Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Ken Jernstedt, off on his last flight

Shantih (peace) to Ken Jernstedt, who died Tuesday morning at the age of 95. He was the last surviving Flying Tiger pilot from the AVG’s early combats at Rangoon and Kunming. (Here’s a tribute to Ken in The Oregonian newspaper online.)

 Ken was one of several Marine Corps pilots to join the American Volunteer Group in the summer of 1941. Assigned to the 3rd Squadron “Hell’s Angels,” he was sent down to Rangoon in December to help defend Burma against Japanese invasion, which put him in the thick of the Christmas battles over the capital. During his months with the AVG he was credited with 10.5 Japanese planes destroyed, of which three were air-to-air victories. (Most of the others resulted from a devastating, two-man attack on a Japanese force at Magwe, with left many planes burning on the field.)

 After the AVG was disbanded in July 1942, Ken became a test pilot for Republic Aviation. Postwar, he worked for Coca-Cola Bottling and served for many years as mayor of his home town, Hood River, Oregon, and as a state legislator. He was one of the first Flying Tigers that I interviewed, and one of the nicest. Blue skies, Ken! – Dan Ford


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