Keil, Lillian Kinkela, Capt

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Last Rank
Last Primary AFSC/MOS
9761-Flight Nurse
Last AFSC Group
Medical Services
Primary Unit
1950-1955, 9761, 5th Air Force
Service Years
1943 - 1955
Officer Collar Insignia

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Year of Birth
This Military Service Page was created/owned by CMSgt Don Skinner-Deceased to remember Keil, Lillian Kinkela, Capt.

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Contact Info
Home Town
Last Address
Not Specified

Date of Passing
Jun 03, 2008
Location of Interment
Riverside National Cemetery - Riverside, California
Wall/Plot Coordinates
Section 20, Site 1235

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Last Known Activity

Captain Lillian Kinkela Keil was born on  November 17, 1916 in Arcata, CA. Her father left the family when she was a young girl. She and her mother lived in a convent at Sisters of St. Joseph, where her mother performed cleaning tasks. After high school, she entered the nursing program at St. Mary's Hospital in San Francisco, CA. Upon receiving her nursing degree, she was employed by United Airlines. One of the airline's rules was that in order to be a stewardess, one had to be a registered nurse.

In 1943, when asked why she did not better utilize her nursing talents, Keil answered by enlisting in the USAAF and requested flight nurse duty. After completed required training at the Air Evacuation School at Louisville, KY, she soon found herself in England, assigned to the 801st Medical Air Evacuation Squadron at Bottesford, England. But she was assigned temporary duty at the air field at Shinbone, treating wounded B-17 crew members who were wounded or suffered frost bite while on bombing raids, and, in some instances, caring for them on air evacuation flights to the U.S.

After D-Day, duty became more rugged as she and the air evacuation crew would have to go on the flight to France and Germany to retrieve the wounded. Because the aircraft carried supplies in to the battlefield, the aircraft could not be marked with the Red Cross, thereby depriving the aircraft and crew of protection under the Geneva Convention. In spite of this detriment, she participated in many evacuation flights from the beaches at Normandy to the Ardennes Forest. She later stated the Ardennes campaign was especially harrowing because of the extreme weather conditions. She recalled one particular flight when the aircraft she was on could not land because of severe weather. Although the aircraft circled the area many times, a landing was impossible, so the mission was aborted. Captain Kinkela recalls that she could plainly see at least 12 litters with wounded men, waiting for help. She said it was heartbreaking to leave.

Captain Kinkela flew more than 250 air evacuation missions as well as 25 trans-Atlantic crossings.

In 1946, she was discharged from the USAAF, and returned to her employment with United Airlines. In fact, she flew on the inaugural flight to Hawaii in May, 1947. However, in 1950, when the Korean War began, she returned to active duty as a flight nurse with the USAF. She flew 175 hundred air evacuation missions as a flight nurse in Korea, including evacuations at Chosen Reservoir and near vicinity.

In 1954, she married Walter Keil, a Naval intelligence officer. However, in 1955, she was discharged because of pregnancy. She and Walter went on to have a family of two daughters.

Captain Keil was the most decorated women in World War II, receiving a total of 19 medals, decorations, and campaign credits.

She served as technical director for the 1953 movie "Flight Nurse," inspired by her life story and her actions in Korea. She was honored on several occasions in her adopted hometown of Covina, CA. The Postal Service building there was named for her, and she participated in the dedication ceremonies of the World War II Memorial Monument in Washington, DC.

Captain Lillian Kinkela Keil passed away at the age of 88 in 2005. She is buried in Riverside National Cemetery at Riverside, Ca in Section 20, Site 1235.

There is an article in the Rock Hill, SC "Herald" newspaper dated July 3, 2005 that refers to her as "Major Keil." Her tombstone in Riverside Cemetery lists "Captain."

Other Comments:
Captain Lillian Kinkela Keil is regarded as the most decorated woman who served in combat situations as a member of the USAAF and USAF.
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 Unit Assignments/ Advancement Schools
8th Air Force5th Air Force
  1943-1946, 9761, 8th Air Force
  1950-1955, 9761, 5th Air Force
 Combat and Non-Combat Operations
  1943-1945 World War II
  1950-1953 Korean War
 My Aircraft/Missiles
C-47 Skytrain/Dakota  C-46 Commando  C-54 Skymaster  
  1943-1944, C-47 Skytrain/Dakota
  1943-1955, C-46 Commando
  1950-1955, C-54 Skymaster
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