Lloyd A. Kinzel displays part of the parachut that saved his father's life.
Army Air Corps Lieutenant Lloyd E. Kinzel kept a detailed diary from the time he applied for Aviation Cadet training on January 29th, 1942, until he returned home on October 3rd, 1944. He served as the pilot of a B-25 Mitchell Bomber in the 22nd Bombardment Squadron in the China-Burma-India (CBI) Theatre. On one of over 260 combat missions, he and his crew were forced to bail out over the jungle in China. With only minor injuries, “The Caterpillar Boys,” as they afterwards referred to themselves, made it back to their home base and continued their bombing campaign against the Japanese invaders. Lt. Kinzel tells us how he suffered the anguish of learning that many of his friends had been lost in combat, or in training, and how he struggled to deal with the constant stresses of battle. After hearing the welcome news that he was about to be sent home, he was detained to teach Chinese cadets to fly the B-25, although they couldn’t speak English and he couldn’t speak Chinese.
In late 1944, he finally received a stateside assignment. After a brief rest at the family home in Philadelphia, Lt. Kinzel attended instrument training schools in Texas and became an instructor in instrument flying, serving at air bases in Arizona, in California, and in Colorado where, not surprisingly, his assignment included teaching instrument flying to more Chinese students. In March of 1945, he met 2nd Lt. Bonnie Busch, an Army nurse, in Pueblo, Colorado, and they were married soon after. At war’s end, Lt. Kinzel and his bride were both discharged from active duty. They settled in Pennsylvania, near Kinzel’s childhood home.
Not satisfied with his contributions in WW-II, Kinzel soon joined the Pennsylvania Air National Guard’s 111th Bomb Group to serve as a B-26 Marauder pilot, achieving the rank of Captain. He was recalled during the Korean conflict, was posted to Langley, Virginia, and spent another 20 months applying his flying skills to prepare B-26 pilots to do the same job in Korea that he had performed so skillfully in the CBI Theatre during WW-II.
His admiring son, LLoyd A. Kinzel, visited Lyon Air Museum recently to tell us his father’s story, show us photos and memorabilia his father brought home (including fragments from his parachute and downed aircraft), and share his dad’s diary containing hundreds of pages recounting daily experiences, emotionally charged events, and thoughts about home, family and faith. His diary reveals his innermost thoughts, especially about his eagerness to become a pilot, his worries about his friends in combat on other fronts, the joy he experienced when earning his wings, and his mounting anxieties as he faced the enemy day after day…often when seeing his friends pay the ultimate price.
His story is symbolic of thousands of citizen soldiers from the farms, small towns, and cities all across America who rose to the challenge of defending our way of life in war zones far from home. The following quotations from his diary summarize his experiences:
(1/29/42). Volunteering for the Air Corps, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.“I went to the Customs House to take my physical for Aviation Cadets. I was accepted into the Air Corps and will be informed when to report. I continued to fly my Piper Cub at the Hatboro Airport and I now have 60 hours and 5 minutes. On Tuesday, April 7th, I had to parade into town for Army Day, then 450 Cadets marched to the Liberty Bell and went through another swearing-in ceremony. I received word to report to Santa Ana, California, for Pre-Flight training.” *1
Pre-Flight Training, Santa Ana, California. “We arrived at camp at Santa Ana and were placed in tents. This place is a mud hole. The first few days here, I, and everyone else, was darn sorry we had joined up. But believe me, I wouldn’t want to be in any other place. I can’t wait to get into Los Angeles in our sharp uniforms. We have to call each other Mister and have to go through a hazing by the upperclass men. It’s tough on us, short haircuts, and no smoking, and we get plenty of drilling. The second day here we had 15 written examinations.
We got our classifications today, and I made Pilot and I am thrilled. Tommy Harmon, the famous football player, is a cadet here. Jack Benny, Rochester, and Mary and Phil Harris were here at camp. They sure put on a swell show. We received lifts into Los Angeles and then took the street car to Hollywood. I saw the Brown Derby and went to Earl Carroll’s Star Spangled Glamour
Review. I’ve never seen a place like it. It has a revolving stage and the show consisted of 37 acts. I also went to Long Beach, and tomorrow I’m going to Balboa Beach.
