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Capt. Joseph P. Killebrew

Capt. Killebrew (back row, no hat) and his crew pose in front of their B-29 Superfortress.

Capt. Killebrew (back row, no hat) and his crew pose in front of their B-29 Superfortress.

The 770th Bombardment Squadron was established in 1943 as one of the new B-29 squadrons. Crews were trained in Kansas while the new aircraft were being completed. In 1944, the squadron was deployed to an airfield in central China where they would stage the first attacks on Japanese Home Islands since the 1942 Doolittle Raid.

One of those raids took place on November 21, 1944. The target was an aircraft factory in Omura on the island of Kyushu. It was the first time the squadron had encountered strong opposition from the Japanese. Two B-29s were confirmed losses and another – Capt. Killebrew’s aircraft – was a presumed loss. Almost 40 Japanese fighter aircraft were destroyed and more damaged.

Capt. Killebrew and his crew were officially listed as Missing in Action. This would be changed to Killed in Action after the Japanese surrender. He left behind a wife, Marjorie, and 5-month old daughter, Emily Link. It would take another 60 years for the family to learn that the aircraft had crashed into the sea just off Kyushu. Parts of the wreckage were salvaged and all the bodies were recovered and buried on the beach.

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