Colin Kelly





American B-17 Four Engine Heavy Bomber


Mitsubishi A6M2 "Zero"

Colin Kelly was born in Madison Florida USA on the 11th of July 1915, he would become one of America's first heroes of World War II. A 1937 graduate of West Point, the twenty-nine year old Kelly was a B-17 pilot in the Army Air Corps, stationed in the Philippines in December 1941 when the islands came under Japanese attack. On the 10th of December, Kelly's plane was sent on bombing mission to attack Japanese ships off the coast of Luzon. The crew spotted a large ship they believed to be the battleship Haruna and from a height of 20,000 dropped three 600 pound bombs. Though smoke obscured the target, Kelly and his men believed that at least one bomb struck the ship, and that it was probably destroyed. In fact the Haruna was not in the vicinity and Kelly's plane had perhaps bombed a large transport or the light cruiser Ashigara, neither of which had sunk. On the return to its base at Clark Field, Kelly's B-17  was jumped by a flight of 10 Japanese Zero fighters, one of which was piloted by the famous Japanese Ace Saburo Sakai. Attacking one by one in line astern. One burst of enemy fire went right through the middle of the aircraft taking the life of Kelly's flight engineer, and setting the aircraft on fire. With the B-17 mortally damaged and still under attack, Kelly ordered his crew to bail out. Ignoring his own perilous situation, Kelly held the burning B-17 steady as, one by one, his crew hit the silk. Behind Kelly, co-pilot Donald Robins was trying to open the escape hatch when the aircraft exploded, the blast miraculously throwing him clear. The B-17 came down in pieces with the gallant skipper still at the controls. He had no chance of survival.  His was the first B-17 lost in combat, .For his extraordinary heroism and selfless bravery, Kelly was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Cross.



Saburo Sakai was later to have reportedly said "Out of ammunition, I flew alongside the B-17 and saw the pilot trying to save the burning aircraft after allowing his crew to escape. I have tremendous respect for him."

Top Scoring Ace for the Japanese , Sakai destroyed or damaged 60+ Allied  planes mostly American.