This page should be regarded as "under construction". There is still quite a bit of data and detail to be
added as we go along. Changes to the layout will probably happen but the data will generally remain as is.
--The Story of a True Hero—
The following are the results of an early effort to discover and define just who “Kingsley” as in Kingslely
Kaserne or earlier Kingsley Barracks actually was. Thanks to hints from Chuck Wilson that US Army bases in
Germany were renamed at one point for WW II Medal of Honor recipients and then a final confirmation by
Walter Elkins, of www.usarmyeurope.com , quite a historian in his own right, and the discovery of a good deal
of collaborative information on the web and luckily, a recovered portion of a Russian chat room note from
www.sukhoj.ru translated by the writer added additional detail to the story.
This information about the feat of Lt Kingsley was significantly added to by the Hof Reunion Historian, Gary
Dempsey, in his own write-up.
On the morning of June 23, 1944, a force of Fifteenth Air Force B-17s and B-24s set off for a strike against
the oil refineries at Ploesti and Giurgiu, Rumania. One of the planes that was detailed to strike the oil
facilities at Ploesti on this day, was the B-17 “OPISSONYA” ( ) of the 341st Bomb Squadron of the 97th
Bomb Group. The crew for the “OPISSONYA” for this mission was led by the pilot, 2nd Lieutenant Edwin
Anderson and co-pilot 2nd Lieutenant William Symons. The rest of the crew of the “OPISSONYA” was made
up of the navigator, Lieutenant Robert Newsom, the bombardier, 2nd Lieutenant David Kingsley, the
engineer, Sergeant John Meyer, the radio operator, Sergeant Lloyd Kane, the tail gunner, Sergeant Michael
Sullivan, the ball turret gunner, Sergeant Stanley Kmiec, and the waist gunners, Sergeant Martin Hettinga
and Sergeant Harold James.
While Lieutenant Anderson’s crew had participated in several missions (19) prior to this, including ones that
had taken them over the heavily defended oil complexes at Ploesti, each time he had been able to bring his
crew back safely. However Lieutenant Anderson and his crew’s luck on this mission would run out. On
nearing Ploesti, the B-17 formation that Lieutenant Anderson and his crew were flying in, was set upon by
twenty Messerschmitt 109G's and Focke-Wulf 190A single engine fighters, which made determined attacks
on the bombers. In quick succession, two B-17s from the formation were shot down by the fighters, which
departed as the formation now reached the flak corridor or zone that surrounded Ploesti. On commencing
their bombing run, the “Opissonya” was hit in the left wing by a burst of anti-aircraft fire, which left a twelve-
inch hole just behind the number one engine. A second anti-aircraft shell exploded soon after at the tail of
the aircraft, this time damaging the vertical stabilizer and knocking out the oxygen system on the
“Opissonya”. Not aware of the loss of the oxygen system and with one engine knocked out, Lieutenant
Anderson to his credit was able to keep the “Opissonya” on course until Kingsley had dropped their
bombload on the refinery below.
On coming out of the bombing run the “OPISSONYA” re-entered the flak zone which guarded Ploesti. In the
new attacks, Lieutenant Anderson’s B-17 was now hit in the number 2 engine on the left wing, which now
began to emit a cloud of white smoke. The crew of the “Opissonya” was also now to experience their first
casualty of the mission when a 20mm cannon round exploded in the tail section wounding Sergeant Sullivan
in the right hand and shoulder. More devastating than the wounds that Sergeant Sullivan suffered, was the
fact that the rounds that had hit the tail section had shredded his parachute harness, making it unusable.
