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 Colin Purdie Kelly Jr.

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Colin Purdie Kelly Jr.

Birth
Madison, Madison County, Florida, USA
Death 10 Dec 1941 (aged 26)
Aparri, Cagayan Province, Cagayan Valley, Philippines
Burial Madison, Madison County, Florida, USA
Memorial ID 14540025 View Source
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World War II United States Army Air Corps Pilot. Pearl Harbor was still smoldering when the Japanese turned their attention to sneak attacks on Clark Field in the Philippines. Captain Colin Kelly and his crew managed to assume flight in their B-17C, only partially loaded with bombs, during a bombing raid on the airfield by Japanese Zero fighters. An invasion fleet was spotted off the coast of Luzon. The bombardier dropped the load on the largest of the Japanese ships with one hit igniting a huge blaze on the target. On returning to Clark Field, the bomber was attacked by a number of Japanese fighters led by their Ace Saburo Sakai. The plane was hit many times and set afire. The waist gunner was hit and killed. Kelly ordered the rest of the crew to jump as he remained at the controls to steady the craft. As the 6th and final crew member exited the plane, it would crash land a few miles from the runway at Clark Field. Captain Colin Kelly perished. The rest of his crew survived the attack, even though some were captured by the Japanese and spent the rest of the war as POW's. Colin's remains were hastily interred at Clark Field and then returned after the War with great fanfare to his hometown of Madison and re buried in the town cemetery with full military honors. The heroic story of the exploits of Kelly and his crew electrified the nation. Due to his selfless acts of courage, he was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross on December 10, 1941, the second highest award for heroism in the nation, by General Douglas MacArthur. He was survived by a small toddler, "Corky" Colin B. Kelley III. A national fund spearheaded by a Tampa newspaper garnered thousands of dollars placed into a "Corky" fund to care for the youngster. President Roosevelt penned a request to "the President of the United States in 1956." F.D.R. asked that the airman's infant son get a West Point appointment. He was born Colin Purdie Kelly in Monticello, Florida, the home of his mother's parents but grew up in nearby Madison. He had a typical American childhood growing up in the small town located in the extreme north portion of the state near the Georgia border. Colin attended the local elementary school while active in the Boy Scouts and interested in Aviation. He was an excellent student at Madison High School which led to an appointment to West Point. After graduation, Kelly received his primary flight instruction and earned his wings at Randolph Field in San Antonio and assigned as a bomber pilot. Prior to Pearl Harbor, Kelly became a Captain and was assigned to the 42nd Bomb Squadron in Hawaii as commander of a B-17 which became known as "The Flying Fortress." In September of 1941, Kelly and his crew flew to Clark Field in the Philippines for duty. Legacy...He is referred as the first hero of WWII and is remembered and honored today in many special ways. Streets, avenues and secondary schools from San Francisco to Madison, Florida have been named in his honor. The town park now known as The Four Freedoms Park, derived its name from remarks made by President Franklin Roosevelt in his 1941 Annual Message to Congress. In that speech, President Roosevelt spoke of the four basic freedoms, expression, worship, want and fear. In the center of the park is a memorial to Capt Kelly designed by famed sculptor Walter Russell, funded by the Women's National Institute and dedicated on June 14, 1944 by the state governor. A book entitled "The Legend of Colin Kelly, America's First Hero of WWII" co authored by Dennis E. McClendon and Wallace F. Richards was published. In August 2000, the newly constructed post office in Madison was dedicated and renamed in honor of Capt. Kelly. An elaborate monument with the bust of Kelly stood along the runway at Clark Air force Base in the Philippines until the facility was closed and then it was relocated to the huge American Cemetery and Memorial located in Manila. A transport ship, the USS Colin P. Kelly was launched during World War II. Ironically, it was sunk after the war was over by hitting a mine in the English Channel. Footnote: Colin P. Kelly III, the son of Capt Kelly did attend and graduate from West Point. However, he became an Episcopal Priest during his varied military career. At one time he served as Assistant Chaplain at the Point. After retiring from the Military, he became pastor of an Episcopal church in New Mexico during which time he was honored by invitation from the 1996 104th U.S. Congress to give the opening prayer.

Bio by: Donald Greyfield


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  • Maintained by: Find a Grave
  • Originally Created by: George S. Ellington
  • Added: 7 Jun 2006
  • Find a Grave Memorial 14540025
  • Find a Grave, database and images (www.findagrave.com/memorial/14540025/colin-purdie-kelly : accessed ), memorial page for Colin Purdie Kelly Jr. (11 Jul 1915–10 Dec 1941), Find a Grave Memorial ID 14540025, citing Oak Ridge Cemetery, Madison, Madison County, Florida, USA ; Maintained by Find A Grave .