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Unit History

There is still some debate as to the origins of the moniker. One version is that Ken's Men were named for the tremendous pilot, Capt. Ken McCullar of the 63rd Bomb Squadron, who, along with then 1st Lt. James T. Murphy, Major Benn, 1st Lt. Folmer "The Swede" Sogaard, Glenn Lewis and others, helped perfect the technique of "skip bombing". On page 29 of his book "The Forgotten Fifth" , Michael John Claringbould writes that on 12 April, 1943 McCullar's B-17 " 'Blues in the Night' hit a wallaby during a night take-off from Seven-mile, killing Group Commander Ken McCullar" and all crewmates (from the 64th SQ): Byron Q. Andrew, Blaine McCord, Jr., John W. Schultz, Elmer R. Hansen, Philip A. Zumwalt, Bert F. Breddemeier, George A. Mowad, David W. Stuckey, Pierre R. O'Grady, and Michael J. Paz (of the 63rd SQ). Claringbould has 2 footnotes regarding this. The first tells how the report says the plane hit a kangaroo, but since there are no kangaroos on New Guinea, it had to be a wallaby of which there were plenty in that area of the world (there is a great dispute as to the veracity of either 'official version' of McCullar and crew's deaths. See below in the "Articles" section.) The second footnote says, "Henceforth the Group would term itself 'Ken's Men' in honour of Ken McCullar. There has been argument since as to whether the sobriquet honoured McCullar or General Kenney, but private diary extracts confirm McCullar's honorary status."

The other story, as indicated above, and one that is documented both in James T. Murphy's book, "Skip Bombing" and in General Kenney's book, "General Kenney Reports: A Personal History of the Pacific War", is that Ken's Men were named for General George Kenney. From Kenney's book:

"Bill Benn came over for a chat. He said the 43rd Group wanted to call themselves the Kens Men and did I have any objection. I told him that I had none and to tell the gang that I felt highly honored. The next time I inspected the group they had painted out the cute, scantily clothed girls and substituted the words "Kens Men" in block letters a foot high. I was flattered, of course, but I sort of missed the pretty gals."

James Murphy recounts in his book that, while having lunch with General Kenney, he was told by him that he "couldn't have been more proud than when Bill Benn told him that the 43rd Group wanted to call their outfit the 'Kensmen'" after Kenney. (Both Murphy's and Kenny's books can be purchased from this site's bookstore.)

The Motto and Isignia

The motto of the 43rd BG was "Willing, Able, Ready"---W.A.R.

The tails of planes in the 43rd could be identified by the horizontal red and white stripes just at the edges of the rudders, with room before it for each squadron's emblems. (To see each Squadron's insignia and specific tail markings, visit their respective Briefing Rooms accessible from the main page of this site.)

The design for the 5th AAF's shoulder patch was approved on 25 March, 1943. The stars in the design are in the pattern of the Southern Cross, where the Fifth did their fighting. The comet motif was taken from this AF's former aircraft markings; the three tails of the comet are said to symbolize fighters, bombers, and troop carriers.


Before the start of WWII, the 43rd Bombardment Group, constituted on 20 November, 1940 and consisting of the 63rd, 64th, and 65th Squadrons and with the 13th Reconnaissance Squadron as an attached unit, was a part of the 1st Air Force. Activated on 15 January, 1941 at Langley Field, Virginia, it began the war flying B-17 ASW patrols from Pope Field, North Carolina and MacDill Field, Florida.
It wasn't until Friday, 27 February, 1942 that the 13th Reconnaissance Squadron --later designated the 403rd Squadron-- arrived at Melbourne, Australia with B-17's. The other squadrons followed, the 64th Squadron arriving in Sydney, Australia on Sunday, 15 March, 1942 and the 63rd and 65th Squadrons arriving on Saturday, 28 March, 1942, both equipped with B-17s. Thus began the legend of Ken's Men.

They became a group of heroes who earned the following honors:

    Southwest Pacific Area (23 July, 1942 - 23 January, 1943);
    Battle of the Bismarck Sea (2, 3, 4 March, 1943);
    Huon Peninsula Campaign (November, 1943 - March, 1944);
    The Army Air Force in World War II;
    The Philippines Presidential Citation.

They were men among whose ranks were two recipients of the Medal of Honor -- awarded to Captain Jay Zeamer and Lieutenant Joseph R. Sarnoski (see below for their story). They were men without whom the Japanese stronghold in the Pacific would have remained just that. They are men to whom America owes a great deal of gratitude for their sacrifice. I know they have mine.

