Kenneth Roberts
Lt Jg
U. S. Navy
WWII US Military
Dates of Service: 02/17/1942 - 1945
Pilot, USS Lexington

Kenneth was born in Indianapolis, Indiana. His father, Bert Godfrey Roberts, worked as a "tinsmith or sheet metal man," while his mother, Evelyn Rice, was employed at a photography studio. The family moved to Santa Monica, California, and lived near Clover Field. "We hung around airports from the day I was born," he remarks. Bert worked at Mcdonnell Douglas Aircraft while Kenneth competed as an intercollegiate champion in gymnastics for two years in a row, and played in the band at Santa Monica High School. Before graduating. Kenneth worked the third shift at Mcdonnell Douglas. He joined the U.S. Navy in January of 1942 at age seventeen, and entered pilot training. Part of that training included classes at Iowa State University, Marquette University, and other schools. In "transition" training, he practiced aeronautical skills aboard the PB4Y1, but also flew patrols, looking for submarines. He was sent to Tinian in May of 1944, where he lived mostly in Quonset huts, got mail "three times a month if we were lucky," and enjoyed Navy food. "I love it today," he says of one dish, Spam. At Pearl Harbor he was re-trained in a Navy fighter aircraft, the Hellcat. Serving aboard the USS Lexington, Kenneth fought in campaigns above Iwo Jima and Okinawa, mainly in attempting to down kamikaze planes. He got his first kill of a Japanese aircraft on Christmas Day of 1944. One kamikaze hit the carrier's flight deck while he waited to take off. Sixteen "of my buddies" were killed. "Our biggest problem was the kamikaze," he recalls. Each day the pilots arose at 4:30 a.m., hunting the suicide planes that swooped down early in the morning. He describes searching out Japanese planes as "like a dog chasing a rabbit. All we did was chase them." Once, he made a crash landing on the carrier deck when his hydraulic system was shot up, and broke his back. A physician discovered the condition years later. Kenneth returned to the states as an instructor. He met Barbara Reed and married her in February of 1945. The couple would have two children. In Chicago on V-E Day, he witnessed a huge, citywide celebration. "For four days you couldn't move," he recalls. Kenneth ended the war as a colonel. Flight and teaching concerned most of his life and career after the war. He was called back to active duty as an instructor during the Korean War. In his civilian career he worked for Chicago Southern (part of Delta Airline), flew corporate planes for Winthrop Rockefeller in Arkansas, and came to Shreveport in 1961 to take over Curry Sanders Aircraft, which became Southern Aviation. He sold the company in 1972. He quit counting his flying hours at 30,000. He is now an insurance agent, conducts seminars, and still flies.