Kingsley Field honors namesake Lt. David R. Kingsley with new flagship

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Jefferson Thompson
  • 173rd Fighter Wing

The 173rd Fighter Wing at Kingsley Field sought to honor its namesake, 2nd Lt. David R. Kingsley, by unveiling an aircraft painted in memory of his sacrifice 75 years ago, Jan. 10, 2019.

Dubbed the Heritage Jet, paint crews worked to include items directly drawn from Kingsley’s time in WWII where he was a bombardier on the crew of a B-17 bomber.

Kingsley sacrificed his life in the execution of that duty, saving the life of a wounded tail gunner, Michael J. Sullivan, by taking off his parachute and strapping it on the wounded man as their badly damaged aircraft lost altitude. With that decision Kingsley was forced to remain on the aircraft as it crashed. He was awarded the Medal of Honor for “conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of life above and beyond the call of duty,” states the citation.

During the ceremony, 173rd Fighter Wing Commander Col. Jeffrey Edwards said the closest we may get to the man himself is captured in a personal journal.

“On the yellowed pages is David R. Kingsley’s handwriting annotating each mission that he had,” Edwards said. “On April 29th it talks about his first raid, ‘lots of flak—got a piece in the nose and missed me by two inches it seemed like it was glass off the nose, then I come to the wing-fast and a piece hit me on the hand—the pain did not stay with me,’” read Edwards directly from the pages of the journal.

Edwards returned the journal to the lectern and held up a copy of a letter from the wounded gunner saved by Kingsley’s selfless act of heroism to Kingsley’s oldest surviving brother, Tommy, in 1945.

“’Tommy, I am more than grateful that my life was spared by your brother Dave giving up his life so that I could live,’” he read. “’I am not ashamed to admit when I think of Dave I also have tears come into my eyes, if it weren’t for me getting wounded Dave’s life would have been saved,’” read Edwards.

That history is the inspiration for the paint scheme adorning the Heritage Jet.

“Every piece you see here has a reason it’s there,” said Lt. Col. Micah Lambert, the 173rd Maintenance Group commander, as he pointed to the jet. He explained the name “Sandman” stenciled on the nose of the F-15 was the name of the aircraft Kingsley was assigned to. There is additional nose art of the squadron and group he was assigned to. The underlying paint scheme is modeled after the B-17 with mottled green and brown camouflage on the top and light grey paint on the bottom. The wings both have black and white “invasion stripes” denoting a friendly or allied aircraft during WWII.

Perhaps the most striking element is a portrait of David R. Kingsley set over Crater Lake one of the most iconic features of Southern Oregon.

The final element of the ceremony involved having two of Kingsley’s nieces pull shrouds away from the aircraft revealing the artwork. Each of them then spoke to the assembled Airmen and community members.

“When news of Uncle David’s death reached the family they were heartbroken, but when they learned of the circumstances of his death they weren’t surprised by his actions,” said niece, Leslie Jones with emotion in her voice.

Edwards summarized the qualities that the 173rd Fighter Wing holds dear and the reason for the ceremony and the Heritage Jet project saying, “What he did was care for people at a level most of us will never get to know, he cared for his teammates, he cared for others and he never gave up.”