Eston C. Kuhn – Sacrificed His Life for Our Freedom
Lieutenant Eston Kuhn was born on May 27, 1919 in Bim, Boone County, West Virginia to Ernest and Nora Kuhn. Both parents were born in West Virginia. His father worked as a coal miner. His mother had six sons living at home at this time, according to the 1930 US Census. Eston was the second born and was 10 years old. The family lived in Crook, Boone County, West Virginia.
After graduation from Van High School in 1936, Kuhn joined the army April 10, 1942, according to the Army Enlistment Records. However, the 1940 US Census listed him as being soldier, being paid by the US Government and residing at Fort Myer in Arlington, Virginia. One conclusion is that, Kuhn, already an enlisted man in the Army, was then selected for flight training in Oklahoma. Or, possibly Eston, was in the National Guard prior to enlistment into the Amry. Once flight training was completed Eston was commissioned as a Lieutenant with an Army Service Number of O-683029.
The Cumberland News (Cumberland, Maryland) 23 Mar 1943, Tuesday, Page 11, printed a newspaper article: Aviation Cadet Eston C. Kuhn, has been transferred from Chickasha, Oklahoma to Enid, Oklahoma to complete his basic flight training. Until 1939, the Army Air Corps provided all flying training with military instructor pilots. Beginning in 1939, it contracted with nine civilian flying schools to provide primary flight training. Primary training consisted of a three-month course of 65 hours of flying instruction. As the United States prepared to enter World War II by expanding its number of flying squadrons, the number of contract primary schools increased.
Kuhn did register for the draft on October 16, 1940, in West Virginia. He was listed as living in Walworth, West Virginia and worked for the Koppers Coal Company. He weighed 145 pounds and was five feet seven inches tall. He recorded his father, Ernest Minis Kuhn, as his next of kin.
Shortly after receiving his commission, Eston married Maxine Tolten on August 20, 1942 in Boone, West Virginia. He was 23 years old and she was 17. The bride’s parents were Walter and Flossie Tolten.
Next, Eston Kuhn was assigned to the 434th Troop Carrier Group, 71st Troop Carrier Squadron in the 9th Airforce. The squadron trained for the invasion of Europe in England. Kuhn was certified as a copilot in the Douglas C-47 and their mission was to deliver troops to the landing zone (LZ) near St. Lo, France by towing gliders across the English Channel. His plane was a Douglas C-47, Type A_BD-DL with a serial number of 43-15101 CJ-S.
Kuhn's unit was established as the 434th Troop Carrier Group on 30 January 1943. They trained in the U.S., moving to England, late September–October 1943, for operations with Ninth Air Force. The squadron next moved to RAF Fulbeck, England in October of 1943.
The 434th TCW was assigned to the 53rd Troop Carrier Wing. Shortly after its arrival at Fulbeck, the group was reassigned to RAF Aldermaston in the Salisbury Plain area to co-locate with 101st Airborne Division in preparation for the invasion of northern France.
The 434th was one of the groups trained and designated to deliver gliders on D-Day. As the assigned delivery group for Mission Chicago, the 52 C-47s of the 434th TCG each towed a Waco CG-4A glider to Normandy, losing one aircraft to flak in the darkness. For this, and two follow-up missions with gliders and supplies, the group was later awarded the coveted Distinguished Unit Citation.
Unfortunately, Eston Kuhn was killed during the first day of the invasion on June 6, 1944. He was awarded a Purple Heart and Air Medal posthumously. His body was interred at the Brittany American Cemetery in St. James (Manche), France at Plot M , Row 4, Grave 7.
Details of the battle that resulted in Kuhn’s death:
TOWNING A GLIDER OF THE 327TH GLIDEER INFANTRY REGIMENT WHEN IT WAS HIT BY GERMAN FLAK AND CRASHED.
Glider No. 51, flown by F/Os Kile and DelaGardz, was flying slightly behind and off my right wing. The tow plane piloted by Lt. Raymond Howard, and Lt. Eston Kuhn, from the 71st squadron, received a fatal hit from flack and crashed in flames in a swamp five miles southwest of the landing zone. Lt Howard, the pilot, was killed by the Germans as he crawled from the burning wreckage. The crew chief, Sgt. John W. Beckley, the radio operator, Sgt. Marvin Boethcher and Lt. Kuhn, the copilot, were captured by the Germans. Lt. Kuhn, was killed later in the day in a strafing attack on the German trucks they were riding in by one of our own planes near St. Lo.
Reports written after the invasion had interesting comments:
Missing Air Crew - Individual Casualty Report
Did he bail out? NO Why Not? Not high enough
Where was he last seen? Lt. Kuhn was shot and killed on June.7.1944. We were in a truck convoy moving toward St. lo when were attacked by our own fighter planes . P38, 47’s . - Several men were killed at that time including Lt. Kuhn. S/Sgt. Boeteher and myself identified Lt. Kuhn but the Germans would not let us remove any of his personal belongings. He was buried in an orchard near that spot. There were no markers allowed.
Your Name Beckly, John W. Rank S/Sgt.
Organization 71Sqd Commander Whitacre Rank **Col. ** Sqn CO Mann Rank **Maj. **
Date: 1944 June 6th Mission Normandy Invasion Altitude 2000 Ft.
Did you bail out No Did other crew members bail out? No
What members of your crew were in the aircraft when it struck the ground? Pilot, Lt Howard, Co-Pilot, Lt. Kuhn – Engineer, Sgt. Beckley - Radio, S/Sgt. Boetcher
Where were they in the aircraft? P-Cp at controls, rest in crash position
What was their condition? Good
This story is part of the Stories Behind the Stars project (see www.storiesbehindthestars.org). This is a national effort of volunteers to write the stories of all 400,000+ of the US WWII fallen here on Fold3. Can you help write these stories? Related to this, there will be a smart phone app that will allow people to visit any war memorial or cemetery, scan the fallen's name and read his/her story.