Although badly wounded, Sergeant Sullivan was able to crawl from the tail section of the B-17 to the waist
gun positions of Sergeant Hettinga and Sergeant James who immediately began to administer first aid. In
finding that they were unable to stop the bleeding from Sergeant Sullivan’s wound to his right shoulder,
Lieutenant Kingsley was called to their position to assist. On his arrival, Lieutenant Kingsley was able to
apply a tourniquet to the wound on Sergeant Sullivan’s shoulder, which effectively checked the blood loss
from the wound. In addition to Sergeant Sullivan being wounded, it was soon discovered that the ball turret
gunner, Sergeant Kmiec, had also been wounded. As with Sergeant Sullivan, Sergeant Kmiec had been
wounded by one of the attacking fighters as the “OPISSONYA” had been clearing Ploesti.
With the bombing run complete, Lieutenant Anderson steered the B-17 for home. On traveling southwest,
the crew of the “Opissonya” soon found itself in Bulgarian airspace. With the heavily damaged B-17 losing
altitude, Lieutenant Anderson gave the order for the crew of the “Opissonya” to begin to throw everything
possible out of the aircraft in order to lighten it. A brief ray of hope appeared for the “Opissonya” as two P-
51D's seemingly out of nowhere appeared and pulled along the side of the Lieutenant Anderson’s battered
B-17. However any hopes that may have been lifted up by this welcome sight were soon dashed, as the P-51
pilots radioed to advise Lieutenant Anderson and his crew that they were low on gas and would be unable to
escort the B-17 back to Italy. With the P-51's flying off, Lieutenant Anderson and his crew once again found
themselves flying all alone with still close to 500 miles left to travel to make their home airfield in Italy. As the
battered B-17 continued flying deeper into Bulgaria, its fate would be sealed as it neared the town of Karlovo.
Unknown to the crew of the “OPISSONYA”, Karlovo at the time was a major fighter field for the Bulgarian Air
Force. Karlovo Airfield was also the temporary home for a Schwarm (flight) of Luftwaffe Messerschmitt 109s
and their pilots, which had been stationed there to assist with the training of Bulgarian fighter pilots. On
finding the “Opissonya” flying directly over the airfield at Karlovo, Major Helmut Kühle who was the head of
the Luftwaffe training mission, gave the order for fighters to be scrambled to intercept the crippled B-17.
Lieutenant Anderson and his crew were soon set upon by the four Bulgarian and four Luftwaffe
Messerschmitt BFG-109-6 fighters that had been scrambled from Karlovo. On locating the “Opissonya”, the
Luftwaffe pilots had the Bulgarian fliers under their command attack the B-17. On making their passes from
the rear of the “Opissonya”, the four Bulgarian Messerschmitts raked the already crippled B-17 with deadly
cannon and machine gun fire, sealing its fate.
With the left inboard engine of the B-17 smoking and pieces of the aircraft literally being shot away, and two
members of his crew already wounded, Lieutenant Anderson sounded the alarm to abandon the aircraft. As
the crew of the “Opissonya” began bailing out of the stricken aircraft, Lieutenant Kingsley who had been
administering first aid to Sergeant Sullivan’s wounds, began helping him to the bomb bay doors so that he
could bail out of the aircraft. It was at this point that Lieutenant Kingsley, with total disregard for his own
safety, removed his parachute and placed it on the now chute-less Sergeant Sullivan and assisted him out of
the B-17 via the open bomb bay doors, reminding him to wait to clear the tail section before pulling his
For a short time it appeared to the parachuting survivors that perhaps Kingsley was attempting to fly and
crash-land the plane. But a short time later, the “OPISSONYA” crashed into the ground below, taking the life
of Lieutenant Kingsley, who had remained on board the B-17 and who had sacrificed his own life to save
that of a fellow crew membe:. an action that would later earn Lieutenant Kingsley the United States Military’s
highest award, The Medal of Honor. Tragically a Bulgarian family of three that had been "picnicking" was
also killed, when the out of control “Opissonya” crashed into the tree that they had been under.
Kingsley was awarded the Medal posthumously in 1945 and the Medal was presented to his brother in
London in 1948.