I’ve passed every subject and am ready to move on to Primary.”
(6/24/42). Primary Flight Training, Sequoia Field, Visalia, California. “The planes we are going to fly here are the large Ryans, all metal fuselage and low wing and open cockpit. Pretty sharp. These planes come in fast and land at 100 mph. I have never regretted joining up and have enjoyed every minute of it, but the next time I’m home, I’ll be there to stay.
I was doing a loop today up at 5,000 ft. and when I was going over the top I went into a spin and boy did she really wind up.
We took our cross-country trip this morning. I left at 9:30 a.m. and was back at 11:30 a.m. It is 3:30 p.m. now and McCrocklin is still out. We heard he got lost and landed at Fresno and refueled, then flew on to Madera. He took off from there and got lost again and then phoned in from Merced.”
(8/29/42). Basic Flight Training, Merced, California. “These planes we are flying in Basic are the BT-13A (Vultee Valiant). They’re all metal throughout and boy are they beautiful. We are doing a lot of instrument flying (under the hood). You don’t know if you are upside down or not. Sometimes you think you are but the instruments tell you you are not. You have to disregard the seat of your pants.
I had my 20 hour check here at Basic and have passed, but my instructor chewed my rear end from the time we took off until we landed.
A misfortunate event today. One of the boys went into a spin at 9,000 feet and couldn’t recover and bailed out at 2,000 feet. The prop hit his leg. He died later on.
More trouble today. Another one of our boy’s motor cut out and he tried to stretch his glide to reach a field. He stalled and crashed. If he dies, like the other cadet, they may move us to another base because visibility is so bad here now (thick haze).”
Advanced Flying School, Stockton, California. “I will fly the AT-6. They have everything and are about 650 horsepower. We have to have 4 hours dual flying before we solo in these planes. School is fairly easy. We have code, navigation, aircraft maintenance, bombing and air attack, radio beam work, and a few others. Thank goodness I didn’t get meteorology.
Saturday morning and fog again. Another cadet ground-looped an AT-6 and tore off the landing gear and wrecked a prop. The props cost 5 to 8 thousand dollars. That includes all the mechanism for the constant speed propeller.
Word just came in that the night flyers are scattered all over the valley and are circling around lights. When we are lost at night we circle a light and blink our landing lights and keep jazzing our motor until someone calls into the field and tells them where we are. Let’s hope their gas holds out before they have to go over the sides of their ships.
That was an exciting night last night but all the boys are safe. Two landed in an auxiliary field and slept in their planes all night and then took a bus back to the post this morning. One landed in Mariposa, way up in the mountains. Another landed in a field with his wheels up. He may catch h_ _ _ for not bailing out because he couldn’t see in the fog and didn’t know if it was a field or a street.”
Yuma, Arizona, Gunnery Training. “We left Stockton Wednesday evening and arrived here in Yuma Friday morning. There’s nothing here but sand, as this is a desert. Yuma is a funny town. It is where the movie stars come to get married and you can have the whole works done in 10 minutes. We will not be allowed off post during our stay here as the town is considered a little too wild for cadets.
I’m dying to get up there and blast away with the machine guns. I sure do like these AT-6C planes and would be satisfied to fly them for the duration. We were flying the AT-6As at Stockton. They are the same ship but the 6C is a newer model with two more machine guns. Mexico uses them as fighters.
The other night I was flying formation and heard a voice asking for landing instructions. I was sure it was Japanese or Chinese. Later I found out that I was picking up Luke field in Arizona and they have Chinese students and instructors there.
(1/5/43). Well, the big day is at hand. I finally graduated as a Pilot and 2nd Lieutenant and received my silver wings. On January 6th, I boarded a United Airlines transport plane bound for home and a 15 day furlough.”
Columbia, South Carolina, B-25 Bomber Training. “It’s swell down here but was even colder than Philly for the first two days. The planes we are to fly are B-25s (Mitchell Bombers). They sure look like honeys. It seems I dislike every new plane for about a week then I hate to leave it. I am still in with my friends Gil and Richard Johnson. Gil and I go to town most every evening and eat dinner together.
There is nothing like the Air Corps and I thank God I am in it. We are really flying the way I like it now and the hours are mounting up. Gil Johnson is getting fed up with this town and wants to go to combat.
