Kelly, Lawrence Bertrand (P2, C3, L8)
First Lieutenant Lawrence Bertrand Kelly, 26, of Louisville, Jefferson County, Kentucky, died in Korea while serving on active duty. First Lieutenant Kelly was the pilot of an F-80C Shooting Star fighter interceptor (Aircraft Number: 49-1832) with the 80th Fighter Bomber Squadron, 8th Fighter Bomber Group. On December 16, 1951, while on a combat mission in the Kunu-ri North Korea area, as his aircraft was making a bomb run it received a direct hit by anti-aircraft fire, crashed and burst into flames. One source said Kelly’s was one of four F-80Cs of a flak suppression flight on a rail cutting interdiction mission in the Kunu-ri area.
Kelly joined the U.S. Army at Fort Benjamin Harrison some two months after he turned 18 in March 1943 enlisting as a private. His enlistment record shows he had completed high school and was single at them time living in Louisville. No records have been found on his service during World War II but it is likely he received his pilot training then.
Kelly joined the Kentucky Army National Guard in October 1946. He was serving as a Second Lieutenant liaison pilot for Headquarters Company of the 452nd Field Artillery Battalion, 138th Field Artillery Group in June of 1948.
Kelly moved to the Kentucky Air National Guard on 1 July 1949 and on October 10, 1950, the 123rd Fighter Group of the Kentucky Air National Guard was called to federal service by President Truman in response to the Korean War. At this time the 123rd Fighter Group headquartered in Louisville included in addition to the 165th Fighter Squadron and were ordered to report to Godman Field, Fort Knox, Kentucky. While at Godman Field, the 123rd was redesignated the 123rd Fighter Bomber Wing (FBW) and tasked with training replacement pilots for the Korean War. At this time several Kentucky ANG pilots were assigned to combat squadrons in Korea on a temporary basis. Kelly was ordered to active duty on 25 September 1950 and was one of those assigned to Korea and one of five KyANG men lost in action or during captivity in Korea.
He was declared missing on 16 December 1951 and his status was changed from Missing in Action (MIA) to Killed in Action (KIA) Remains not Recovered on 31 December 1953. His name is inscribed on the Courts of the Missing at the Honolulu Memorial.
For his leadership and valor, he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Air Medal with 2 Oak Leaf Clusters, the Purple Heart, the Korean Service Medal, the United Nations Service Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, the Korean Presidential Unit Citation and the Republic of Korea War Service Medal. Also listed on the Korean War Memorial in Dayton, Ohio. Kentucky panel 5.
DAYTON, Ohio -- Lockheed F-80C at the National Museum of the United States Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo) The Shooting Star was the first American aircraft to exceed 500 mph in level flight, the first American jet airplane manufactured in large quantities and the first U.S. Air Force jet used in combat.
Designed in 1943, the XP-80 made its maiden flight on Jan. 8, 1944. (The aircraft was redesignated F-80 in 1948 when "P" for "Pursuit" was changed to "F" for "Fighter.") Four YP-80s were sent to Europe for service tests, but World War II ended before the aircraft saw combat.
Although designed as a high-altitude interceptor, the F-80C was flew as a day fighter, fighter-bomber and photo reconnaissance aircraft during the Korean War. On Nov. 8, 1950, an F-80C flown by 1st Lt. Russell J. Brown shot down a Russian-built MiG-15 in the world's first all-jet fighter air battle.
The F-80C on display is one of the few remaining Shooting Stars that flew combat missions during the Korean War. Restored and painted as it was in 1950 while assigned to the 8th Fighter-Bomber Group, it was placed on display in 1979.