The Russians captured the area in November of 1944 and freed the captured Air Force personnel from the
Stalag Luft at Karlova. Kingsley's body, which was found in the plane was returned to the States and is
buried at Arlington in Washington, DC.
An interesting aside to this story is Bulgarian Major Marinopolski whose picture will appear on the Reunion
Web Site. The Major is the Bulgarian officer who first interviewed the Oppisonya survivors at Karlova Field.
Sergeant Hettinga, the waist gunner, was so impressed with the treatment they received at the hands of this
Major that Sgt Hettinga wrote his name and "Vicksburg, Tennessee) on the foil wrapper of a cigarette pack
and gave it to the Major with the direction to "Look me up after the war".
In the mid 80's, Hettiga, then living in Fairbanks Alaska, received a phone call one evening from a gentleman
with a heavy accent. The Major from Karlova had tracked the Sergeant down as promised. Seems that the
Major had made himself rather unpopular in the now Communist run Bulgarian Air Force and was accused of
helping two pilots fly their Mig-15's to Greece. He left Bulgaria as quickly as possible after that and made his
way stateside, going first to Vicksburg and finding members of Hettinga's family who pointed him towards
The above was derived from three different but quite similar sources, with one exception: A Russian
language site, originally discussing the film "Memphis Belle" and a person signing in as "Russian Ivan"
("Russkij Ivan") said the “Belle” movie, while interesting was too melodramatic and the special effects were
not that good, and it had a happy ending, but if you wanted a story of real heroes... and "Ivan" proceeded to
tell the story of the "OPISSONYA". The detail added, including model numbers of the German and Bulgarian
planes and the detail of the wounds inflicted on the crew as well as the accounting of the deaths of three
Bulgarian "picnickers" could only have come from Bulgarian records, which presumably were captured by the
Russians in 1944. Which leaves the mystery...
So: Who the hell is "Russian Ivan"? Since the Bulgarian Major who returned to Bulgaria after the fall of
Communism, probably spoke excellent Russian and would have known the detail, is he the source? Since
the link is now broken, we will just keep searching.
The link from: www.sukhoi.ru which is (again) linkable. My scribbled upon Russian copy is. (see below)
The following is apparently written by one of the crew of the B-17, possibly the tail gunner (Sullivan?), from:
The raid on Ploesti of June 23 included all six groups of B-17s from the 5th Bomb Wing [15th Air Force]. The
defenses were put into action promptly. Forty-plus single engine fighters hit the Fortress formation before
they arrived at the target area. When the bombers did get to the complex, it was covered with smoke and the
flak barrage was hot and heavy. A 97th Bomb Group Fortress flown by Lt. Edwin O. Anderson took a direct
hit in the right wing while on the bomb run, shattering the control surfaces and ripping a fuel tank loose. The
bomb run was completed with one engine out. As the B-17 emerged from the flak belt it was immediately
pounced upon by enemy fighters. The tail gunner, Sgt. Michael J. Sullivan, was wounded by a 20mm shell
that had ripped through his position. Sullivan's intercom was out, so he crawled up to the waist where the
gunners picked him up and took him into the radio room. There Lt. David R. Kingsley, the bombardier,
administered first aid. As Sullivan recalled: "I was pretty banged up, and my chute harness was ripped off by
20mm cannon shells, and as I was in a daze and shocked, I couldn't see what was going on in the ship. I
crawled out of the tail after I was hit. My waist gunners gave me a first aid but couldn't stop the flow of blood
that was coming from my right shoulder. They called up Lieutenant Kingsley and he game me a tourniquet to
stop the flow of blood. "Finally the blood was stopped, but I was pretty weak. So then Kingsley saw that my
parachute harness was ripped, so he took his off and put it on me. As I was laying in the radio room, he told
me that everything was going to be all right as we had two P-51s escorting us back to our base. We were still
