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John B. "“Jack” " KIDD

Jack Kidd, Group Operations Officer

Jack Kidd, Group Operations Officer, logging 100th aircraft returning from a mission. Photo from the Kidd Collection.

Hometown During Time of Service: New Rochelle, NY
Time of Service at Thorpe Abbotts: Unknown - Unknown

Additional 100th Service Notes

Status: CPT

Media Articles

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Media ItemTypePageVolume/IssueBroadcast SourceTimeDescriptionFile
Blakely, Kidd, Thornton, Douglas, Crosby Bremen missionPrintThe Fresno Bee Oct 12 194312:00 am
William Veal, John Kidd, John Egan DFC by LeMay photoPrintStandard Star Nov 15 194312:00 am
John Kidd to address Virginia Tech Senior Cadets & backgroundPrintDaily Press (VA) May 31 197212:00 am

Comments and Notes

Memo 1:
Original 351st Sqdn. Commander -- later the Group Operations Officer
Flew 18 Missions

John B. "Jack" Kidd, at the time a Major. Commanded Crew #A-4 on the 100th's overseas deployment. Jack Kidd is a larger than life figure in the history of the 100th. He was the group leader on two of the three most memorable missions the group flew; the Regensburg -- North Africa shuttle on 17 August 1943 and 8 Oct 1943 Bremen -- which resulted in a crash landing at Ludham, England and the famous 'tree' photos. (Kidd was the 13th Combat Wing Leader for the Bremen mission) The mission on August 17, '43, known as 'The Regensburg Shuttle' is considered by many historians to have been the single most, important mission flown by the 8th Air Force in WW II. There were few airbattles in WW II approaching the intensity of Regensburg. The bombing results were considered classic dispite the furious resistant of the Luftwaffe.

He remained in the USAF and attained the rank of Major General. There were only five from the 100th to attain General grade rank and only Kidd and William W. Veal (Original 349th Sqdn. Commander) rose to Major General. General Kidd (Jack to his 100th comrades) enjoys universal respect from all members of the 100th.


6/26/1943 LeMANNS KIDD J.B. MAJ COM 230063
1. 7/10/1943 LeBOURGET KIDD J.B. MAJ COM 23307
2. 7/28/1943 OSCHERSLEBEN KIDD J.B. MAJ COM 230259
3. 8/17/1943 REGENSBURG KIDD J.B. MAJ COM 23393
4. 10/8/1943 BREMEN KIDD J.B. MAJ COM 23393
11, 4/12/1944 SCHEUDITZ KIDD J.B. LT COL COM 107011 (RECALL)
14. 6/7/1944 NANTES KIDD J.B. LT COL COM 107233
16. 7/17/1944 AUXERRE
18. 8/7/1944 BEAUTOR KIDD J.B. LT COL COM 37863


After training was completed, our 48 aircraft and crews headed across the Atlantic in May, 1943. On our arrival at our new base at Thorpe Abbots in East Anglia, England it was then Major Kidd, the new Group Operations Officer, under our third Group Commander. My new assignment placed me as third in the chain of command of the Group. My duties were to organize the bombing missions of the group, to brief each mission, to oversee group air training, navigation, bombing and to serve as command pilot leading bombing missions. In short to make the biggest possible dent on the enemy.

The modus operandi was to fly in a Group formation of 21 aircraft, a Wing of 63 aircraft and Division of multiple wings. The Group formation was the basic unit on most missions; it took up airspace of about 1000 feet vertically and about 2000 feet horizontally, devised for protection from enemy fighters and flak, as well as with bombing patterns in mind. No two aircraft were at the same level. Groups bombed individually, separating at an "Initial Point" for the bombing run, then regaining the wing formation. Wings, as well as Divisions, followed each other in trail, all taking up an enormous amount of airspace, normally flying between 20,000 to 28,000 feet (over five miles high). To the enemy population on the ground it must have been a frightful sight, wondering if the bombs were meant for them, particularly when contrails were formed which became long tubes of cloud visible at great distances.

