Staff Sergeant Walter J. Kappel, ASN 36350696
Engineer/Gunner - Griffith Crew
10th Air Force / 7th Bombardment Group / 492nd Bombardment Squadron
Entered Service: April 1942 Separated: 7 October 45
Distinguished Flying Cross w/OLC Air Medal
Asian-Pacific Theater Medal w/2 Battle Stars
American Campaign Medal Victory Medal
50 Combat Missions
(Images/Info Courtesy of Karen (Kappel) Church & Elisabeth Kappel)
SSgt. Walter Kappel
The Crew of "Star Duster"
(Descriptions per Sgt. Kappel)
Capt. James C. Griffith (P) - "Son of a San Bernardino, CA banker, a fine pilot...a fine man.
Lt. Joseph C. Crowover (CP) - "Bartrand, Nebraska, a good pilot, nice fellow. He was not one of the original crew. He replaced 2nd Lt. Francis J. Doherty who got a crew of his own."
1Lt. Joseph E. Byrne (B) - "New York, New York. Nice guy and a good man."
2Lt. Claudius B. Ward (N) - "Nice enough guy but very nervous. Hometown unknown. Never knew what became of him."
2nd Row, L-R:
TSgt. Ed Borden (RO) - "Boston, MA. Nice guy, amateur boxer, fine singer, left waist gun."
SSgt. Walter J. Kappel (G) - "Gunner, right waist gun. Friendship, WI. Did not become flight engineer until later."
Sgt. Wayne C. Walker (RO-G) - "Gunner, top turret. Denver, CO. Great personality, could charm anyone, but hang onto your wallet!"
SSgt. George C. Barnett (G) - "Tail gunner. Bartlesville, OK. Cherokee Indian, nice guy. Had a passion for precious stones, gambler."
TSgt. Edward J. Charlet (E) - "When he was laid low by malaria, I became his successor having qualified for the position...but that's another story. New Orleans, LA. Hard guy to know, very efficient, very knowledgeable. He taught me much and we were good friends. Ball turret gunner."
SSgt. Gale H. Gross (G) - "Nose turret gunner. Wapato, WA. He was fairly new to the crew of the Star Duster. When we changed from the old B-24Ds to the new more advanced B-24H and B-24J, we had two more gun positions, a Sperry ball turret and a nose turret, which is how we acquired Gale Gross. He was a big, very quiet guy. He said very little but he knew his job."
Recollections from Sgt. Kappel
"The 7th Bomb Group was made up of units stolen from other Air Force groups. There were men from the 15th AF in Italy, some from the Middle East. We had a number of pilots from the American Volunteer Group in China (Flying Tigers) and even some of the men who had flown with Jimmy Doolittle on the Tokyo raid. We even had a couple of crews out of the 9th AF who had flown on the first Ploesti Disaster until mid-1943. ALL our ground crewmen had been in the Philippine Islands, Java, etc. The 492nd was the newest of the new and made up strictly of bits and pieces from other squadrons.
After graduation from Gunnery School at Nellis AFB, Las Vegas, Nevada, a short session at the 15th Replacement Wing at Salt Lake City, Utah, I was sent to Davis Monthan Field, Tucson, Arizona, where our crew were made. It was here I first met Griffith, Doherty, Byrne, Ward, Charlet, Borden, Walker, Barnett. With the exception of Doherty, we would remain together as a crew all through the training period and our tour overseas.
We served at Davis Monthan, Tucson, Arizona; Biggs Field, El Paso, Texas; Smokey Hill AFB, Salina, Kansas. At Salina we received our final 64 physicals, pressure chamber tests, maximum load take offs and lots of gunnery and bombing practice. We were supposedly ready to meet the enemy, whoever that might be.
We left for Salina for parts unknown on December 2, 1942. In a short time we would be further educated. We learned various truths: The Japanese were NOT cowardly, their equipment was NOT inferior, their aircraft were, for the most part, superior to ours. They were NOT afraid of us. Whether they were few or many, they always attacked. You didn't have to love them but one had to respect them.
I flew on my 50th and final mission on December 1, 1943 which was also the hottest of the 50. Our formations were attacked by 60 enemy aircraft. December 5th I was officially grounded. I was the first of our crew to complete my tour. I received my orders for home Christmas Day 1943. The Star Duster was a lucky aircraft and we were a lucky crew.
Captain James C. Griffith was the most memorable of men. I'll always remember an earlier mission when we suffered a near miss from a 90 millimeter A.A. burst. We knew it was close because we felt the lift of the explosion. Then there was the clear calm voice of Captain Griffith on the interphone asking if we were okay. When we went up on the flight deck we found it to be a shambles. The windshield was gone. Captain Griffith and the co-pilot had received shell fragments in their chests and shoulders. We were 500 miles from home with a 200 mile per hour freezing wind blowing into the cockpit. Captain Griffith's first concern, as always, was for the crew.
The war is long over. Over 50 years have passed, but I still hear the voice on the interphone. Captain Griffith became Major Griffith early in 1944 and became the commanding officer of the 436th Squadron. He also lost his life shortly thereafter."
On R & R in New Delhi
Photo captioned "Waiting for fighter support and guzzling beer."
Back, L-R: Ed Charlet, George C. Barnett, Wayne C. Walker, Walter Kappel, Ed Borden
Front, L-R: Joseph E. Byrne (B), Francis Doherty (CP), James C. Griffith (P), Claudius B. Ward (N)
Back, L-R: Russell Doman, Unk., C.P. Sibulski
Middle, L-R: Eduard Jean Charlet, Unk., Tom Grady
Front: Walter Kappel
(Photo taken at Smoky Hill AB, Salina KS, Nov. 1942)
SSgt. Walter J. Kappel's Obituary
7th BG Personnel
492nd BS Personnel