Kenneth A. LaFleur
Staff Sergeant
U. S. Army Air Forces
WWII US Military
Dates of Service: 06/22/1942 - 08/14/1945
B-24 tail-gunner, 408th Bomb Squadron, 22nd Bomb Group, 5th AF

Kenneth was born in Ville Platte, Louisiana as one of four children of Albert M. LaFleur and Evelyn Durand LaFleur. He also had five half brothers and sisters by his father's first marriage. He recalls the Depression as a time when "it didn't take much money to get by and we were satisfied with very little". His father worked in two eras of transportation as a car dealer and blacksmith, and also owned a gristmill and hardware store. Kenneth spoke French before learning English, he says, like most in the community. "My mother always spoke to me in French and I answered her in English," he states. Kenneth recalls speaking only English in school. "If you spoke French on the school grounds you were usually punished," he says. Kenneth says he believes his family had the first radio in Ville Platte in their home, where the family ate rice and gravy and "a lot of corn" from the toll his father took for milling. Kenneth, a high school quarterback, graduated from Ville Platte High School in 1940. He recalls that year brought the Louisiana Maneuvers, with "soldiers galore" swarming around Ville Platte. The next fall he entered Southwestern Louisiana Institute (later University of Louisiana at Lafayette). After completing two years he joined the U.S. Army Air Forces and became an armor gunner and trained on .30 and .50 caliber machine guns at Buckley Field and Lowry Field in Denver. He completed gunnery school in Laredo, Texas, then was assigned to a B-24 in Mountain Home, Idaho. After more training in Nevada and San Francisco he was sent to the Pacific and assigned to the 408th Bombardment Squadron, 22nd Bombardment Group, 5th Air Force. He was based in several locations, including Owi, an island off the mainland of New Guinea, the Pelileu Islands, and the Philippines. As was common in the Pacific theater, Kenneth was assigned to different planes and flew with several crews. Most of his missions were about ten hours in length, although one lasted 17 hours. On his last mission antiaircraft fire hit the aircraft, taking out an engine and destroying the brake lines. Returning to Clark Field, the crew had to lower landing gear manually, then gather in the tail, where two men opened parachutes from each waist window to slow the plane upon landing. He returned to America aboard a "slow freighter" to San Francisco. Discharged in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, he was traveling by train to New Orleans when he heard Japan had surrendered. "The city was wild. People were all over Canal Street and everybody was yelling and shouting and dancing and drinking," he says. Returning to Ville Platte he married Winnie Guillory on December 29, 1945. (They would have five children.) He completed his course work at SLI, entered dental school, and graduated in 1950. He began practice in Oklahoma, but after six years returned to Louisiana, settling in Lafayette where he practiced until he retired.