I normally led the Group or the Wing, but did lead General LeMay's 3rd Air Division once??as a twenty?four year old Lieutenant Colonel ??to a major target in Germany, Berlin. (It was from college junior to Lt. Colonel in three and one?half years). On that mission only one aircraft out of about 250 was lost thanks to an under cast, in spite of the radar directed firing of 800 to 1000 heavy anti?aircraft guns ringing Berlin. We were by then bombing by a new radar in the lead aircraft and, also, using another new invention, chaff (packets of aluminum strips), scattered over the target by the faster Royal Air Force Mosquito's to confuse the radars of the otherwise lethal anti?aircraft artillery.

How did I feel about bombing a city? By this time in the war many cities had been bombed, Germany having started the heinous practice by bombing a small town, Coventry, in England. We were inured. It had to be done. Get the war over quicker, the sooner the better. Thinking back on it, it's a horrendous thing to do, but that's war. It's that trait in the human character, or should I say in the character of some humans, to try to achieve their ends no matter what the cost. I refer to Hitler, of course. I trust that what follows in this book just might prevent a repetition of such conduct?by changing the system?as well as reducing and one day eliminating the instance of war.

Other missions were not as fortunate as that Berlin mission. On August 17,1943 I led the last and low group of General LeMay's Division. (I think that was the last mission he flew. His boss, General Spaats, Eighth Air Force Commander, grounded him. He was too valuable. Good judgment?as General LeMay became head of the Strategic Air Command and later, Chief of Staff of the Air Force). This was the unique shuttle mission, bombing the Messerschmitt aircraft plant at Regensburg in Bavaria and continuing on across the tip of Italy?where a single anti?aircraft round exploded near us over Lake Garda?then across the Mediterranean to Algeria, where we landed on the gravely open desert near Telergma. The target, an aircraft plant, was obliterated.

As the Luftwaffe's tactics at that time were to overtake the bomber stream, then turn and make head?on attack on the bombers; we, as tail?end?Charley?the last Group?bore the brunt of the attack in spite of the 10 .50 caliber machine guns firing 600 rounds a minute from each airplane or 210 guns in our 21 aircraft formation, with which we took our toll of German fighters. I didn't envy the German fighter pilots having to fly through our withering fire. We lost 9 of our 21 airplanes and 90 men that day, one aircraft having ditched in Lake Lucerne in Switzerland, the crew spending the rest of the war there due to its neutral status.

At the de?briefing General LeMay asked me where the rest of my airplanes were. My reply, "shot down." That ended the conversation. A few days later, having refueled??by hand pumps from 55 gallon drums?and rearmed our own airplanes, we bombed the airport at Bordeaux, a launching base for German aircraft in the war in the Atlantic, on our way back to the UK.

Regensburg was one of two targets that day, Schweinfurt the other. Altogether 376 bombers were dispatched by the 8th Air Force, 60 were lost.

Months later the 100th flew another shuttle mission??to Russia?bombing targets both coming and going. Our aircraft were the target, bombed by German aircraft the first night in Russia, the Russian defenses unable to cope. Thankfully, no aircraft or crew members were lost. The crewmembers took to oaholes??for the only time in the war.

As an aside, at this point in 1994 we and the USSR were allied, coordinating American operations against Germany. Ironically, only a few short years later we were dire enemies.

For me, another unforgettable mission was to Bremen. I say "unforgettable" because the details of this and other missions involving enemy action are still etched into the memory bank. On October 8,1943 the target was the submarine yards, which impacted the war in the Atlantic Ocean. This day I was leading the 13th Combat Wing of 63 Forts (B?17s). At the IP (Initial Point), where we separated to bomb the target by groups, the azure sky was black with flak from the anti?aircraft fire against earlier groups over the target. The most earnest prayer I can recall was offered in those moments. The toughest job I've ever had to do as command pilot was to do nothing on the 10 to 12 minute bomb run? until bombs?away. There was nothing to do but keep quiet on the intercom so as not to distract the bombardier. The bombardier, Capt. Jim Douglass, was actually flying the airplane with his bombsight. Imagine the pressure he was under. Captain Ev Blakely, the pilot and Capt. Harry Crosby, the navigator, similarly sat on their hands. The one saving grace was that no German fighter planes were near at the moment. They avoided their own flak.