about 500 miles from home and the ship was pretty badly shot up. Finally, our escorts, the P-51s, were
running low on fuel, so they told our pilot that they would have to leave and asked if we could make it. Our
pilot thought he could and they left. "As soon as they were gone, we were then attacked by eight Bf 109s
who came out of the sun and started making passes at us. Finally, after about a fifteen minute flight, we were
told by the pilot to get ready to bail out as our ship was pretty well shaking apart in the air and most of our
guns were knocked out. You see, that was the third group of enemy fighters to his us that day. "As soon as
the bail-out bell was given, the rest of the gunners bailed out. Lieutenant Kingsley then took me in his arms
and struggled to the bomb bay where he told me to keep my hand on the ripcord and said to pull it when I
was clear of the ship. Then he told me to bail out. I watched the ground go by for a few seconds and then I
jumped. Before I jumped, I looked up at him and the look he had on his face was firm and solemn. He must
have known what was coming because there was no fear in his eyes at all. That was the last time I saw
Kingsley, standing in the bomb bay." Kingsley ran into copilot Lieutenant Symons as he went forward in the
bomb bay. He asked where the pilot was, and went forward to the flight deck. As Symons bailed out he
almost hit Lieutenant Anderson, who had just bailed out the nose hatch. Perhaps Kingsley was searching for
a spare parachute that should have been aboard. The men parachuting downward then noted the weird
maneuvers of their Fortress. Anderson thinks that Kingsley did his best to try to crash-land the B-17, but with
only one engine going it proved to be too much for him. At last, it corkscrewed into the earth. For his self-
sacrifice. Lieutenant Kingsley was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.
THE MEDAL OF HONOR
“The Medal of Honor is awarded by the President in the name of Congress to a person who, while a member
of the military, distinguishes himself or herself conspicuously by gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life
or her life above and beyond the call of duty while engaged in an action against an enemy of the United
States; while engaged in military operations involving conflict with an opposing foreign force; or while serving
with friendly foreign forces engaged in an armed conflict against an opposing armed force in which the
United States is not a belligerent party.”
“The deed performed must have been one of personal bravery or self-sacrifice so conspicuous as to clearly
distinguish the individual above his comrades and must have involved risk of life. Incontestable proof of the
performance of the service will be exacted and each recommendation for the award of this decoration will be
considered on the standard of extraordinary merit.”
Extracted from: Chapter 3-6, Army Regulation 600-8-22 (Military Awards) dated 25 February 1995.
KINGSLEY, DAVID R. (Air Mission)
Rank and organization: Second Lieutenant, U.S. Army Air Corps, 97th Bombardment Group, 15th Air Force.
Place and date: Ploesti Raid, Rumania, 23 June 1944.
“Entered service at. Portland, Oreg. Birth: Oregon. G.O. No.: 26, 9 April 1945. Citation: For conspicuous
gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of life above and beyond the call of duty, 23 June 1944 near
Ploesti, Rumania, while flying as bombardier of a B17 type aircraft. On the bomb run 2d Lt. Kingsley's aircraft
was severely damaged by intense flak and forced to drop out of formation but the pilot proceeded over the
target and 2d Lt. Kingsley successfully dropped his bombs, causing severe damage to vital installations. The
damaged aircraft, forced to lose altitude and to lag behind the formation, was aggressively attacked by 3 ME-
109 aircraft, causing more damage to the aircraft and severely wounding the tail gunner in the upper arm.
The radio operator and engineer notified 2d Lt. Kingsley that the tail gunner had been wounded and that
assistance was needed to check the bleeding. 2d Lt. Kingsley made his way back to the radio room, skillfully
applied first aid to the wound, and succeeded in checking the bleeding. The tail gunner's parachute harness
and heavy clothes were removed and he was covered with blankets, making him as comfortable as possible.