(3/1/43). Just arrived back here in South Carolina after spending the night in Sherman, Texas. The night before last we were in Illinois. We had a very good tailwind coming home today from Texas. All I did was take off and land. The automatic pilot flew us all the way. We sure are doing a lot of flying. I now have only five states to go: Oregon, Washington, North and South Dakota, and Montana. The United States is beginning to look awfully small.
We are all through our training here now. Bill Fallon was lucky today, he landed in the lake today and got out without a scratch. Yesterday we found out that Pedersen’s crew had crashed in Savannah and he was killed. He was a screwball. A while back he was caught slow-rolling a B-25.”
After completing his training as a pilot in the B-25, Lt. Kinzel was assigned to the 22nd Bomb Squadron and received orders to travel with his squadron to the China-Burma-India (CBI) Theatre.*2 They made several stops in route before reaching their first base of operations in India. Although his diary doesn’t reveal the base he was to be assigned to, since locations were classified Secret at the time, he was most likely stationed at Chakulia, west of Calcutta. Some of the flight crew members of the 22nd had participated in Doolittle’s raid on Japan in April of 1942 before they joined the 22nd. They were referred to as “Toyko Boys.”
(5/6/43). “I am now in Florida on the first lap of my journey. I have just had my 23rd birthday. Everything is swell. I couldn’t ask for a better crew.
(5/8/43). Now in Aguadilla, Puerto Rico, and sent mother a Mother’s Day card.
Now in Accra, Africa. We are sure having a marvelous time here. We go swimming in the afternoon and the water is nice and warm. The food is very good, in fact a helluva sight better than the states.
We are now somewhere in India enjoying a swell vacation. We have seen many wonderful sights. It’s rather nice here in India, a bit warmer than California and a few more snakes. We have it very soft here as bearers do all our work. My bearer is about 20 years old and I call him George. We can just about understand each other with signs and a few words I have picked up. Writers may say that this is the land of romance and mystery but the next time I hear someone say they think the old country is better than the states, I’m going to kick their fanny off. The food is OK and the only thing that worries me is the snake problem. Sergeant Speciale killed two in his room last night and one outside. They are very deadly and I hope I can run 10 times faster than it if I should run across one.
Today I considered it a red letter day in my young life as I have sent $100 home to be banked for me that I have saved all by myself. For once, Army pay is enough to live on and I don’t have to send home weekly for money.
We have a bear cub here. I was rubbing his ear tonight and he would just lie down and almost fall asleep. He grabs your hand between his teeth and barely closes them.
Had a little excitement the night before last. Jerry came in and told me to get my gun as there was a tiger in our area. Nine of us piled on a jeep carrying machine guns, rifles and 45s. The searchlight showed up many pairs of green eyes but they all turned out to be jackals and foxes. We never caught up with the tiger but we found two cows he had killed.
(7/23/43). Just received a letter from Florida from a friend of mine telling me Bill Fallon and his crew were missing at sea. They found the wreckage off the coast but none of the men.
I have felt rotten since I heard about Bill Fallon crashing and his body not being found off the coast, then 5 days later to get news that my closest friend Gil Johnson was missing. They must have done something wrong. I can’t understand it because they seemed like careful fellows and Gil was to be married 4 days later. I had a letter from Gil Johnson’s father, as I had written him a while back asking for Gil’s APO number, but Gil had been reported missing right after I wrote. The poor man is so bewildered as they have not found him yet or his plane.”
In his diary, Lt. Kinsel provided very little detail of his bombing operations conducted from India. However, records published after the war indicate targets were bridges, railroads, factories and oil storage and other depots in North and Central Burma, and shipping in the Bay of Bengal.
“One thing I will always remember from this war was my first encounter with the enemy ack ack. I just happened to glance back and saw puffs of smoke so leaned over to Miller and after I swallowed hard said: Holy hell, someone’s firing at us. He looked back and said: Damned if they ain’t. It sounded so funny at the time but I felt ready to go home then and there.
They tried to hit us today with machine gun fire from the ground but after a few bursts from our boys they didn’t seem quite as eager. Its about time they learned its easier to drop an object than to try throwing it back up.
