39th Bomb Group (VH)

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2nd Lt Francis K. Race

Lt Col Francis K. Race
Francis Kenneth Race was drafted December 1942; He was sent via troop train to Camp Barkley, TX where he completed basic training and awaited assignment. It was while here he decided on the spur of the moment to transfer to Air Corps.

He was sent to Shepard Field, TX and once again had to go through basic training again. He was now a aviation cadet! He was then sent to Cenre College for 5 months in Danville, KY that was also an elimination procedure; only 4 out of 10 cadets get their wings. Next step was onto the classification center in Nashville, TN. The day came their designation was posted, next to Kenneth’s name said, “Pilot”.

In Primary Flight School he became acquainted with the PT-19.

On 9 March 1944 Kenneth flew solo his first plane.

In Basic Flight School they learned to fly the longer canopied BT-13. On his check ride, he was passed with minimum satisfactory. He had to have another check ride with the Squadron Commander. A few days later his name on the list to go to Advanced Flight School.

At different stages of the war, requirements changed. In June of 1944 there were requirements for bomber pilots than fighter pilots.

The next Air Corps Base for Race was Hendricks Field, FL. This is where he was first introduced to the B-17 “Flying Fortress”. Toward the end of 1944, the war in Europe was turning in our favor and more emphasis was out on the defeat of the other enemy, Japan. While awaiting orders, a B-29 Boeing Superfortress appeared on the flight line. This was the plane being used for long-range missions to bomb the Japanese mainland an they needed a crews to fly them. A notice appeared on the bulletin board to “sign here” if interested. Kenneth signed up, the next thing he knew he was in Pyote, TX transitioning in the B-29.

He and his crew flew to Hawaii first, and then once again airborne they opened sealed orders to see what their destination would be. Next Stop was Kwajalein atoll, then Guam. They were then assigned to the 60th Bomb Squadron. Race and his crew were informed they would be Replacement Crew # 6; they still weren’t ready to drop bombs on Japan. The new crews arriving on Guam still needed more ground, sea, survival and even more flight training.

On 16 July 1945, after all the training Replacement Crew 6 was put on the combat orders. The mission was to bomb a shipyard in Handa, south of Tokyo, along with the other 36 crews of the 39th Bomb Group. Crew 6 would be called upon 7 more times before the surrender. On the night of August 13, they took off on what would be the last mission to hit an industrial target.

The entire 314th Bomb Wing flew a final maximum effort mission on 2 September 1945 as Japan signed the surrender terms aboard the battleship Missouri in Tokyo Bay. They took their last look at Japan and returned to Guam.

After the war, the remainder of bomb groups that were to remain activated was sent to the Philippines. One day in March 1946, they asked for volunteers to fly the war-weary B-29s to Hawaii, Race was first in line to accept the trip. He decided to take all his belongings with him; he was going to try and work out a deal once he got to Hawaii. The trip back to Hawaii was hectic but they made it back safely. Once on the ground, the crew (which was a different crew than he had originally gone overseas with) was given a 3-week break while the powers that be decided what to do with them. They finally got the news they were hoping for, they didn’t need us anymore; The trip home was on a luxury liner that was under contract to the government as a troop ship. It was a pleasant journey and they partied all the way. After he got home, there was paper work to sign, one of which was to keep our commissions in the Air Corps Reserve.

First Night back in U.S. San Francisco
L to R: 1st Lt Hollis Logan, Don Bunch, F/O Kenneth Welsh, FE P-01R2*; 2nd Lt Richard Stettler,Nav, P-06R2*; John Cox; William Biller; Dick Jual; Ken Race* - *60th Squadron Personnel

About the nine years later, a friend told Kenneth about an Air Force Reserve flying unit that was looking for Pilots. He and his friend Jim Riddle visited the Clinton County Air Force Base for more information. They were given a ride in a C-46 and let them take the controls. They were hooked; they remained in the Reserves Program until they had enough service to retire. They updated our WWII C-46s to the Korean era C-119. We accumulated more flying hours as Reservist than we did on active duty.

Retirement Ceremony
Lt Col Francis K. Race (left) Col Ed Smith presenting 30 year service active and reserve June 1974

In July 1975, while working as a visual information specialist for Aeronautical Systems Division (ASD) Visual Communications Division at Wright Patterson Air Force Base, OH, Ken talked with his boss and got approval to paint a mural. The idea originated about a year prior when Race read a notice in the daily bulletin asking for an artist to go to the Pentagon to paint murals for the corridors. But by the time he applied, the job was filled, however also by that time he had decided he wanted to paint one anyway.

He spent many hours of research for the project trying to detail the history of the area, and studying the ways of putting that history on canvas.

The Mural

Photo from Springfield (O.) News June 13, 1976

A Shawnee Indian chief stares across 21 feet of canvas, on the other end an astronaut does the same from the opposite direction. The painting on the canvas between them has a meaning for each. For the Indian chief, it depicts the future, for the astronaut history.

Photo from Springfield (O.) News June 13, 1976

Segments include (1776) A Shawnee Indian chief; fur trades who traveled by canoe on one of the many streams in the Miami Valley; (1800’s) a fort and a formation of troops; pioneers clearing land and a farming scene; (1909) a Wright Flyer Model A; “White scarf and Brown shoe era follow of aviation up to the 1930s with biplanes and a Jenny; WWII with a B-17 and the birth of the present day Air Force with a WWII Army Air Corps officer shaking hands with a “blue suiter”; an F-4 shows the entrance of the jet age behind some early buildings and hangars at Wright Patterson; Civilian contributions are shown with civilians working in laboratories; the final portion shows the beginning of the space age with the astronaut staring back across the mural and the B-1.

Race Family
Rear: Ken Race with wife Majorie and daughter Becky,(a school teacher)
Front: Son, Tim, (a newspaper editor) and daugther Karen (lawyer)

Lt Col Francis K. Race took his Final Flight on 14 June 2005. Services were held 18 June 2005, he is buried in Ferncliff Cemetery.

Tapp Crew Main Page
60th Squadron Crew Index
Source: Excerpts from "World War II A View From the Cockpit" by Ken Race, Pilot;
Photo/Excerpts from Springfield (O.) News June 13, 1976; All other photo courtesy of Ken Race