Articles, Audio, Video, and Miscellaneous Pictures

Video: Pearl Harbor Film - WWII Propaganda Video made in 1943
Pearl Harbor Attack audio MP3s of radio reports and an eyewitness account

Greeting: your personalized WWII letter of induction. Use your browser navigation buttons to return to this page.
Admission ticket from graduation from bombardier school in Texas (sent by grandson of 1st Lt. Robert "Bob" C. Ryan)
Instrument Flying Certification (from the Shad Shaddox Collection), signed by Colonel Harry Hawthorne, dated 22 May 1944
Gunnery School Diploma belonging to Jack Matisoff, sent by his son, Alan
The 5-Minute Guide to the 43rd Bomb Group
USAF Historical Division's Brief History of the 43rd Bombardment Group, 1940-1952 prepared by the USAF Historical Division, Research Studies Institute, at Maxwell AFB, Alabama, March 1956
The 5th Air Force in WWII month-by-month chronology
Various photos of 5th AF "brass"sent by Douglas P. Walker, son of Kenneth N. Walker, Commander of 5th Bomber Command:
Picture of Colonel Harry J. Hawthorne, CO 24 May 1943 - 18 November 1943
General Kenney as a Strategic Leader (PDF Download Adobe Reader or Foxit Reader to view)
Lessons Learned in Combat from reports made by various Kensmen, from Benn to McCullar
Colonel James Pettus Manuscript (PDF) the journal entries made by Colonel Pettus from 1 January 1944 to 14 August 1945, with introductory material by James Cherkauer. This manuscript is as it appeared in the 43rd Bomb Group Association's newsletters.
The 43rd's Sign (picture)
WWII Slang of the 5th AF
Code Names for Japanese Aircraft
Japanese Occupation Money
From Boston to Sydney on the Queen Mary an account by Ed Gammill
Penetrating the Philippine Blockade account by A. A. Fletcher of pre-March 1942 activities and a daring April, 1942 rescue mission
The Deaths of Capt. McCullar and Crew: The Controversy
Mission Logs a collection of mission logs
Russell M. Bragg's account of his first Bombing Mission (with the 403rd)
A Ride on "Satan's Sister" a Chicago Tribune reporter goes with the 403rd on a raid on Rabaul and lives to write about it (14 October 1943)
Captain Jay Zeamer and Lieutenant Joseph R. Sarnoski
About the Medal of Honor, awarded to Zeamer and Sarnoski
Letter from Roosevelt awarding the Medal of Honor to Jay Zeamer (dated 16 January 1944)
Picture of Joseph Sarnoski's Grave at the "Punchbowl Cemetery" (National Military Cemetary of the Pacific)
Bob Hope & his Troupe entertain the men on Owi Island - 1944
Log Book entry made by Sam Commons of the 65th SQ on 1 September 1944, the first daylight raid of the Philippines
A Reporter's Account of the First Daylight Raid on the Philippines INS correspondent, Lee Van Atta, rides along with the 43rd on 1 Sep. 1944
A letter to home dated 12 September 1944 from 2nd Lt. James E. O'Brien, 63rd SQ, sent by his brother, Alfred O'Brien
Painting first raid of Balikpapan, Borneo, on Oct. 10, 1944 by English military artist, Alan Eaton
Picture of a Chinese Blood Chit
Plane Lost on Owi, an excerpt from the book "My Lucky Dice" by Paul Nichols (see Books and Videos pagse of this site) describing the hideous loss of earthly life caused by a B-24 explosion
Picture: Aerial view over Biak
Writer Lee G. Miller talks to Major Albert W. Brownfield of the 63rd SQ about bombing Jap ships (article by Alfred O'Brien)
Picture of the 43rd's base at Clark Field, April 1945
The Williams Mission one of the most hellacious missions you'll read about (63rd SQ, ca April 1945)
Radar Countermeasures Report
The Kensman Christmas card meant for stateside and the Christmas card air-dropped over Manila (for another Christmas card, see the section on Bob Hope above)

The 90th Bomb Group vs. the 43rd Bomb Group Rivalry
Pics of Ernie Pyle (stock) and his monument at Ie Shima, page 2, page 3
Ernie Pyle's Grave at the "Punchbowl Cemetery" (National Military Cemetary of the Pacific)
Interview with Sgt. Carl M. "Gabe" Gabriel
Tokyo Rose various articles, memories, and sound files concerning your "favorite enemy", Iva Toguri --"Orphan Ann"
The Japs surrender, page2, page 3 This series of photos, from John Kubiak, shows Jap Betty Bombers, painted white with green crosses to identify them as 'surrendered', and Japanese dignitaries as they give up the fight on Ie Shima
Videos: V-J Day
Section from U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey Summary Report on the efficacy of airpower in the Pacific War
Grave of Colonel James "Jim" Pettus, R.I.P. (picture)
Plaque in Bangor, Maine (formerly Dow Air Base) honoring the 43rd BG
Lucky Lady II Pictures of the post-WWII era B-50 belonging to the 43rd BG. This is the first plane to fly non-stop around the world.


Map of the Pacific
Map of New Guinea
Map of Owi Island
Maps sent by Shad Shaddox, 64th SQ Pilot

Poetry and Song from the 43rd

'Lae Convoy' written in 1943 by a member of the 43rd
'I Dreamed of the Man I Killed' written in 1942 by A. A. Fletcher
The Song of the Seahawks the official song of the 63rd Squadron, written by 1st Lt. Daniel B. Schuffman
Another song from the Seahawks
Yet another song from the Seahawks
'High Flight' by Pilot Officer John Gillespie Magee, Jr. An American flier with the Royal Canadian Air Force, he died in aerial combat on December 11, 1941
'Who's Next' a poem written 10 April 1999, by Al O'Brien in honor of the crew of the B-24 named "Who's Next". His brother, "Bucky" O'Brien was among them.


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