(8/28/43). We had a beautiful mission yesterday and I never felt more pleased in my life. Today, just after we took off, one engine cut out and we hobbled back on one. Before landing we dropped our bombs, then came in for a beautiful single-engine landing. The doctor was waiting for us with the ambulance and he appeared disappointed.
One of our planes was shot down in Burma and their families notified, but a few days later they (the crew) came walking out.
I was on a few more missions lately and boy today the (enemy) peppered the sky all around us. I tried to count the bursts but gave up at 45. What gripes them (the enemy) is the fact that we all limped home safely.
Had an engine shot out just a while back. Up to now I’ve been on 20 bombing missions. We take turns and the most crying done is because someone else is going on more raids than you and you feel cheated.
Back again safe and sound. Just put in a few more missions and saw a bit of excitement. I am not permitted to say where we went…enough ack ack you could almost get out and walk on it. We dug a large piece out of our ship and the boys were just kidding saying it looked like a Ford part. Every time I hear them explode I believe I age a year. That should put me in the neighborhood of 652 years.
The Gurkha is a certain type of Indian. If you ask one to show his knife, he will draw it out and before placing it away again he will stick himself to draw blood. It is their belief that every time a knife is drawn it must draw blood (nice guys).
A young missionary and his wife come each Sunday to deliver the sermon to our Protestant members. We have a Catholic Chaplin here on our airdrome and he delivers all sermons for all religions should there be no one around from our faith. I never had faith before. I have it now and should anything happen there is nothing we can do about it, so why worry.
Last night Miller and I were in and out of bed every half hour trying to catch a rat that insists on eating holes in our cartons of cigarettes, clothing and soap. Two of us were reading this noon when Ronnie, our bearer, cried: Snake. Sloan and I went outside and Ronnie was chasing it through the grass. It was finally killed with a bat. It turned out to be a krait (highly venomous cobra) about 2-1/2 feet long. Before long a hawk came down and flew away with it. I have seen these kraits spring about 3 feet. The doctor told me its poison works so quickly that, if you had a doctor standing by with instruments ready, he would have to amputate your leg up as far as possible the minute you were bitten. Then he couldn’t guarantee your safety over a 50/50 chance.
A few of the boys and I are going on a hunting trip tomorrow and jackals are going to be the target. That’s the nice thing about India, you can shoot whatever you please and without a license.
For something new to do, about 12 of us buy about 35 water buffalo steaks and grill them over a fire. They really hit the spot.
I was sorry to hear about one of the Sinnamon twins missing. If you go down in enemy territory they don’t know if you are dead or walking out or captured. We know that because we have come back from missions minus a ship now and then and they are reported missing in action. Sometimes they walk out but most times they don’t.
Christmas is over and we sure had a fine day but I did miss being home with the family. We had another movie tonight: I Walked With a Zombie. Need I say more? I managed to sit through the whole thing and I feel as though I should receive the Congressional Medal of Honor.”
The 22nd Bomb Squadron was transferred from the 10th Air Force and its base in India to the 14th Air Force and an air base in China, most likely Yankai, about 50 miles northeast of Kunming. Apparently, Lt. Kinzel made several trips back to India, crossing over the high mountains on the famous Hump route, probably to continue the offensive in Burma. It’s interesting that, in the following diary note, he refers to India as “home.”
(1/12/43). “Back in India again. Coming home from China we flew over the Hump and the other plane with me had engine failure. I kept our position on the map expecting them to bail out any minute but we finally crossed over every mountain safely and landed. We had a good scare and were praying we wouldn’t get jumped by Zeros (Japanese fighters). Today I ran into very bad weather. I went on instruments and the next thing I know snow was blowing into my compartment. I finally climbed above it and into rain and it made me feel a lot better. I have 260 combat hours so far.
China (14th Air Force) is now my new address. It is beautiful here and the air seems much fresher. The food is wonderful and we have warm water showers. I got my old ship and old crew back with two new members, co-pilot and navigator. The Chinese appear to be marvelous people. Small kids give us the thumbs up and shout Ding How. This was started by the Flying Tigers and means O.K.
I received my promotion today (to 1st Lt.) and I feel good about it.
