Kappelers weren't up to making the 2010 reunion two months ago in Dayton. Only four Raiders attended. 

“They wanted him to come to Dayton. They arranged for a seven-passenger Lear jet to come for us,” Mrs. Kappeler said. But her husband felt the trip would be too much.

The centerpiece of each reunion is the collection of 80 goblets, each inscribed with the name of a Raider. The emotional highlight is a toast by the aging survivors and the turning over of a goblet for each Raider who died since the previous reunion.

If any of Kappeler’s raid buddies are able to make the the 2011 reunion in Omaha next April, they will toast him and turn over his goblet.

“He was very special guy,” said Tom Casey, whose position as managing director of the Doolittle Raiders includes setting up the reunions that bring no income to the vets but produce revenue for the hosting non-profits.

Casey said by phone from Sarasota that among the Raiders, Kappeler was regarded as an officer's officer.

“He was not physically big,” Casey said. “But gentle, very kind. And he had a very big heart.”

Frank Albert Kappeler was born in San Francisco in January 1914 and grew up in Alameda. He joined the Army near the start of 1941. In December of ‘41 he was in Oregon when he heard that Imperial Japan had sneak-attacked U.S. ships and installations on Oahu.

Early in 1942, Kappeler heard that volunteers were needed for a top-secret bombing mission to be led by Doolittle, a World War I veteran and aviation pioneer destined to earn the Medal of Honor and become one of history's most renowned pilots.

“They said there was only a 50-50 chance of surviving” the mission, Kappeler said in 2007. He volunteered to go anyway. 

“I got in the service to fight in a war if we had to,” he said. “A 50-50 chance didn't sound so bad. All of us felt that way.”

The 80 Raiders trained intensively as the 16 Mitchell B-25s were stripped of weight for their take-offs from the aircraft carrier USS Hornet. The bombers were packed tightly on the deck when the Hornet pulled away from Alameda and slipped beneath the Golden Gate Bridge on April 2, 1942.

After a 16-day voyage, the Hornet was still about 600 miles from Japan but the order was given to launch — Japanese fishermen had spotted the carrier, prompting concern that they'd warn the mainland.

Kappeler's bomber, the 11th to launch, was flying low toward targets in Yokohama when it was intercepted by Japanese fighter pilots.

“They came so close in, I remember being able to see their faces,” Kappeler told a Press Democrat reporter in 2002.

“They weren't sure who we were and what we were doing there. Our pilot and co-pilot had their eyes focused on two fighters on their left side and I saw two more approaching us from the right. We didn't have headsets on so I tried to shout at them but I lost my voice. I remember tapping them on the shoulder and just pointing. Our turret gunner started firing and he hit two of them. We didn't see them go down but we saw smoke pouring out and they pulled away from us.”

Kappeler's plane was still short of its assigned targets in Yokohama when it dropped its bombs on what appeared to be an oil refinery, then continued on to China. The entire crew bailed out in darkness when the fuel ran out, then went in search of friendly Chinese willing to help them avoid Japanese troops.

With the Doolittle mission, the United States had struck its first substantial blow against Japan. Its immediate boost to Americans' psyche was immense.

But the Raiders themselves weren't able to celebrate. Three of the 80 were killed after bailing out of their gas-starved bombers. Eight were captured by the Japanese; of those, three were executed and one died from disease.

The survivors reunited for the first time in 1945 at a grand party that Doolittle threw in Miami. Eleven years later, Kappeler was back in Miami, on vacation, when he met his future bride.

“He called on Valentine's Day in 1957 and he proposed,” Betty Jo said. “I accepted.”  

Early on, what did Kappeler tell the love of his life about his experiences as a Doolittle Raider? Nothing.

“Frank wasn't one to talk about his medals,” Betty Jo said. The honors he received included the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Bronze Star.

Kappeler had been retired from the Air Force for a year when they settled in Santa Rosa in 1967. Kappeler purchased the former Mill's real estate office in 1976 and ran it for several years. 

In retirement, Kappeler enjoyed working on the 12 acres around his country home, the company of his daughter and three grandchildren, pets, a bit of tennis and golf and his and Betty Jo's annual excursions to Tokyo Raiders reunions.

“He took great pride in that group,” his wife said.

Dementia took a toll on Kappeler's life in recent years. He suffered a decline just recently and on Tuesday was mostly unresponsive.

