An F-15C Eagle is sporting a badass World War II-era paint job in honor of a fallen bomber pilot who gave everything to ensure his men survived a deadly battle.
On June 23, 1944, in the skies over Ploiești, Romania, 2nd Lt. David Kingsley's B-17 was about to crash. The aircraft had been riddled by enemy flak and incoming fire from fighters, and several of his crew were injured. As Kingsley gave the order to bail out, he realized one of his men was missing a parachute.
Without hesitation, Kingsley removed his chute, fit it to his wounded tail-gunner and helped the man out of the aircraft. As his crew descended under open canopies, Kingsley was last seen standing alone on the bomb bay catwalk.
A few moments later, the B-17 crashed, yet his crew had survived. For his actions that day, Kingsley was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor on April 9, 1945.
Nearly 75 years later, the Air Force again honored Kingsley's selfless sacrifice during a recent ceremony at Kingsley Field Air National Guard Base in Oregon when the service unveiled the F-15C Heritage Jet.
The aircraft's new paint job features a portrait of Kingsley on its tail, and the paint scheme is a mottled green and brown camouflage pattern modeled off the B-17 with black and white “invasion stripes” along the wings.
The word “Sandman” is stenciled on the nose, a reference to the B-17 that Kingsley was piloting on the day he made the ultimate sacrifice.
During the ceremony, Kinglsey's niece Leslie Jones addressed members of the 173rd Fighter Wing, saying, “When news of Uncle David's death reached the family they were heartbroken, but when they learned of the circumstances of his death they weren't surprised by his actions.”
Kingley's full Medal of Honor citation can be read below:
For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of life above and beyond the call of duty, 23 June 1944 near Ploesti, Rumania, while flying as bombardier of a B17 type aircraft. On the bomb run 2d Lt. Kingsley's aircraft was severely damaged by intense flak and forced to drop out of formation but the pilot proceeded over the target and 2d Lt. Kingsley successfully dropped his bombs, causing severe damage to vital installations. The damaged aircraft, forced to lose altitude and to lag behind the formation, was aggressively attacked by 3 ME-109 aircraft, causing more damage to the aircraft and severely wounding the tail gunner in the upper arm. The radio operator and engineer notified 2d Lt. Kingsley that the tail gunner had been wounded and that assistance was needed to check the bleeding. 2d Lt. Kingsley made his way back to the radio room, skillfully applied first aid to the wound, and succeeded in checking the bleeding. The tail gunner's parachute harness and heavy clothes were removed and he was covered with blankets, making him as comfortable as possible. Eight ME-109 aircraft again aggressively attacked 2d Lt. Kingsley's aircraft and the ball turret gunner was wounded by 20mm. shell fragments. He went forward to the radio room to have 2d Lt. Kingsley administer first aid. A few minutes later when the pilot gave the order to prepare to bail out, 2d Lt. Kingsley immediately began to assist the wounded gunners in putting on their parachute harness. In the confusion the tail gunner's harness, believed to have been damaged, could not be located in the bundle of blankets and flying clothes which had been removed from the wounded men. With utter disregard for his own means of escape, 2d Lt. Kingsley unhesitatingly removed his parachute harness and adjusted it to the wounded tail gunner. Due to the extensive damage caused by the accurate and concentrated 20mm. fire by the enemy aircraft the pilot gave the order to bail out, as it appeared that the aircraft would disintegrate at any moment. 2d Lt. Kingsley aided the wounded men in bailing out and when last seen by the crew members he was standing on the bomb bay catwalk. The aircraft continued to fly on automatic pilot for a short distance, then crashed and burned. His body was later found in the wreckage. 2d Lt. Kingsley by his gallant heroic action was directly responsible for saving the life of the wounded gunner.