(2/20/44). Two weeks ago we were on a mission and ran into a bit of weather; we became lost on our way home and about 8:30 in the evening I gave orders to bail out. It was funny but before the mission I told the crew we would fly due north if we should ever have to bail out and I would wait until everyone caught up to me on the ground.
We began abandoning ship and just as I was going out one engine cut out. I climbed back in and trimmed it for single-engine flight, then bailed out. The chute cut my chin when she snapped open, but not very bad. It was about the most lonely feeling I ever had floating down through the overcast…and I finally lit a cigarette. I saw a black spot and struck the ground at the same time. It numbed my right leg but I knew it wasn’t broken. I was on top of a mountain and my chute was caught in a tree. I finally climbed the tree and I broke the limbs holding the chute and when they snapped they made a hell of a racket and I was afraid I might still be in enemy territory.
I could hear a stream below me so I slid down the mountain and cut my way through the brush and drank my fill. I crawled back up and dug a ten inch deep hole in the muddy ground so I
could sleep without sliding down the side. The chute was handy for covering but it was drizzling and it soon became wet. I believe I prayed more that night than ever before. When morning came I fired a shot and and someone else answered my shot so I fired again but couldn’t locate their position. I walked south for 2 or 3 hours and met my engineer and gunner on top of the next mountain.
We came to the most filthy place I have ever seen and there was my bombardier eating rice. We stayed there that night and proceeded on the next day. We would walk and collapse continually and by dusk we had walked over 30 miles guided by two Chinese guerrillas. We arrived at a small village and there I found my co-pilot and radio man. We were very happy to see each other.
Fragment from Lt. Kinzel's B-25 Mitchell Bomber
We remained there for two days and they ( the guerrillas) finally brought in our last member. The following morning we went by boat to another place where all the people just stared at us all the time. None so far could speak English and it was very trying. It was also very irritating to be stared at all the time and they even followed us when we had to go to the toilet. Men, women, and children would watch us and it was very embarrassing.
The next two days we travelled by mule and also by foot over the mountains. We finally hit a small town and were taken to the Mayor’s home. They fed us very well (all Chinese food) but it was marvelous; about 30 courses and we had become quite efficient with chop sticks by this time. These people could speak a limited amount of English and their doctor attended to our wounds. I had done this previously (dressed wounds) back at the guerrilla’s camp and they had brought all their sick to me thinking I was a doctor. I treated goiter, arthritis, and everything. We proceeded the next day by truck and were relayed from one Mayor’s place to another for the next 10 days, then we came to an American base and were flown here. It was a fine experience but I am glad it is over. We were all put in for the Purple Heart and I think we will receive the Air Medal and Distinguished Flying Cross.”
After their ordeal, of bailing out over the jungle and being rescued, Lt. Kinzel and his crew were transported back to their previous base in India for a few days of rest and recovery.
“I am in India now, away from war, and am resting and gaining my weight back that I had lost in that experience I had last month. It looks as though my little recreation is drawing to an end and I am heading back to the old stomping grounds.
While at the beach, a G.I. came running up to us and said three people were in the water and couldn’t get out due to the undertow. We ran about half a mile down the beach. I saw them and
started after them with three of our gang. I grabbed the girl, who was a refugee from Poland. The others grabbed the two fellows. We gave the girl artificial respiration but after two hours we knew it was no use. The other fellows came around O.K.
(3/24/44). Just got back from my rest in India and found 55 letters awaiting me, so I had plenty of reading material on hand. It was wonderful to rest and I made the most of it. I have finally made Flight Leader and that should mean a Captaincy if I had been a 1st Lt. a bit longer. I can still get it if I stay a while longer over my time, but I’m not going to.
I was surprised to learn Peter Stiles had been captured (in Germany) but that’s not so bad because the Germans treat them (prisoners) fairly well. I wish it were this time three months from now because I would probably be on my way home. I won’t know how to act back there because my manners have become quite crude and it will take a while to accustom myself to American ways.
I have been flying these planes with only one set of controls and have asked to have another co-pilot fly with me since Browne, my old co-pilot crashed and was killed. They think I’m just kidding but its serious with me. I also asked to be made a co-pilot myself until I snap out of it. I have turned back from missions three times in a row now and it looks bad on my part. Two of my crew, Speciale (gunner) and Braemer (radio) went out (bailed out) with Miller and are again walking back.