Eight ME-109 aircraft again aggressively attacked 2d Lt. Kingsley's aircraft and the ball turret gunner was
wounded by 20mm.shell fragments. He went forward to the radio room to have 2d Lt. Kingsley administer first
aid. A few minutes later when the pilot gave the order to prepare to bail out, 2d Lt. Kingsley immediately
began to assist the wounded gunners in putting on their parachute harness. In the confusion the tail
gunner's harness, believed to have been damaged, could not be located in the bundle of blankets and flying
clothes which had been removed from the wounded men. With utter disregard for his own means of escape,
2d Lt. Kingsley unhesitatingly removed his parachute harness and adjusted it to the wounded tail gunner.
Due to the extensive damage caused by the accurate and concentrated 20mm. fire by the enemy aircraft the
pilot gave the order to bail out, as it appeared that the aircraft would disintegrate at any moment. 2d Lt.
Kingsley aided the wounded men in bailing out and when last seen by the crew members he was standing on
the bomb bay catwalk. The aircraft continued to fly on automatic pilot for a short distance, then crashed and
burned. His body was later found in the wreckage. 2d Lt. Kingsley by his gallant heroic action was directly
responsible for saving the life of the wounded gunner.”
THE NAMING OF A KASERNE
Hof Kaserne or Camp Hof or Border Camp Hof (in Hof/Saale, Bavaria, Germany) (as it was known previously
by the Americans) was re-designated as Kingsley Barracks in June 1949. See General Order #51, HQ
European Command, dated 2 June 1949. The same General Order re-designated Hindenburg Kaserne in
Coburg as Harris Barracks.
This information above courtesy of Harold Elkins of www.usarmygermany.com
A Russian Source
The following is the piece, in Russian that I found on the Suhkoj site, and that I translated. I think this piece
was actually written by Bulgarian AF Major Marinopolski who had interrogated the remaining Opisonya crew
members. Nobody else would probably have had the unpublished detail presented below and been able to
tell the story in Russian.
А мне фильм не очень понравился. Наивный сюжет, ужасные эффекты, посредственная игра актеров
и сомнитальный хеппи-энд. Чешский Dark Blue World более современный и интересный, хотя может
тоже слишком мелодраматичный.
Вот видимо по мотивам этой истории, с совсем не счастливам концом, был создан сюжет фильма
Memphis Belle. В районе аэродрома Карлово четыре болгарских «Мессершмит-та» атаковали В-17 42-
5951 «Opissonya» из 34IBS 97BG, который до этого уже был поврежден над Румынией. В экипаж
первый пилот и командир второй лейтенант Эдвин Андерсон (Edwin Anderson), второй пилот второй
лейтенант Уильям Симоне (William Simons), штурман первый лейтенант Роберт Нью-сом (Robert
Newsom), бомбардир второй лейтенант Дэвид Кингс-ли (David Kingsley), бортмеханик сержант Джон
Мейер (John Meyer), бортрадист сержант Ллойд Кэн (Lloyd Kane), хвостовой стрелок сержант Майкл
Салливан (Michael Sullivan), стрелок нижней башни сержант Стенли Кмиек (Stanley Kmiec) и бортовые
стрелки сержанты Мартин Хеттинга (Martin Hettinga) и Гарольд Джеймс (Harold James).
Еще на подходе к Плоешти бомбардировщики 97BG были перехвачены приблизительно двадцатью
Bf- 190G и FW-190A. Сбив в течение короткого промежутка времени два В-17, немецкие истребители
прекратили атаки, поскольку бомбардировщики вошли в зону огня зенитных батарей, окружавших
Плоешти. Когда уже «Летающие Крепости» вышли на боевой курс, самолет второго лейтенанта
Андерсона получил прямое попадание зенитного снаряда, который вывел из строя двигатель № 1 на
левой плоскости и оставил позади него 12-дюймовую пробоину. Через несколько секунд взрывом
второго зенитного снаряда, разорвавшегося в непосредственной близости от хвостовой части, был
поврежден киль и выведена из строя кислородная система бомбардировщика. Несмотря на это,
Андерсон и Ньюсом удерживали «Летающую Крепость» на боевом курсе до тех пор, пока Кингсли не
сбросил бомбы на запланированную цель.
