William E. Kepner

Picture of William Kepner WILLIAM E. KEPNER was born Jan 6, 1893 in Miami County, Indiana. He served four years in the Marine Corps. He was appointed a 2nd Lt. in the Indiana National Guard. Served in the infantry on the Mexican border.

During the First World War he commanded a company at Chateau-Thierny. Commanded a battalion and was engaged in most of the battles where Americans were involved. He remained in the military and acquired a thorough knowledge of airships. He commanded airship schools in Langley, Va. and at Scott Field, III. He flew in four National and International air races.

While in command of the 9th Bombardment Sqdn. at March Field, CA he completed flying school as an Army Air Corps pilot in 1932. In 1934, he served as pilot and commander of the stratosphere flight "Explorer I" attaining an altitude of 61,000 ft. before the balloon ripped open, and he had to parachute from a minimum altitidue of 300 ft.

He escorted Maj. Ira Eaker in the first blind instrument flight from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean. This was in two single-seater fighter planes. . . P-12s.

He graduated from the Air Corps Tactical School and the Command and General Staff School. He commanded the Eighth Pursuit Group in 1938.

He pioneered the ground observer with telephone response to bomber attack and the ground to air support concept. He was assigned as Chief of Staff First Air Force, N.Y. and in 1941 organized and commanded the First Support Command. In 1942 promoted to Brig. General and made Commander of Fourth Interceptor Com.mand at March AFB, CA.

He was appointed Commanding General of the Fourth Air Force in March 1943 and Sept. 1943 assumed command of the Eighth Fighter Command, ETO. He organized the protective fighter plane escort for all U.S. 8th Bomber Command.

Under his guidance the 8th Fighter Command was key factor in the destruction of the German Air Force in the air and on the ground. It played a decisive factor in the Normandy invasion establishing a circular protective screen 50 miles around the beachhead.

He was named Commanding General of the 2nd Bombardment Division of the 8th A.F. The command consisted of approximately 900 4 engine bombers, and 500 P-51, and P-47s. In May 1945, he assumed command of the 8th Air Force and was a part of the American/Allies who received the German's final surrender at Rheims, France.

In August 1945, he became Commanding General of the 9th A.F., which was the occupational Air Force in Europe. Gen. Kepner participated in 24 missions over hostile areas, lO in fighter aircraft, 14 in bombers. He is rated a command pilot, combat observer, senior balloon pilot, zeppelin pilot, semi-rigid pilot, metalclad airship pilot.

Also civilian Rated helicopter pilot, and glider pilot. He commanded Army, Navy aviation in "Operations Crossroads" first pacific atom tests and other atomic related activities.

In 1948 he was appointed Commanding General of Eglin Proving Ground, FL, and in 1950, Commander-in-Chief of Alaskan Command.

He was awarded the DSC, purple heart, DFC, Legion of Merit - two clusters, DSM - one cluster, Bronze Star, Air Medal, USMC Good Conduct Medal, and many many foreign decorations and awards.

He retired as Lt. Gen. in February, 1953. In 1980, he was presented the REVOREDO Trophy by the International Flight Research Corporation at the 8th Air Force Reunion in Orlando, FL.

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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