John Kerr - Firebird Pilot




Perhaps as a tribute to their contribution. One in particular is John "Motor Car" Kerr, a pilot in the 61st who went on to Dyess to spend a few years in the 17th. When he was a co-pilot and discouraged, he submitted a volunteer statement for the COIN outfit in Florida (when they were first building up the resources). He was told that they were full up. A year later, after acquiring the left seat in the 'D', a foxy girlfriend and new car (to him), personnel notified him that his 'not discarded' volunteer status to COIN was accepted. That was circa '63-64.

He spent time home based in Fort Walton Beach area, flying psyop Bird Dogs in Vietnam with an on-board Vietnamese crew member. Later he upgraded to the A-26 "Marauder" in the Nimrod program. That was the night mission of low level loitering until targets surfaced. The flights often crossed over the southern pan handle of North Vietnam. In fact, after 100 flights in 'North Vietnam air space', he was among a few who got the red carpet treatment back to the states. Unfortunately, PACAF stopped them in Hawaii. Stated that the 100 mission-go home reward concept was for fragged missions to the north (must have been fighter pilots in the PACAF headquarters).

The result was to turn John and some others back to their in-theatre base to fly out the year assignment. On John's first flight after being returned in-country, he took off on a night mission and never returned. No report has ever disclosed any more than that.

I believe he was survived by his wife (the foxy Abilene lady) and their little girl. He was a dear friend to a lot of us and our remembering him occasionally would be a tribute to his life.

 Richard Wright

San Diego



 I was assigned to Dyess AFB in 1961 as a butterbar co-pilot. After check-out in the C-130-D (by Ray Sancton) I was transferred to the 16th TCS, then assigned to a Skyhook field test project, lead by Major "Bo" Wade, as the third pilot. John was second, Ron Hebert was first. The navigators were Bob Edgell and Ken Barker. After flight tests with Robert Fulton ("Steamboat" Fulton's grandson) we took the aircraft to Saigon then to Evreaux and Oslo. I completely lost track of John after my transfer to Rhein Main AB in the Spring of 1963.

I remember John's patience with me, genuine caring for a most junior officer. How often he would gently chide me with a "I'll bring you up right." Most of all, I recall him as a gentleman.

From the Corner of Columbia and Pacific,

Ed Leonard

The John Kerr fishing story as he repeated his 'bad day experience' to his comrades at the O Club morning coffee ritual (after the squadron's officers call) at Dyess AFB (I was present):

John tended to do things in spurts or lunges. So when he decided to be a fisherman, he went to the local equivalent of Wal-Mart and bought $2.39 Zebco rod and reel combination. Hell, it came complete with line and lure. Then John drove out to the northeast corner of Fort Phantom Lake (I believe there's a public access park there). And he fished. Then it started to rain. So John moved his Sprite to the waters edge. He sat inside and continued to fish through the window. It continued to rain.

Eventually, John ran out of time and packed up the Zebco and started to drive off. Unfortunately, the rains had muddied the water's edge. The Sprite slid sideways (toward the water). In fact, into the water. John, alarmed at the predicament at this point, got out and tried to push the little car back toward the shoreline. By this time it was floating.

To hear John tell this story, was a joy. He had everyone in stitches with is dry humor. And telling a tale on himself was not out of bounds. Then John realized the Sprite was about to float to deeper water. He opened the drivers door to stop the floating . . . the car sank. A small miscalculation resulted in the car sinking 'all the way' so it was no longer visible.

John called a tow truck and got a good old boy Texan who would not ease up on 'an Air Force Officer' planting his car in the lake. John's final observation was the humor in seeing the Sprite coming out of the water winched by the tow line with the bug eyed headlights (on top of the hood on that model) rising out of the muddy lake, looking like a giant frog surfacing.

And that's John's fishing story circa 1963-64.

Regards and still laughing,

Richard Wright

Navigator ski-birds 1958-63

John Kerr and I were both born and raised in England (U.K.) and to the best of my knowledge his parents and relatives are still there. Both John and I were very proud to be USAF officers, since military officers are highly regarded in the U.K.

John brought his parents over while we were still based at Dyess AFB and held a dinner for them and his in-laws. He told me later that his dad asked his in-laws if they were not very proud that their daughter was married to an officer, to which they replied that he was "... just another Goddam G.I. ...and what was so special about that". Needless to say, John was most upset.

I lost track of him soon after, but was told he was K.I.A. This is the first I've heard of him in over 30 years, but, I still remember him very well, especially this incident.

Gerry Harris

I have faint but pleasant memories of John (motor) Kerr. I haven't heard one word about him since leaving the 61st over three decades ago, until your mail mentioned him.

I recall the day John reported for duty. He was ushered into my office by the 1st Sgt., saluted smartly, and in a crisp British accent said, "Second Lieutenant John Kerr reporting for duty Sir." For a second I thought another practical joker was loose on the base and that Kerr was a replacement RAF exchange officer hoodwinked into wearing a USAF uniform.

But my concern was soon allayed as John told me he was born in the Bahamas of British parents. He migrated to the United States, became a Citizen, attended college, and joined the USAF. That's the extent of the detail that I have about John except to say, he was a fine young officer who performed very well.

Jerry Livingston or Bernie may be able to provide more detail.

Will Turk

 John Kerr and I were stationed together in the 21st Troop Carrier Squadron at Tachikawa, Japan, for about one year in 1957-1958 after he transferred from Ashiya. Then we were stationed at Sewart AFB in the 61st TCS, where I was in the original C-130D squadron. John was in the 62nd TCS for a while and then went to the 61st. When the Skis were transferred to Dyess in 1961, he made the change to the 17th TCS.

John was definitely English and never lost his British sense of humor or his accent. John really wanted to get in Special Ops and finally succeeded in 1964. He went off to fly 0-1's and then worked his way into the B-26. I last saw him in 1965. I remember John well and will cherish the many fine memories I have of him.

Jim Alexander
Green Hornet and Firebird Pilot

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