После того как поврежденный бомбардировщик, развернувшись на обратный курс, покинул зону
зенитного огня, он привлек внимание нескольких «Мессершмиттов». В ходе новых атак был
поврежден второй двигатель на левой плоскости, за которым потянулся шлейф белого дыма.
нескольких 20-мм снарядов, разорвавшихся в хвостовой части самолета, был тяжело ранен в правое
плечо и руку стрелок хвостовой башни сержант Салливан. Однако самое неприятное было в том, что
осколки буквально изрешетили его парашют, сделав непригодным для использования.
Тяжелораненый Салливан смог переползти из хвоста «Летающей Крепости» в центральную часть
где бортовые стрелки сержанты Хеттинга и Джеймс попытались оказать ему первую помощь. Однако
вскоре им стало ясно, что они не могут остановить кровотечение и потому вызвали на помощь
второго лейтенанта Кингсли, имевшего специальную медицинскую подготовку. Наложив жгут и шину,
приостановить кровотечение из ран Салливана. К этому времени в результате новой атаки
«Мессершмиттов» легкое ранение получил и стрелок нижней башни сержант Кмиек.
Летевший в юго-западном направлении, В-17 скоро оказался над территорией Болгарии. Он терял
высоту, и потому второй лейтенант Андерсон приказал экипажу выбросить за борт все, что только
можно, чтобы максимально облегчить самолет. Вскоре в небе появилась пара P-51D и у Андерсона и
его экипажа появилась надежда на благополучное завершение вылета. Однако их радость была
недолгой, поскольку пилоты «Мустангов» сообщили, что у них осталось мало топлива и что они не
смогут сопроводить бомбардировщик до Италии.
Через некоторое время «Летающая Крепость» пролетела в непосредственной близости от
аэродрома Карлово. В тот момент в Карлово, помимо болгарских истребителей, размещалось и звено
немецких Bf- 109G-6.
Пилоты Люфтваффе прибыли туда, чтобы помочь в обучении болгарских летчиков-истребителей.
Получив сообщение об американском бомбардировщике, майор Гельмут Кюхле (Helmut Kiihle),
руководившей подготовкой, отдал приказ поднять в воздух четыре немецких и четыре болгарских
Одинокий В-17, у которого к тому же была выведена из строя хвостовая башня, стал легкой добычей
для истребителей. Когда они догнали бомбардировщик, пилоты Люфтваффе предоставили болгарам
право самостоятельно добить его. В результате четыре болгарских Bf-109G-6 один за другим, заходя
для атаки сзади, практически беспрепятственно в упор расстреляли «Летающую Крепость». От нее
начали отваливаться целые фрагменты обшивки, были ранены еще два члена экипажа. Через
несколько секунд судьба бомбардировщика была решена и Андерсон приказал своему экипажу
Кингсли дотащил раненого сержанта Салливана до открытого бомболюка. Поскольку парашют
Салливана был поврежден, то Кингсли надел на него собственный и помог ему выпрыгнуть из
падающего В-17. Спустя короткое время бомбардировщик вместе с оставшимся на его борту Кингсли
рухнул на землю. Второй лейтенант Дэвид Кингсли пожертвовал своей жизнью, чтобы спасти
раненого члена экипажа, и затем был посмертно награжден высшей военной наградой США Медалью
Почета. Случайной жертвой падения
«Летающей Крепости» стала болгарская семья из трех человек, отдыхавшая в тот день в
Bulgarian records for the 23rd of June, 1944 show the following:
4 Bulgarian pilots credited with damage or shoot-downs on 6/23/44 during attacks on B-17’s and 24’s,
All other credits for the 23rd are Liberators (B-24’s)
And a credit on the next day that might be our Kingsley…
Unless the German instructors took all the credit or no one followed the plane to verify the shoot-down.