On this November 11th – which we used to call “Armistice Day” when I was a kid – I got to thinking about my Uncle Kenny. I wish I could have met the man.
His official designation was 2nd Lt. Kenneth Dutton of the Army Air Corps, VIII Bomber Command, (8th Air Force), 384th Bomb Group, 546th Bomb Squadron.
2LT Dutton was a co-pilot on the B-17 Flying Fortress nicknamed the “Sky Queen.”
His aircraft was shot down on July 28, 1943. Uncle Kenny, along with 8 other crewmen were killed during a bombing mission that targeted Kassel, Germany, where the Fieseler aircraft plant, the Henschel tank making facilities, railway works and engine works were located. Bad weather plagued the mission, and only four planes were able to bomb the primary target. The B17s that were unable to make it to Kassel bombed other Targets of Opportunity.
The Sky Queen was shot down by Lt. Erich Hondt, Staffelkapitan of 2./JG 11. Uncle Kenny’s plane crashed near Kortwoude, Netherland, which is now Surhuisterveen, Netherlands. His plane was the only one lost from the 546th Bomb Squadron that day.
The interesting thing is that Uncle Kenny didn’t have to go on the bombing mission that day. It was the squadron procedure that any new co-pilots who reported to the squadron were supposed to take a few flights with experienced crews to get a feel for what it was like before being permanently assigned to an airplane crew.
Newly-arrived 2nd Lt. Jacques E. Riddel was slated to fly the July 28th mission as co-pilot of the Sky Queen.
Uncle Kenny asked permission to also be included on the flight so he could have the same number of missions as the rest of his crew. That way, they could all rotate back to the U.S.A. together, after they had flown their required number of missions. His request was granted so there were 11 on board the aircraft instead of the usual 10 crew members.
Two crew members survived the crash; Sgt. Salvatore J. Perrotti (Radio Operator) and T/Sgt. Howard J. Adams (Top Turret Gunner /Engineer) were taken prisoners. T/Sgt. Adams actually unveiled a stone plaque in 1985 commemorating the crew in Opende, Netherlands.
I have seen pictures of Uncle Kenny and have heard some stories of his life. My Dad was close to him, and I know it was hard for him to talk about his brother. All four of the Dutton Boys were in some branch of the service during WWII. Dad and Uncle Harold were in the U.S. Army. Uncle Kenny was in the U.S. Army Air Corps. Uncle Sonny was in the Navy.
Out of all the Dutton boys, Uncle Kenny was the most outgoing. He was the favorite of the family. For a brief time he attended the University of Kentucky and was a Cheerleader. I have a picture of him in his leather flight jacket with fur collar and the proverbial high brimmed flight hat that you see the crews wearing in all the WWII movies. He wears a jaunty grin and exudes all the confidence in the world.
Uncle Kenny must have been quite a lady’s man. I have seen a picture that one of our relatives has with Uncle Kenny, in his formal uniform, standing with his arm entwined with a girl. Let me be more specific. This “girl” could have been mistaken for a Hollywood starlet. She was a gorgeous black-haired, petite woman in a fur coat. We don’t know if the photo was taken in the U.S. or in England where his squadron was based.
The picture with Uncle Kenny in the fur-collared leather flight jacket hit me hard when I first saw it. I thought he was the coolest looking guy I had ever seen. I wanted to be like him. I guess that is one reason, when I joined the service, I asked to be given the flight exam to see if I could be slated to fly. I was granted that privilege, and after 15 months of flight training, I got my Naval Aviator Wings as a Marine 2nd Lt.
I was luckier than Uncle Kenny. I was shot down in a helicopter when I was a co-pilot, but everyone got out without a scratch, thanks to the efforts of one of the best pilots in our squadron, Jim Hintz. I was designated a pilot and had the privilege of flying in the best H-46 Squadron in Viet Nam, HMM-364, “The Purple Foxes”. Lastly, I made it out alive and have a chance to reminisce with my squadron mates.
However, I really wish I could have met Uncle Kenny. I bet he was some kind of cool guy. In the next dimension, or as we say in Civil War reenacting “On the Other Side,” I am looking forward to catching up on his brief time on the earth and finally finding out who that “girl” was.
He stood with his crew full of pride.
His hat cocked jauntily to the side.
On his last mission he was just along for the ride.
But on that flight he was slated to die.
He had a lure that reached my soul.
In my life his essence played a role
I decided to fly which was also his goal.
In some way I followed the mold.
Our family hated to lose his talents
His death was a great loss to his parents.
But he is my ideal of the G. I. Generation.
They gave their all to save our civilization.
So in that Ready Room he now abides
Where all we pilots will ultimately arrive
To share the camaraderie on which we thrive
And tell the tall tales about our lives.