It's as vivid today as it was fifty?six years ago. Just at "bombs away" our aircraft "jumped" from the explosion under us. There was no doubt the German gunners almost five miles below had used their box barrage technique against our formation, consisting of 16 88mm ack ack guns which threw up 25 lb. shells designed to fill the cube of airspace that our 21 aircraft filled with flak; the shells burst at a preset altitude, sending shards of shrapnel in all directions. When they hit the skin of the aircraft it sounded like rice thrown at the car of the bride and groom driving off after the wedding. Our "rice" was of afar deadlier kind.

This day they did well. Just as bombs were away they box?barraged us squarely, for in that instant eight of our 21 aircraft were knocked out of formation, seven of which didn't make it back to base. In my airplane it was instant fire in the number three engine, the propeller dome on number four engine punctured, the crankshaft broken, leaving us with a windmilling propeller on the far right which set up a drag on the right side of the airplane. Our only power was from engines 1 and 2, on the left side, the number three propeller having been feathered (aligned with the air flow). With only two engines there was only one way to go. Down. And all by ourselves. What was left of the group was scattered. The wing had no leader. Our normal airspeed was about 225 mph, incredulously slow compared to modern aircraft. But now, perforce, we settled for about 95 mph, not far above stalling speed (stalling involves loss of control of the aircraft, resulting in spinning downward toward the ground).

Out of the flak, German fighters, of which there were many, again swarmed for the kill, sniping at our airplane all the way to Holland. Our gunners claimed 12 shot down; they were officially awarded 9, a record from a single bomber, I believe, for the entire air war in Europe.

It was down to 3000 feet over Holland where we could see the mule flashes as the enemy took their last shots at us. I grabbed the controls to turn left, while at the same time the pilot, Captain Everett Blakely, was trying to turn to the right. I recall, after uttering an expletive, adding "let's go one way or the other." Over water, everything of any weight went over the side, gun barrels, ammunition, and the bombsight, a scarce new self?erecting type. Soon we were able to level off' and maintain an altitude??at 950 feet above the North Sees?with full power on our two left Curtis?Wright engines (the engines and airplanes were marvels of reliability in those days. And the marvel of self?sealing fuel tanks brought many a wounded airplane back to home base). Had we ditched into the drink we'd have been goners, as we found out later that our two life rafts were shredded??as was the skin of our airplane??the North Sea water frigid and, too, rescue aircraft wouldn't likely venture into enemy controlled waters.

As we limped toward the coast of England at about 90 mph, canted about 15 degrees to the left to hold direction, we used the sun for a compass. Thankfully, too, we were able to transfer fuel to the left wing. We landed at the first airfield sighted, soon to find it was a dummy field, with dummy aircraft, designed to attract enemy attack. We lowered the landing gear on final approach, but when the wheels hit the runway, the rudder cable snapped, the tail wheel didn't extend. We hit the engine switches to prevent a fire, the wind milling prop flew off its hub and, almost like a

Hollywood script, with no control we headed for the only two trees on the "airfield." Of course, we hit the largest of the two head?on, an ancient oak, literally wiping the nose off the airplane. I can still hear the broken oxygen lines hissing. Another miracle. We didn't catch fire. My first inclination was to slide out the copilot's window which was about ten feet above the ground, risking a landing on my head. Luckily it was just too small. Then it dawned on me that in our new circumstances I could just walk out the nose of the airplane, with a short jump to the ground.