(4/27/44). I was on orders to go home and should have been in Florida this evening but Bucky Fiske and I were scratched and were sent down here to instruct Chinese pilots to fly our planes. I felt pretty low about it as it was a great disappointment, but felt more than lucky to get away from the war. It was gradually making me a nervous wreck. My students can’t speak any English and I know about as much Chinese, so we have no arguments. When they do something wrong I just wait until we land and grab some interpreter to do the explaining.
Bucky Fiske just walked out of China in the same number of days it took me. Miller also walked out too.
Browne, my co-pilot, went on a mission with Harding while I was at a rest camp and the Japanese Zeroes came in and their shots killed Harding. Browne tried to bail out but the next burst got him dead center and he fell over. Their ship burst into flames and was a sickening sight. Lt. Rymer (bombardier) was trapped in the nose and knowing he couldn’t get out, continued firing his machine gun until they crashed. He got the Zero. It was the most heroic thing imaginable. Other Zeros circled them until the plane crashed into the water, then they strafed the debris. Miller got one and a Sergeant Miller bagged the 3rd. The other Zeroes then headed away.” Editor’s note: Apparently the two Millers survived to tell the tale.
“Soloed two Chinese officers two days ago and I was scared stiff until they were safely in the air, then sweated them out until they landed again, but they did a very good job. By the time I get finished with these boys I will be either damned good or rotten (as an instructor) because they fly the doggone thing right smack into the ground, then I have to grab it and catch it for the second bounce. It really is surprising how they can make these bombers bounce.
I’ve been doing quite a bit of flying in the P.T. (trainer) and the good ole B-25. I now have close to 600 hours in the B-25 alone. Tomorrow I’m supposed to be checked out in a P-40. I’ve always wanted to fly fighter planes and now I have my chance, but it won’t be in combat.
This war may look glamorous in the movies, but when you see it in the flesh you see it in a different light. It sure makes me angry to see others going home with less time and missions than myself.
They gave me my orders for the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Air Medal so I imagine that makes me a hero (or does it). I received the Distinguished Flying Cross for going on to the target after being attacked by Japanese Zeroes. The Purple Hearts our crew and another were supposed to receive have been turned down and I am disgusted. After going through the ordeal my crew did I should think they should receive something, but I guess you have to kill yourself to make them think you accomplished something. I burn every time I see a non-combatant wearing his medals.
Bill McNichols received his orders for going home and is really feeling good. That poor fellow is still carrying a lot of shrapnel in his neck from being bombed in Kunming.
I had a bit of good experience the other day. One of my engines went bad so I made a single-engine landing and was amazed at the simplicity of it.
We just received news over the radio that someone tried to take Hitler’s life and are anxiously awaiting more good news like that.
Being away from home changes your thoughts quite a lot and, instead of taking things for granted,+ like you once did, you begin to wonder if you have done all you could to make things easier at home.
Orders came out permitting us to wear Chinese Air Corps wings on our right side opposite our own wings. Just waiting for orders to come through and then plan to make a hurried trip to the good old USA.
Arrived home on Friday morning, October 13th, 1944, at 6 a.m.”
2nd Lt. Bonnie Busch and 1st Lt. Lloyd E. Kinzel, Lloyd A. Kinzel’s parents
Their’s was truly a whirlwind romance. She completed military training at Fort Carson, Colorado, on March 24th, 1945, and met Lt. Kinzel a few days later. She was then assigned to Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri; he flew there to meet her, and they were married in the base Chapel on April 7th, 1945.
*1 The Santa Ana Air Base was located at what is now the Orange County Fairgrounds…about two miles from Lyon Air Museum. A restored Army Air Corps barracks is exhibited on the Fairgrounds.
*2 David Hayward, who resides in southern California, and is a member of the Orange County Freedom Committee, was a fellow pilot in the 22nd Bomb Squadron. His books, Eagles, Bulldogs and Tigers, History of the 22nd Bomb Group in CBI, and WW-II Diary: Stories by Airmen of the 22nd Bomb Squadron of WW-II, provide fascinating details of the missions flown there and of the perilous lives of the B-25 flight crews.
Article Written by Lyon Air Museum Docent, David C. Wensley