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20th Airforce in the UK - CLOSED

Discussion in 'All Hands Club & Canteen Discussion Area' started by garbfink, Mar 17, 2017.

  1. garbfink

    garbfink New Member

    Hi All,

    I have evidence that a member of the 20th Airforce was located in the UK late 1942 early 1943. With their operations being mostly in the Marianas I would have thought seeing them in the UK would have been quite unusual.

    Can anyone shed any light on why he may have been there?

    His details are as follows:

    Name: John Henry Kay (not 100% confirmed)
    Rank: Staff Sergeant
    Crew member: Navigator (65% confirmed)

    He is thought to have died while serving.

    Any information or any ideas on why he might have been in the UK would be very useful for my research.
  2. Alex Smart

    Alex Smart Active Member

    Just a thought, but when was it that the first B29 came over to the UK, was it that early or later on 44/45 ?
  3. garbfink

    garbfink New Member

    Apparently, no B29 came to the UK, with the exception of YB-29-BW 41-36393, the so-named Hobo Queen. Which was some kind of test plane for the B29 and was used to establish some dis-infomraiton that the B29s were coming to Europe. Or at least that is what wikipedia says.
  4. RSwank

    RSwank Well-Known Member

  5. garbfink

    garbfink New Member

  6. RSwank

    RSwank Well-Known Member

    A couple of observations. I think it doubtful an enlisted man was a navigator. Navigator were typically officers. Why do you think he was a navigator?
    The wings "could" be gunner's wings, but with the quality of the picture it is very hard to tell.
  7. garbfink

    garbfink New Member

    I'm more than happy to be corrected on the navigator. It's a guess at best from the picture. I'm hoping to see the original picture at some point. It may give me a better idea.

    I'd still like to know what he was doing in the UK though. Any thoughts?
  8. RSwank

    RSwank Well-Known Member

    The 20th AF was formed April, 1944, so I don't think his patch is a 20th AF patch.
    How did you come up with the name John Henry Kay?
  9. 25Kingman49

    25Kingman49 Well-Known Member

    Concur with Rolland regarding formation of XX AF. Many AAF members both officers and enlisted in various Air Forces served in Europe prior to B-29 conversion training and eventual deployment to the Pacific. Could this be the connection of John Henry Kay to the XX AF?
  10. garbfink

    garbfink New Member

    His patch is definately 20th Airforce. I received a copy of the original photo which I mucked around with the contrast for ages and managed to get it as clear as I could. If you look at the patch you can see the gold wings coming out the side of the encircled star and just about make out "20" in the globe 'mesh' between the wings (you have to squint a bit, but it's there)

    I always thought that this picture was taken while he was in the UK which would have been late 42 or early 43. It must have been taken and perhaps sent with a letter or something at a later date. Which is very interesting information.

    What about his medal bars? I'm still trying to decipher what they are, would they be able to help date this picture further? insignia and medal bar.jpg Medal Bars.jpg
  11. Lucky Partners

    Lucky Partners Well-Known Member

    To me the portion of the shoulder patch that is above the star looks like a crown, what the Queen wears.
  12. RSwank

    RSwank Well-Known Member

    The ribbon bars are also very hard to make out. The one on the right "could" be an Air Medal.


    The middle one might be the European Campaign Medal. The pattern of "dark" "Light" stripes seems to match.


    The one on the left "could" be an American Defense Medal. Again just looking the the pattern. If the identification is correct, he would have been in the service before the war started.


    None seem to match the Asiatic Pacific Medal,

    I would think he would have received the Asiatic Pacific Medal if he was in the 20th AF and served in the Pacific. The photo may have been taken after he served in Europe and was back in the States with the 20th AF before going to the Pacific.
    Last edited: Mar 17, 2017
    25Kingman49 likes this.
  13. David Kiley

    David Kiley New Member

    Those wings look like they could be Bombardier's wings. Most bombardiers were officers, but there were some warrant officers (even Pilots who were sometimes referred to as flying sergeants).
  14. Lucky Partners

    Lucky Partners Well-Known Member


    Good point. Enlisted men used in this way were called togglers, but I have no idea what wings they wore, those of a Bombardier or those of their original crew position. Anybody have an answer?
  15. RSwank

    RSwank Well-Known Member

    I think he means an enlisted bombardier, who would have gone through bombardier training and would have worn bombardier wings. There were not many of those. Togglers/toggliers worn gunner's wings. There were primarily gunners. The did not use the bomb sight.
    Last edited: Mar 17, 2017
  16. David Kiley

    David Kiley New Member

    On further inspection, those might be Gunners Wings.
  17. tonystro

    tonystro Member

    S/Sgt John Henry Kay could not have served in the Twentieth Air Force in 1942-43, as it did not yet exist. Some European veterans did find their was to CBI and Western Pacific with units later deployed there.

    I agree with David Kiley in that the "wings" insigne badge in the photo most probably represents aerial gunner. Although the patch has upswept wings, the center portion does not appear to represent the '20' on the globe as would the Twentieth Air Force insignia.

    I would say it looks more like a Sixth Air Force patch, and if it was hexagonal I would be certain.
    Last edited: Mar 17, 2017
    25Kingman49 likes this.
  18. RSwank

    RSwank Well-Known Member

    I ran across this website concerning patches that I don't think I have seen before. Quit an amazing amount of material. http://www.angelfire.com/md2/patches/index.html

    On this page of the above site are the various air forces patches (scroll down a little):

    You can see the 6th AF patch Tony mentions.

    Just looking around the site, I came across the 9th Engineer Command patch on this page.


    A couple of observations. It appears that "J H Kay's" shoulder patch may not be round but more shield like.
    There seems to be a "notch" in the dark background towards the top left which may be similar to the notch that
    appears in the pictured patch of the 9th Engineer Command patch.
    25Kingman49 likes this.
  19. Airwar

    Airwar Well-Known Member

    Postwar B-29 crash in the Scheldt river Holland.

    Attached Files:

  20. garbfink

    garbfink New Member

    Wow! For some reason I wasn't receiving email notifications on this thread and a lot has happened since I last checked here. Not wanting to you all to think that I'm an ungrateful git I just wanted to post my thanks for all of your replies. There is certainly a lot of information to digest here so let me have a look through it all and I'll let you know my findings.

    Thank you all


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