Kenneth B. Francis
Technical Sergeant
U. S. Army Air Forces
WWII US Military
Dates of Service: 1941 (?) - 1945 (?)
B-17 Gunner/Radio Operator, 8th Air Force

Kenneth was born in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, as the 10th of 11 children of John Rich Francis, a Nazarene minister, and Ada Still Francis. His mother died when he was very young. His father re-married "a woman named Wilkerson. She was very nice. She took care of us." Because his father pastored churches in several Missouri towns (including Iberia and Columbia), the family moved often. Times were hard. "They couldn't feed us," Kenneth says of his parents. His father found additional work to help take care of the family. Kenneth finished high school in Pine Bluff where he worked on the town newspaper as a proofreader. He then moved to Little Rock to work at the Democrat, where a reporting assignment took him into the federal building. "That's how I got into the Air Force," he says. "I got to know all the recruiting guys." Hoping to fly, Kenneth volunteered for the U.S. Army Air Forces, but was unable to attend pilot training because of a problem with depth perception. He was sent to radio school in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and, after training in Texas and California, was assigned as a radio operator on a B-17. He was stationed north of London about 50 miles. On bombing raids into Europe, he recalls, his bomber always dropped its bombs. "We dropped them somewhere, and nobody ever raised hell where we dropped them," he says. Crews, however, were warned to avoid German towns if they were shot down. "The citizens would kill us," he recalls of Germans angry over American bombing. On his 22nd mission Kenneth was wounded by flak while over the target. Crewmen "bandaged my legs and made me lie down the rest of the trip," he recalls. He began recuperation in the base hospital, then returned home on a hospital ship where lights blazed at night. "That's why they kept the lights on, to tell everybody they were a hospital ship. We didn't sink German hospital ships and neither did they," he remarks. After he was able to walk again, he was discharged with a Purple Heart. He moved to Shreveport where he worked for in the advertising department for ARKLA Gas Company. While working at The Shreveport Times, he met Genevieve Hansen, also a reporter. They married, and would have one child and two grandchildren. Kenneth also worked for an advertising agency, R.K. Butcher and Associates, then opened his own firm.