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John Riley Kane


John Riley Kane (January 5, 1907 – May 29, 1996) was a colonel in the United States Army Air Corps and later the United States Air Force. He received the U.S. military's highest decoration, the Congressional Medal of Honor in World War II, for his leadership, courage, and heroism for leading the 98th, the 44th, and the 389th Bombardment Groups in Operation Tidal Wave, the low altitude attack on the oil refineries at Ploesti in 1943, all of whom successfully bombed their assigned targets, including Kane's target, the Astra Romano Refinery at Ploesti Rumania, on Aug. 1, 1943

A native of Texas, Kane joined the Army Air Corps after graduating from Baylor University. In WWII in July 1942, he was sent to the Mediterranean Theater of War where he flew 43 combat missions against shipping in the Mediterranean Sea and over Italian ports for a total of 250 combat hours in Africa, the Middle East, and, later, Europe.

In North Africa, Kane commanded the 98th Bombardment Group, a B-24 Liberator unit nicknamed the "Pyramiders". His daring flying operations caused German intelligence reports to dub him "Killer Kane."

Kane earned the Silver Star during a mission when his plane became separated from the formation and was attacked from the rear by an enemy fighter. Although the tail and top turrets of his bomber became inoperative, he successfully outmaneuvered the pursuing ME-110 through eight different attacks. The fighter eventually exhausted its ammunition and was forced to break off the attack without causing any appreciable damage to Kane's aircraft.

Kane chose his friend, Lt. John S. Young, a fellow Texan from Dallas, to be his copilot on Kane's lead aircraft for the Ploesti mission, 'Hail Columbia' and also Young's crew from Young's personal B-24, the 'KICKAPOO'. This last minute change proved very fortunate for Lt. Young and his regular crew when, subsequently, 'KICKAPOO' lost it's #4 engine on takeoff for the mission and crashed, killing it's two replacement pilots, Lt. Robert Nespor, Lt. John Riley, and all but two of it's replacement crew. After the war, Col. Kane commanded a series of airfields in the U.S. and served another year and a half in North Africa before his retirement.



  • Keith Compton

    Military | Lieutenant General | B-24 Command Pilot - Squadron Commander - Commanding Officer | 376th Bomb Group
    Keith Karl Compton (December 9, 1915 – June 15, 2004) was an American Air Force Lieutenant General who was Vice Commander in Chief, Strategic Air Command. He flew as Command Pilot with Gen. Uzal Ent on Operation Tidal Wave in the B-24D, 'Teggie Ann'...

  • Uzal Ent

    Military | Major General | Commanding General | 376th Bomb Group
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  • Gilbert Hadley

    Military | First Lieutenant | B-24D Pilot | 98th Bomb Group
    First Lieutenant Gilbert B. Hadley was a B-24D Liberator bomber pilot with the 9th Air Force, the 98th Bomb Group, "The Pyramiders", from Texas, and the 344th Bombing Squadron, based at Cairo, Egypt, Tobruk, and Benghazi, Libya, in the Mediterranean...

  • Ronald Helder

    Military | Second Lieutenant | B-24D Co-Pilot | 389th Bomb Group
    2nd Lt. Ronald Lee Helder was a B-24 pilot in the 8th Air Force, the 389th Bomb Group, and the 564th Bombing Squadron in WWII. He flew as Co-pilot with his friend, Command Pilot Lt. Lloyd H. Hughes, in the B-24D Lt. Helder called, 'Ole Kickapoo',...

  • Raymond Hubbard

    Military | First Lieutenant | Radio Operator | 98th Bomb Group
    Lt. Raymond B. Hubbard was assigned to the 9th Air force, the 98th Bombardment Group, and the 344th Bombing Squadron in Libya, North Africa, 1943. He took part in Operation Tidal Wave, the raid on Ploesti on 1 August 1943, flying in B-24 Liberator #41...

  • Lloyd Hughes

    Military | Second Lieutenant | B-24 Command Pilot | 389th Bomb Group

  • Harold Korger

    Military | Colonel | Bombardier Navigator | 98th Bomb Group
    Lt. Harold Korger was a bombardier in the 344th Bombardment Squadron, 98th Bomb Group, 9th Air Force. He flew on the famous mission, Operation Tidal Wave, Aug 1, 1943, to knock out the oil refineries at Ploesti, Romania. ...

  • Royden LeBrecht

    Military | Captain | B-24 Command Pilot | 98th Bomb Group
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  • Robert Nespor

    Military | First Lieutenant | B-24 Command Pilot | 98th Bomb Group
    1st Lt. Robert James Nespor was a B-24D command bomber pilot in the 9th Air Force, the 98th Bombardment Group, "The Pyramiders", and the 330th Bombing Squadron. For the huge mission to bomb the oil refineries at Ploesti, Romania, on Operation Tidal...

  • Robert Sternfels

    Military | Major | Command Pilot | 98th Bomb Group
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Units served with

  • 9th Air Force
  • 98th Bomb Group

    98th Bomb Group

    The 98th trained for bombardment missions with B-24 Liberators during the first half of 1942. ...

  • 344th Bomb Squadron

    344th Bomb Squadron

    The 344th Bombing Squadron was first activated at MacDill Field, Florida as one of the original three squadrons assigned to the 98th Bombardment Group. The 344th soon moved to Barksdale Field, Louisiana, where it began to train as a Consolidated B-24...


