Claiborne (Clay) Holmes Kinnard, Jr.

Kinnard, Jr Claiborne (Clay) Holmes
Born: October 29, 1912 - Franklin, TN


Clay Kinnard graduated with a BSCE at Vanderbilt University and joined the USAAF before WWII. He graduated from flight school in August, 1939 and served with various squadrons until going to war with the 356th FG in August, 1943. He transferred to 354FS/355FG as Squadron CO in November 1943, but was off ops with a severe ear infection until February, 1944.

Between March 29th, when Kinnard shot down an Fw 190 near Brunswick, destroyed 5 on April 5th and on April 13, Kinnard destroyed 4 more on the ground while leading the 354FS on a rampage destroying a total of 44 German aircraft and propelling the 355th FG into number three high scoring group behind the 56th an the 4th FG.

On the April 5th the 355th FG set a record with 51-2-81 that was to stand until September with Kinnard becoming first 8th AF pilot scoring 5 total air and ground in one day. The 355th received a Distinguished Unit Citation for the mission.

Kinnard continued his leadership as one of the top tacticians in the 8th AF for strafing attacks on Luftwaffe airfields. Largely due to his tactics, the 354FS would emerge as the top Squadron in the 8th for enemy a/c destroyed on the ground.

He became the 355th FG’s seventh air ace on July 7, 1944 when he shot down three German fighters including 2 Me 410’s and an 109 while receiving the DSC for breaking up a major attack on B-24’s near Merseburg.

Kinnard became 355th FG Deputy CO in June, 1944, then moved on to the 4th FG as Deputy then Group CO until the end of his first tour. When he returned in February, 1945 as Group Commander of the 355th FG, he continued the pace and the 355th ended as the third highest scoring group in the 8th AF. The 355th destroyed more enemy aircraft between April 1, 1944 through the end of the war, than any other 8th AF Fighter Group.

Kinnard scored his last two air victories near Prague when he shot down two 109’s to finish with 8 air and 17 ground scores. Following that April 20 mission he remarked that he wished the German fighter pilots had chosen to stay on the ground that late in the war.

He was the top decorated fighter pilot for the 355th FG.

He joined the Tennessee Air National Guard as CO and built a thriving business supplying his patented pre-stressed concrete beams. He passed away in 1966 from a brain tumor.

Final score was 8 destroyed (one with 4th FG) plus 1 damaged in the air, and 17 destroyed (2 with 4th FG), 9 damaged on the ground.

Awards: DSC, SS, DFC (7), AM (8), Croix de Guerre, Distinguished Unit Citation
Aircraft assigned: 356th FG 42-xxxx ; 355th FG P-47D-11RE 42-75275 WR-C Man O War, P-51B-5 43-6431 WR-A Man O War, P-51B-15 42-106950 WR-A Man O War, P-51D-5 44-13375 WR-A Man O War, 4th FG P-51D-10 44-14292 QP-A Man O War, 355th FG P-51D-15 44-15625 WR-A Man O War, P-51D-20 44-72427 WR-A Man O War, P-51D-25 44-73144 WR-A Man O War

Written by Bill Marshall,
author "Angels, Bulldogs and Dragons - History of the 355FG in WWII"

Contributed by Bill Marshall, October, 2006. Unverified.

The text is copyright Bill Marshall 2006. All Rights Reserved. You may not copy or reproduce this biography without the express written consent of Bill Marshall.

List of all p51 Pilots:
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Pilot Name Biography Summary
Asa A. Adair He returned to the States in August of 1944 after participating in the invasion "D" Day. He flew P-63's, P-51's, F-80's, T-33's, F-84's, T-38's, P-47's in numerous assignments during the following twenty years in in, Japan, U.S.A. and Europe before retiring after twenty-six years of Active Duty.
John C. Anderson After P-47 transition he was assigned to the 406th Fighter Group, 512th Fighter Squadron. (E.T .0.) He flew 56 missions through January, 1945 destroying supply routes, bridges, and railroads; he also flew close support missions with the ground forces, with attacks on tanks, artillery and enemy positions.
W.B. 'Tex' Badger Eight and Ninth Air Force in WWII. B-l7's, P-51's and P-47's. Fifth Air Force in Korea, F80's and F86's. WWII and Korea, Flew 156 missions. Tactical units served in with the USAAF and USAF were: 305th BG , 368th Fighter Group, 4th Fighter Group, 49th Fighter Group, 12th Fighter Wing, 506th Fighter Wing.
Robert T. (Bob) Bagby He trained in P47's at Cross City and Dale Mabry Fields, Florida and then joined the 341st FS Black Jack Squadron), 348th FG of the 5th AF in Brisbane, Australia in June 1943. Bob flew 78 combat missions in New Guinea (Port Moresby, Finchafen, Sador, Wakde and Biak) primarily as wingman to squadron CO's John Campbell and John Moore. Also privileged to fly wing to Neil Kirby on several occasions.
Frank Baker After brief stops at Stone and Atcham, England he joined the 313th Fighter Squadron of the 50th Fighter Group in France. He flew 90 missions through V.E. Day. Most of the missions were close support attacks on various ground targets with a few B-26 escort missions thrown in. All of the missions took place in eastern France and southern Germany. He was awarded the Air Medal with 11 oak leaf clusters.
John M. Balason To relieve the boredom, Balason went down on the deck and blew up a locomotive he had observed at altitude. A few seconds after making his strafing pass he received a hit in his left wing tank and a fire started immediately in the cockpit. The paralyzing effect of the intense heat made climbing out of the cockpit impossible.
Albert W. Barlow, Jr. He flew 69 escort and ground support missions. Destroyed one E/A (ME-I09). Was shot down on Sept. 8, 1944, and evaded enemy ground forces for 8 days. Was picked up by an American Recon. Unit behind the German lines. Was hospitalized until Feb. 1948, when he was medically retired with the rank of Capt. Awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, Air Medal with four Oak Leaf Clusters, and Purple Heart.
William T. Beckler In July, 1944 Beckler exchanged his P-40 for a P-47N Thunderbolt. Missions in the Jug covered Northern Italy and Southern France. These included escorting medium bombers. The Bombers, based in Southern Italy, would be escorted to France by Thunderbolts based on Corsica. Shortly before target the Jugs would pull ahead of the bombers and bomb the enemy gun positions. Beckler's activities while participation in three major campaigns earned him the DFC, two Air Medals and two Presidential citations.
Herbert R. Benson After training in P-47 Thunderbolts at bases in North Carolina, Virginia, and Delaware, he was assigned to the European Theatre of operations and joined the 48th Fighter Group 493rd Fighter Squadron at St. Trond, Belgium. After flying 44 combat missions, he was awarded the Air Medal with 4 Oak Leaf clusters.
Marvin C. Bigelow Training in the Southeast Training Command with the class of 44C, he graduated and was commissioned a Second Lieutenant single engine pilot at Marianna, Florida with the class of 44D. After checking out in the P-40 at Marianna, he transitioned in the P-47 in the Northeast Defense Command and after gunnery at Dover, Delaware was shipped on the Queen Mary to England.
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