Our wounded were carried to the ground. We dispatched the able crew members to seek help. It was a wonder that no one was curious enough to come in our direction. It seemed hours before help arrived to take the four wounded to the hospital in Norwich. Later we learned that Sgt. Saunders died of his wounds that night. Interestingly, I have no recollection of how we covered the 30?40 miles to our base, or how we were received. Joyously, I'm sure. By the time of our arrival the intelligence debriefing would have already painted the Group Commander a clear ture of the day's events. I still don't know who gathered our fourteen surviving aircraft together and led them home??much less the other two groups.

What does this stress do to a man? Having put in probably more than thirty twenty?four hour stints on the job and a dozen or so thirty?six hour stints without sleep, I went from 180 pounds to 140 pounds. Toward the end of my sixteen months, every time I passed through the 10 thousand foot level, I got excruciating tooth aches, the gums having pulled away from the teeth. My gums were like an altimeter. I knew when we climbed through the 10 thousand foot level.

For months after returning to the U.S. in the fall of 1944 I had nightmares about these two missions. But now, in writing about the Bremen mission, I got to thinking even deeper into the possibilities we faced. We'd have been in even deeper trouble than we were in already if:

1. The ack ack round had burst a few feet closer to the airplane.

2. The windmilling propeller on engine #4 had left its hub and come through the cockpit.

3. The fire in the #3 engine nacelle persisted.

4. The small arms fire from the ground in Holland been more accurate.

5. One of the two engines operating at full throttle had sputtered over land. B. Our gunners not done such an outstanding job in defending us.

We'd all have been done in for sure if just one of the following had occurred: 1. The ack ack round exploded inside the airplane. 2. One of the two operating engines even sputtered over the icy North Sea, as the life rafts were shredded, the fuselage punctured with hundreds of holes. 3. The necessary fuel could not have been transferred from the right wing to the left, resulting in fuel starvation over the North Sea. 4. Had the rudder cable snapped over water or close to the ground, instead of upon touching the runway on landing, as it did.

Don't think that prayers are not heard.

It just so happened that I flew both these missions with the same crew, the pilot, Ev Blakely, who is now retired in California, the navigator, Harry Crosby, who became the 8th Air Force navigator and is a retired Professor of English from Boston College, now living in Maine, Jim Douglass, the bombardier and Lt. Charley Via, the co?pilot, who had the dubious honor of manning the tail guns?where my presence as Command Pilot placed him, to be my eyes from that vantage point. And of course the gunners who defended us nobly and who contributed the most "kills," setting that American record of enemy fighters shot down by a bomber in Europe.

I'll recount just one more mission. To be accurate, it was a "nonmission," but I include it because it sheds a bit of light on the character of General LeMay.

The target was an oil refinery in northwest Germany (I've forgotten its name, which will be immaterial, as you will soon see). The mission was unique in that it set up a feint, designed to flush the German fighters then, when they were refueling on the ground, attack. The planned flight route called for heading toward the coast of Germany, then turning to the northeast, then north, then west, and then south, crossing the coast?in other words, flying a rectangle large enough to exhaust the fighters' fuel, then attack.

There was only one problem. Weather. On the first leg, heading toward Denmark, we ran into flat banks of stratus clouds. As large formations must change course and altitude slowly, individual aircraft left the formation for safety reasons. Scattered, would probably be a more accurate word. I recall that I could see only one other aircraft, the visibility about 100 feet. Upon breaking out into clear air, the copilot?my eyes to the rear?in the tail gun position reported many stragglers, which he said were closing in on our group. Moments later he reported that aircraft from five different groups were following us like a gaggle of geese. It was a tribute to the 100th group discipline that it remained intact. As the command pilot I was stuck with making decision. The factors zipped through my mind: would we run into the clouds again, what kind of bombing pattern could be achieved. I decided to abort, to head for home base.

