Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor when Kirk John worked as a welder,
First Class Navy Qualified, on submarine engines in Coatesville,
Pennsylvania. He continued welding until September, 1942
when he joined the service. John possessed an intense desire
to fly and went over his commanding officer for a transfer
to the Air Corps. He passed his exams with flying colors,
but when his actions were learned, his commanding officer
transferred him to a unit ready to be shipped out. Orders
arrived just in time; John was to report to the Nashville
Tennessee Classification Center for the Air Corps.
Many months of pilot training landed him in several different
locations. In Tennessee, two weeks of testing confirmed John
ranked with the top 30% to receive pilot training. He went
on to Maxwell Field for Pre-Flight, then to Arcadia, Florida
for Primary Flying School. Here, just six hours and 45 minutes
of duel training prepared him for soloing. Dragging his plane
over the fence on his first landing would not be symbolic
of his flying skills. From that point on, John’s piloting
skills proved first-rate.
John should have graduated with his Basic class
43K but a hernia operation prompted a three-month delay.
He graduated with 44C. Mariana, Florida brought his Advanced
Training, a pilot’s graduation and wings, and in Punta
Gorda, Florida for Gunnery training, John held the best Gunnery
record of the ten men in his squadron.
John was assigned to the 55th Fighter Group where he met
his first Mustang, and on December 15th, flew his first combat
mission into Germany, thus beginning his combat Tour of Duty.
On his fourth mission after strafing a troop train, and station
John and a few other squadron members closed in on some FW-190s.
After many skilled maneuvers, John and his squadron destroyed
five in the encounter.
On combat mission ten, John fired at an ME-109, hitting
the wing roots and fuselage when it exploded in front of
him. The explosion flipped him on his side, and he feared
dragging his wing and doing cartwheels in a field. Instead,
he found a nearby hanger, but soon realized it was enemy
territory, and he, their target. Just above the treetop line,
John returned to 5,000 feet and had to land in a snow covered
field. A man with a covered wagon eventually approached,
and led him to Brussels, away from approaching Germans.
John Kirk experienced many other close calls throughout
the war, and believes he survived each because, “The
Lord was with him.” As a member of the 55th Fighter
Group, he was a member of, “the first Fighter Group
over Berlin, the German capital.” He also learned his
Mustang could travel up to 660 MPH after chasing down a 262.
He spent a cold March night in a French chateau after enemy
fire knocked his radio out.
John was a also a member of an interrogating panel that
interviewed two German Aces, General Galland, and General
Hitchold. After the interview, they took the two generals
down to check out the Mustang’s cockpit. General Gallant
opened the bubble canopy and remarked, “If we would
have had visibility like this, we would have done a lot better
than we did.”
John Kirk finally ventured home in November of 1945, but
not before racking up further remarkable stories, reaching
Lieutenant rank, and being one of the 3 _ percent of his
fighter group to become an Ace. John flew in the reserves
for 2 _ years in the Reserves in Pennsylvania, but when his
son, Leek John, Jr. was born in 1948, he grounded himself
and became an agent for Prudential Insurance Company.