L. Kirk John

The 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.