I don't recall when I began to think of the consequences of my decision. We simply didn't abort. It was not in General LeMay's nature. In fact, a rule had been adopted that if a gunner became ill while still forming over England that he would bail out, the aircraft going on to target. Several did bail out, getting back to base hours later.

After returning to base and the usual debriefing, Colonel Harding, the Group C.O. (Commanding Officer) told me that there would be a critique of the mission at General LeMay's 3rd Division Headquarters the next day. I didn't sleep well that night. At the end of the discourse General LeMay set the policy: missions would be aborted when formation integrity could not be maintained. He reasoned that the standard formation was designed to provide maximum firepower against attacking aircraft?as well as provide the best bombing pattern and defense against antiaircraft fire.

What a relief ! And to the best of my knowledge no formation leader ever had to abort a mission.

Many books have recount those days: "A Wing and A Prayer," by Harry Crosby, the Group Navigator, wrote about the 100th Bomb Group, "The Schweinfurt?Regensburg Mission," by Martin Middlebrook; "Double Strike" and "Flying Fortress" by Jablonski, "Courage, Honor and Victory" by Ian Hawking, and "The Mighty Eighth," by Gerald Aster.

All in all I was in the same job of Group Operations Officer for 16 months before heading home to the ZIP (Zone of the Interior, or US). I had served under seven Group Commanders since the order was cut 22 months earlier creating the Group. One, Colonel Kelly, lasted one week. He was shot down a few miles inside the French coast opposite England on a No Ball mission, bombing the sites from which buzz bombs were launched to attack London. Capt. Summer Reeder and I were the last two original pilots to leave the Group in August, 1944. Sadly, he was killed soon after returning to the US, hit by a microburst?a severe vertical wind?while taking off in a C?54 transport.

In those 16 months the 100th flew 216 missions. I led 18 of them. We lost 176 aircraft to flak and fighters, which amounted to 360 percent the authorized strength(48) of a bomb group; 1,456 men were lost, representing 300 percent of authorized strength(480), and the 581 killed or missing in action, 121 percent. The difference between aircraft lost and crew members lost can be attributed to the likes of Lt. Rosie(Robert) Rosenthal (later Lt. Colonel) whose crew bailed out into the midst of a tank battle east of Berlin. Thankfully, he and his crew were ked up by the Russians. They were taken to Moscow, feted by Ambassador Harriman, returning to the 100th by way of Spain. He was shot down again in France, breaking an arm in the crash landing and again returned to the group to fly many more missions. About fifty I think, more than any other pilot. He simply would not quit, flying more than the prescribed number of missions, which in the early days was 25. He became a lawyer in New York and is now retired in Mamaroneck, NY.

Oh yes, our worst one day loss was 12, two days after the Bremen mission. The target, Peenemunde??where Germany's V?2 missiles were made?only 13 airplanes could be mustered airplanes due to attrition. Only one came back. The 100th was flat on its back but with the same spirit and determination that motivated all the members of the Group throughout, it rejuvenated quickly, maintaining that spirit right through to the end of the war.

In the entire 16 months of my tour of duty only one individual shirked his duty, a pilot who claimed he couldn't be responsible for his crew. The remainder of our normal 5000?man strength of the group met every challenge, in the air and on the ground. It was young Americans at their best.

I didn't envy those who hit the beaches on D?Day. Their toll was tremendous. We flew 77 sorties, some crews flying two missions on D?Day in direct support of the invasion. But from my perspective it was D?Day every time we went out on a mission.

General Eisenhower paid all of us who fought the air war, including the RAF, a tribute in his Original Invasion Orders: "Our air offensive (against Germany) has seriously reduced their strength in the air and their capacity to wage war on the ground."



Retired Feb. 1, 1974.

Major General John Burns Kidd is chief, Military Assistance Advisory Group, Italy.

