WORLD WAR II ACE
He graduated from Central High School in 1933 and attended the University of Missouri-Kansas City. He enlisted in the service in 1937 with the Army at Fairfax Field in Kansas City, and graduated from Kelly Air Force Flying School in February, 1938. He spent 34 years with the First Fighter Group, commanded by Brigadier General Robert Israel at Selfridge Air Force Base. Ken was shipped to San Diego immediately after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Later, the 354th Fighter Group at Hamilton Air Force Base was activated with Colonel Martin as its commander, and the unit was shipped to England in the fall of 1943, where the group wasequipped with the first P-51s in the European Theatre. There he brought both men and equipment together in preparation for combat. The unit was assigned to the Ninth Fighter command and flew long range escort missions with the Eighth Air Force. Ken was promoted to Colonel at age 27 after his group accounted for 17 German fighters on one long range mission with no losses. He flew 17 missions, all of which were long range fighter cover for the Eighth Air Force Bomber Group. On February 11, 1944, Colonelattemptto use the POWs as a negotiating tool provided opportunity for escape as the POWs were being moved. Ken and a bomber pilot, Colonel Paul T. Burton, who now resides in Arkansas, escaped while the Germans were making prison transfers on a forced march towe 354th Fighter Group included Brigadier General James Howard and Colonel George Bickell.
The group was credited with the largest number of aerial victories in the European Theatre. Colonel Martin was credited with 54 victories.
He was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, Distinguished Flying Cross with cluster, Air Medal with seven clusters and Purple Heart.
Ken retired from the U.S. Air Force in 1950 from a staff position at Langley Field, Virginia. His experiences have been chronicled in TARGET LUFTWAFFE by Bill Ong, and his escape from Germany with Colonel Paul T. Burton was chronicled in Burton's book, ESCAPE FROM TERROR. After retiring from the military, Ken returned to his hometown of Kansas City and established a career owning his own real estate firm. He was member of the Wornall Baptist Church; Disabled American Veterans; Quiet Birdmen; American ExPrisoners of War Inc.; the Retired Officers Association; the 40 Year Ago Club; First Fighter Group Association; 354th Fighter Group; American Fighter Aces; an honorary member of the Kansas City Marine Aero Club; and a former member of theOrder of World Wars. Ken is survived by his wife of 60 years, Mildred G. Martin; son, William D. & wife, Olivia Martin, Huntsville, AL; daughter, Myrna & husband, Dio Rockers, Doylestown, PA; sister, Ruth (memorial 25462937) & husband, Merle Zook, Hemet, CA.
Published in The Kansas City Star,
Date: December 17, 1998
COL US AIR FORCE
WORLD WAR II
PRISONER OF WAR
Mildred Gracey Martin
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