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First Name: John

Last Name: Kane

Birthplace: McGregor, TX, USA

Gender: Male

Branch: Air Force (1947 - present)

Home of Record: Shreveport, LA
Middle Name: Riley

Date of Birth: 05 January 1907

Date of Death: 29 May 1996


Years Served: 1931-1954
John Riley Kane
'Killer Kane'

•  World War II (1941 - 1945)


John Riley Kane
Colonel, U.S. Air Force
Medal of Honor Recipient
World War II

Colonel John Riley Kane (5 January 1907 - 29 May 1996) was a U.S. Army Air Forces / U.S. Air Force officer and pilot who received the U.S. military's highest award for valor, the Medal of Honor, in World War II.

John Riley Kane was born on 5 January 1907 in McGregor, TX, and he grew up in Wichita Falls. His father, John Franklin Kane, was a Baptist minister.

Kane attended Baylor University in Waco, TX, where he played basketball and football. On 22 January 1927, he was traveling with the basketball team to a game when their bus was struck by a train in Round Rock, TX, killing 10 of the 22 people aboard; Kane escaped with minor injuries. Those killed became known as the "Immortal Ten," and a homecoming ceremony in their memory has become a Baylor tradition. Kane graduated in 1928 with a Bachelor of Arts degree.

Kane married Pansy Inabnett of Shreveport, LA; the couple had one child, John Franklin Kane II.

Military Service

Kane moved to Shreveport, LA, and joined the U.S. Army Air Corps (later the U.S. Army Air Forces) as an aviation cadet in June 1931. After training in Brooks, Randolph, and Kelly Fields in TX, he received his commission in 1932. He was stationed at Rockwell and March Fields in southern California before transferring to the reserves in 1934. Re-entering active duty in late 1935, he returned to the Shreveport, LA, area to serve at Barksdale Field, eventually becoming the base commander. By April 1940, he was assigned to MacDill Field, FL, as an operations officer and then commanded a squadron at Lackland Air Force Base, TX.

World War II

In July 1942, he was sent to the Middle East Theater, where he flew 43 combat missions for a total of 250 combat hours in Europe, Africa and the Middle East. Kane commanded the 98th Bombardment Group, a B-24 Liberator unit nicknamed the "Pyramiders," and his daring operations caused German intelligence reports to dub him "Killer Kane."

Kane earned the Silver Star during a mission in the Middle East 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.

On 1 August 1943, Kane, by then a Colonel, led the 98th in Operation Tidal Wave, a low-altitude bombing mission against oil refineries in Ploie┼čti, Romania. The 98th was one of five bomb groups taking part in the attack. En route to the target, which called for a round-trip flight of over 2,400 miles, his element became separated from the leading portion of the massed formation while avoiding dense cloud conditions over mountainous terrain. Rather than turn back from such a vital mission, he elected to proceed to the target. Upon arrival it was discovered that another group had missed its target and then bombed the area assigned to the 98th. Despite the fully warned defenses, intensive anti-aircraft fire, enemy fighter planes, and hazards from delayed-action bombs dropped by the earlier element, oil fires, and dense smoke over the target area, he elected to lead his formation against the oil refineries.

By the time Kane's bomber, "Hail Columbia" left the target, it had lost an engine and been struck more than 20 times by anti-aircraft fire. His decision to circle, as the command aircraft, used up the plane's reserve fuel; the aircraft crash landed in Cyprus before reaching its base in North Africa.

For his part in the mission, Kane was awarded the Medal of Honor. He is one of two Baylor alumni to receive the Medal; the other being Jack Lummus.

Medal of Honor

Rank and organization: Colonel, U.S. Army Air Corps, 9th Air Force.

Place and date: Ploetsi Raid, Rumania, 1 August 1943.

Citation: For conspicuous gallantry in action and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty on 1 August 1943. On this date he led the third element of heavy bombardment aircraft in a mass low-level bombing attack against the vitally important enemy target of the Ploesti oil refineries. En route to the target, which necessitated a round-trip flight of over 2,400 miles, Col. Kane's element became separated from the leading portion of the massed formation in avoiding dense and dangerous cumulous cloud conditions over mountainous terrain. Rather than turn back from such a vital mission he elected to proceed to his target. Upon arrival at the target area it was discovered that another group had apparently missed its target and had previously attacked and damaged the target assigned to Col. Kane's element. Despite the thoroughly warned defenses, the intensive antiaircraft fire, enemy fighter airplanes, extreme hazards on a low-level attack of exploding delayed action bombs from the previous element, of oil fires and explosions and dense smoke over the target area, Col. Kane elected to lead his formation into the attack. By his gallant courage, brilliant leadership, and superior flying skill, he and the formation under his command successfully attacked this vast refinery so essential to our enemies' war effort. Through his conspicuous gallantry in this most hazardous action against the enemy, and by his intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty, Col. Kane personally contributed vitally to the success of this daring mission and thereby rendered most distinguished service in the furtherance of the defeat of our enemies.

Post-War Career

Returning to the U.S. in February 1944, Kane commanded Gowen Field in Idaho followed by McCook and Grand Island Army Airfields in Nebraska. He graduated from the National War College in June 1947 and became the executive officer at Chanute Field, IL. In April 1948, he was made Director of Technical Schools at Lowry Air Force Base, CO, and also served there as inspector general and commander of the 3415th Maintenance and Supply Group. He went to Ladd Army Airfield, AK, in 1949, being successively, Chief of Staff and Base Commander.

In July 1951, Kane was commander of the Military Air Transport Service's Air Resupply And Communications Service, forming its 580th Wing at Mountain Home Air Force Base, ID, in November 1951, which he commanded. He took it to Libya in August 1952 and moved to Morocco the following May as commander of the 316th Air Division's 549th Air Control and Warning Group. He returned to the U.S. in December 1953 as commander of Smoky Hill Air Force Base, KS, where he served until he resigned and was honorably discharged on 10 May 1954.

Later Years

Kane retired to a farm in Logan County, AR, but moved to Pennsylvania in 1987 to be near his son.

Medals and Awards

Medal of Honor
Silver Star


On 2 February 1998, Barksdale Air Force Base named its B-52 combat crew training school after him.

Kane was inducted into the Louisiana Military Hall of Fame in Abbeville, LA, on 13 November 2010.

Death and Burial

Colonel John Riley Kane died at age 89 on 29 May 1996, while living at a Veterans Administration nursing home in Pennsylvania. He was buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, VA, in Section 7A, Grave 47, Map Grid U-23/24.

Origin of Nickname/Handle:
Kane commanded the 98th Bombardment Group, a B-24 Liberator unit nicknamed the "Pyramiders," and his daring operations caused German intelligence reports to dub him "Killer Kane."

Honoree ID: 1465   Created by: MHOH




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