General Kidd was born in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1919. His formative years were spent in Lakewood, Ohio; Winnetka, Ill.; and New Rochelle, N.Y., where he graduated from high school in 1937. He attended Oberlin College, Ohio, until accepted as an aviation cadet in February 1940. He completed flying school at Kelly Field, Texas, in October 1940 with a rating as pilot and commission as second lieutenant, U.S. Amy Air Corps.

During World War II, his first assignment was as a flying instructor at the Advanced Flying School, Kelly Field, Texas. After completing B-17 aircraft training in May 1942, he served as squadron operations officer of the 52d Squadron, 29th Bombardment Group, at MacDill Air Force Base, Fla., and Gowen Field, Idaho. In October 1942, he was named commander of the newly formed 351st Squadron, 100th Bombardment Group. He took his squadron to England in June 1943 where it joined the 3d Air Division. Immediately upon arriving he was named group operations officer. In the air war against Germany he led group, wing and division formations against a wide variety of targets. He returned to the United States in August 1944. During 1945 he served as director of operations and training at the Army Air Forces Flexible Gunnery School, Las Vegas, Nev.

General Kidd went to Germany in March 1949 where he served as chief, Air Traffic Control, and chief, Flight Operations, in the combined airlift headquarters during the Berlin Airlift. From October 1949 to May 1952 he was commander of the 12th Troop Carrier Squadron, 60th Troop Carrier Group, and also served as group operations officer. While in Europe he attended a course on Air Defense at the United Kingdom Land-Air Warfare School, Old Sarum, England.

He returned to the United States in 1952 and was assigned to the Joint Plans Branch, War Plans Division, Directorate of Plans, Headquarters U.S. Air Force, working primarily on Pacific-Far East plans. During this period he participated in five- and eight-nation conferences on Pacific defense matters; represented the chief of staff, U.S. Air Force, at the first Southeast Asia Treaty Organization Military Staff Planners' Conference in Honolulu; and coordinated military planning matters between the Joint Chiefs of Staff, State Department and Central Intelligence Agency. He was chief of the Joint Plans Branch for one year prior to attending the Air War College, Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala., from September 1956 to June 1957.

The following three years his duties centered on nuclear activities as director of operations at the Air Force Special Weapons Center in Albuquerque, N.M., then as operations officer, deputy commander, and briefly as commander of the 4950th Test Group - the Air Force nuclear test support unit - Eniwetok; Indian Springs, Nev.; and Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M.

General Kidd went to Hawaii in July 1960 as director of plans and programs for the Pacific Communications Area and a year later became assistant chief of staff, plans; at Headquarters Pacific Air Forces, Hickam Air Force Base.

In September 1963, he returned to the Pentagon as a member of the Pacific Division, J-3, Joint Staff, Organization of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Later, he became a division chief. In July 1966, General Kidd reported to the commander in chief, U.S. Pacific Command, as deputy assistant chief of staff for operations.

In September 1969, he returned to Headquarters U.S. Air Force and was assigned to the Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Personnel as deputy director, personnel planning; in July 1970 became director; and in July 1971 was appointed director, Personnel Programs. He became chief, Military Assistance Advisory Group, Italy, July 1, 1972.

His military decorations and awards include the Distinguished Service Medal, Silver Star, Legion of Merit with oak leaf cluster, Distinguished Flying Cross with oak leaf cluster, Air Medal with two oak leaf clusters, Air Force Commendation Medal, and Croix de Guerre with palm (France). He is a command pilot.

He was promoted to the grade of major general effective May 1, 1970 with date of rank Aug. 10, 1965.

(Current as of Oct. 15, 1972)


Crew List

1st Crew List

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Rank Name Pos Status
Maj BLAKELY, Everett E. P CPT
Lt VIA, Charles A. CP SWA
Capt PAYNE, Joseph H. NAV KIA
T/Sgt BROCK, Howard J. WG POW
S/Sgt YEVICH, Edward S. WG WIA
S/Sgt NORD, Lyle E. TG KIA
2nd Crew List

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Rank Name Pos Status