  • 41-23817 'Suzy Q'

    B-24 Liberator
    SUZY-Q, flown by Col. Leon Johnson, led the 44th Bomb Group on the Aug 1, 1943 Ploesti raid and was the most famous ship of the 67th Squadron. The plane was lost on Aug 16, 1943 on a mission to the north airfield at Foggia, Italy. The plane...

  • 41-24226 'Utah Man' 'Joisey Bounce'

    B-24 Liberator
    Assigned to Col. Walter T. Stewart of the 330 Bomb Squadron, 93rd Bomb Group, 8th Air Force, USAAF for the mission to bomb the refineries at Ploesti Aug 1,1943. Col. Stewart named this plane, 'Utah Man', to underscore his Utah Morman background to all...

  • 42-40402 The Sandman

    B-24 Liberator
    Crew of "The Sandman" on the Ploesti raid: ...

  • 41-24198 'The Vulgar Virgin'

    B-24 Liberator
    - Not to be confused with 42-30406, 'The Vulgar Virgin' of the 8th Air Force - 93rd Bomb Group - 328th Bomb Squadron - Also flew Ploesti mission - Interned Turkey Aug 1, 1943 ...

  • 41-24311 'Hadley's Harem'

    B-24 Liberator
    The B-24D, named 'Hadley's Harem' was Lt. Gilbert Hadley's personal airplane and the one he flew on the mission to destroy Hitler's oil refineries at Ploesti Romania in 1943. ...

  • 41-11761 'The Squaw'

    B-24 Liberator
    B-24 Liberator #4111761 'The Squaw' flew on the 1st Aug 43 Ploesti raid, recovering to Cyprus, piloted by Royden L Lebrecht. On completion of its tour, returned to Fort Worth, TX, USA for a war bond tour.

  • 41-11825 'Hail Columbia' 'Grumpy' 'Little Chief Big Dog'

    B-24 Liberator
    The B-24D, 'Hail Columbia', # 41-11825, originally served in the 9th Air Force, the 98th Bomb Group, and the 344th Bombing Squadron. It was, first, the 344th Squadron's CO, Col. John R. Kane's, personal aircraft until Kane became the 98th Bomb Group's...

  • 41-11768 'KICKAPOO'

    B-24 Liberator
    The B-24D Liberator 41-11768, 'KICKAPOO', was piloted by Lt. John S. Young from Dallas, Texas as part of the 9th Air Force, the 98th Bomb Group, and the 344th Bombing Squadron, which arrived in North Africa in early 1943. This airplane and was Lt...

  • 42-40753 'Ole Kickapoo'

    B-24 Liberator
    # 42-40753 - B-24D 'OLE KICKAPOO' - A Consolidated B-24D bomber from the 389th Bombardment Group of the 8th Air Force, and the 564th Bomb Squadron from England, with it's Command Pilot, 2nd Lt. Lloyd Hughes, and his crew, who flew on "Operation Tidal...


  • Operation Tidal Wave

    1 August 1943
    Operation TIDAL WAVE. B24D Liberators attack the oil refineries at Ploesti, Romania. The bombers flew low to avoid radar detection and dropped time delayed bombs. Out of the 177 B-24s that took part in the raid 167 managed to attack their targets. 57 B...

Associated Place


Event Location Date
Born McGregor, TX, USA 5 January 1907

January 5, 1907. McGregor, Texas, USA.

Operation Tidal Wave Ploiești, Romania 1 August 1943

He was awarded the Medal of Honor for leading the 98th in Operation Tidal Wave, a low-altitude attack on oil refineries in Ploieşti, Romania.

Died Veteran's Administration Nursing Home, Philadelphia, PA 19104, USA 29 May 1996

May 29, 1996. Veterans Administration nursing home, Pennsylvania, USA.


Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia, USA.


Date Contributor Update
04 June 2020 18:46:55 Kickapoo Changes to biography

Black Sunday ~ Michael Hill ---- John S. Young, Jr. ~ personal archives

Date Contributor Update
25 December 2018 03:17:14 Kickapoo Changes to role

Black Sunday - Michael Hill

Date Contributor Update
25 December 2018 03:15:49 Kickapoo Changes to role, biography, person associations, unit associations and place associations

Black Sunday - Michael Hill

Date Contributor Update
30 August 2018 16:11:24 Emily Changes to role, biography, events and unit associations

Minor edits to biography text and events

Date Contributor Update
06 March 2018 08:25:13 Kickapoo Changes to unit associations

Operation Tidal Wave

Date Contributor Update
06 March 2018 08:07:16 Kickapoo Changes to middlename and media associations

Operation Tidal Wave

Date Contributor Update
28 February 2018 09:59:27 Kickapoo Changes to role and biography

U.S. Air Force Archives

Date Contributor Update
28 February 2018 09:54:59 Kickapoo Changes to biography

United States Air Force Archive

Date Contributor Update
28 February 2018 09:35:08 Kickapoo Changes to awards

Operation Tidal Wave

Date Contributor Update
06 April 2015 16:39:34 Al_Skiff Created entry with surname, middlename, firstname, nickname, nationality, highest rank, role, biography, events, unit associations, aircraft associations and mission associations