Last Known Activity
According to his NARA enlistment documents, John A. Kemmler was born in Germany, but was an American citizen when he enlisted on January 2, 1942. He is listed as having completed 3 years of high school, and employed in the pressman plate production occupation.
After enlisting as a private in the Army Air Forces, he was trained as a flight engineer. He was also given training as an aerial gunner. When these course were completed, he was assigned to a B-17 combat unit in North Africa, arriving there on August 19, 1943.
According to records, he flew at least 15 missions. On January 11, 1944, he was utilized as flight engineer/top turret gunner on a mission to bomb the harbor installations at Piraeus, Greece.
As the formation neared the target area, it encountered cloud conditions that forced it to fly through the clouds. In the clouds, wind forces were excessive, and icing conditions occurred. Two of the lead aircraft decided to abort, but turned into the path of the second element.
Two of the B-17s collided, shearing the entire tail section from one aircraft. Somehow, it landed in a clump of trees, and allowed the trapped tail gunner to escape. He was immediately captured, and remained a POW throughout the war. All the other crew members were killed.
Evidently these dead were buried, then later retrieved as they are now buried in various cemeteries around the world. SSgt Kemmler today lies in the Sicily-Rome American Cemetery in Nettuno, Italy in Plot G, Row 14, Grave 39.
NARA Enlistment Records
SSgt John A. Kemmler was acting as the flight engineer and top turret gunner on B-17F # 42-3098, named "Skippy," assigned to the 353rd Bomb Squadron.
Missing Air Crew Report 1832 was issued for this loss. No loading list is given, but the crew roster can be obtained from the MACR. The crew is listed as:
Cpt Robert W. Goen, Jr. p
1 Lt Henry J. Sudol c-p
1 Lt Bruce E. Hicks nav
1 Lt Robert B. Fassett bomb
SSgt John A. Kemmler eng/tt gun
TSgt Lucio A. Pittoni r/o
SSgt Leonard E. Matkey btg
SSgt Eldon C. Steerman wg
SSgt James A. Raley tail gunner
Ranks and grades as of mission date.
SSgt Raley was the only survivor.