“I held his hand and talked to him,” Betty Jo said. “I think he knew what I was saying.”

In addition to his wife, Kappeler is survived by his daughter, Francia Kappeler of Santa Rosa, brother Jack Kappeler of Bakersfield and three grandchildren.   Plans are underway for a funeral service that may include a fly-over, possibly by a B-25.


Lt Frank Kappeler, Nav. B-25 323rd BG B-26 in the ETO

Columbia, SC


Lt Col Frank A. Kappeler USAF (RET) Dinner Speaker for August 28, 2003

* Doolittle Raider, Navigator, Crew #11 (18 April 1942)
* Stayed in CBI Theater after RAID until August 1942, flying the "Hump"
* Served in ETO from November 1943 to June 1944, B-26 Bomb Group
* After WWII served in Texas, Ohio, California, North Dakota, Japan, ...
* Earned Masters Degree in Engineering, Air Force Institute of Technology
* Deputy Commander, Minuteman Site Activation Task Force, Minot, ND
* Born in San Francisco; lives in Santa Rosa

 Four months after Pearl Harbor, the United States was looking for retaliation, for a victory. The Navy had been stung at Pearl and the Army had suffered defeats in the southwest Pacific on the ground and in the air. Both services, President Roosevelt and the entire Allied war effort, needed a victory against a Japan building an empire through conquest.

A hero of the Golden Age of Aviation would step up to lead 79 Army Air Corps crewmen flying sixteen Mitchell bombers, to deliver World War Two’s first blow against the capital of Japan. His name was Jimmy Doolittle. And one of the 79 men who followed Doolittle on the daring Tokyo Raid was the Golden Gate Wing’s guest speaker in August. 

Frank Kappeler was born in San Francisco, January 2, 1914. After graduating from high school, Frank attended Polytechnic College of Engineering in Oakland, earning his B.S. degree in aeronautical engineering.

In 1936 Frank enlisted in the U.S. Navy and was stationed in Oakland. He then transferred to the Army Air Corps, and received his rating as a navigator in June, 1941.

Kappeler and his navigating skills were put to use with the 17th Bomb Group, based in Pendleton, Oregon, which was flying scouting patrols over the Pacific Northwest coastline after the Pearl Harbor attack.

Read the entire amazing heroic STORY;

Doolittle raiders

Tokyo, Japan

Written by Barbi Ennis Connolly;

    Someone once said that everything comes full circle.... as an Historical Researcher for WWII in the 57th Bomb Wing, [and Historian for my Dad/Edward Ennis' 321st Bomb Group/B-25's MTO [as well as the 319th BG] I continue to be amazed at how much unity there is now still.

     Personally, I think of the Doolittle Raiders as individual people, but that's because I know 1st hand some absolutely true stories that are as human as they can be. . . most people think of "The RAIDERS" and the *Legend", Jimmy Doolittle himself ! One of the tallest Raiders in the batch, Travis Hoover was the (Ah ?) *Maid of Honor* to Lorraine as she wed (Ret. Col.) Bill Bower just prior to the Raid. Col Harvey Hinman (1st Pilot on stand-by) was Bower's best man and Godfather to their son, Jimmy.

     Doolittle only knew friends. THAT was Jimmy Doolittle !

     Jimmy himself was a brilliant man, in my research, I discovered that very early on as he 'all-of-a-sudden' lost a hand-full of his Men, he yanked them all off Flight Status, promoting them up to where they would be the *True-Leaders* that they were destined to be and safe. We needed quality and leadership borne of voluntairly going on a dangerous Mission blindly by trusting your leader. . . now THAT is how leaders are born.

Destiny, not something we have much control of, unless you consider 'good choices'. . . . Jimmy Doolittle's GOOD CHOICES of his men was uncanny.... not one walked away and not all lived to tell the story.
    Ret Col Frank Kappeler was a good friend of Jimmy Doolittle, I imagine that we shall never know just how many friends Jimmy had, but we do know that they were themselves all heroic and dependible.... HISTORY has proven this.   Col Kappeler was born to lead, and indeed, Frank spent the rest of his career in the AAC that then became the great "United States Air Force".

    Barbi Ennis Connolly, WWII 57th Bomb Wing Historical Researcher and Historian for her Dad, T/Sgt Ed Ennis' (194-2005) 321st Bomb Group, B-25 Mitchells /MTO as well as Historian for the 319th Bomb Group and WWII Researcher in general.

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