Lt. Kenneth Otstot - 1st Pilot
Novemeber 1943 - April 1944
Flew "Patches", Squirrley Shirley", "Balls of Fire", and "Ten Hi", Class 43A, Santa Anna SAAAB, also flew with the 23rd BS.
Photo courtesy of Eric F. Otstot
Please do not use without permission
Eric Otstot, Ken's son, is looking for James F. Menzie, Tom Whitfield, William Market, and Peter Pecci that flew with his father. He can be reached at email@example.com
HEADQUARTERS, 13TH AAF, South Pacific -
A knockout punch to the famed Lakunai Airdrome, the greatest and most heavily-defended of the five strips in the Rabaul area, recently was delivered by heavy bombers of Major General Hubert R. Harmon's 13th AAF. And in on the kill was Second Lieut. Kenneth L. Otstot, son of Mr. and Mrs. Frank Otstot, 122 E. Harding Rd. Springfield, Ohio. Lieut. Otstot, first pilot of "Ball of Fire" is classified as being comparatively new in combat this having been his sixth mission. He was excited as a school boy over the manner in which the day's work turned out.
"Why," he said, "it was just like a football dream play. When I was in training back in the States, I'd heard that some of these combat outfits hang up some remarkable records but I never thought I'd be in on one like this. Everybody was in the right place at the right time, everything worked out perfectly. What an accurate outfit this is!".
"Ball of Fire" earned some individual glory in the strike, too, its gunner knocking out one Zero and probably another. It was just after "bombs away" that the top turret gunner, Staff Sergt.
Olivie Rice, a lanky hillbilly from Eubank, Ky., spotted a Zero making circles in and away on his right side. Corsairs each time kept them at a respectful distance, but, suddenly, something else took the Corsairs' attention, they peeled
off and the Zero seized the opportunity, coming in from the right. But Rice opened fire, kept his triggers pressed. Everyone in the plane thought Rice had gone mad, so vicious and sustained was his fire, but the co-pilot, Lieut. Tom
Whitfield of Mount Vernon, N. Y., could see the Zero coming and could see Rice's bullets chewing accurately through the fuselage. Then the Zero lunged out of control and fell crazily through the clouds. Shortly afterward another Zero made
a head on pass at "Ball of Fire," then came up from behind and broke out to the right at the rear of the Liberator. The tail gunner, Sergt. Joel M. Matthews of Meansville, Ga., the ball turret gunner, Sergt. Richard Miesig Jr.,
Cleveland, and the right waist gunner, Sergt. James F. Menzie, Tucson, Ariz. all let him have it. Gunners in other ships said the Zero pilot was done for when he tumbled. All planes reached the target during the attack, all bombs were
dropped in the target area, all aircraft returned and the pictures gave evidence that, with four-fifths of the field badly damaged, the runway cannot be used for "some time."
The 13th's B-24 Liberators applied the climax blow aided by more than 50 fighters, many of which were the 13th's own P-38's, immediately after their B-25 Mitchells had given the Japs a dose of their particular kind of punishment. The Liberators put 152 1000 pound bombs precisely in the target area. The mission was described by Lieut.-Col. Edwin S. Greene of El Centro, Calif., 13th AAF Bomber Command operations officer, as "near perfect," one of the best of recent months. Others less conservative termed it "one of the best missions in the history of the group, "which is the oldest AAF group now in the South Pacific. The mission was personally lead by Group Commander Lieut.-Col. Joseph C. Reddoch, Jr. of Loverne Ala., and San Antonio, Tex., Col. Reddoch makes a habit of going along with his men.
Article from the Springfield News & Sun, Springfield, Ohio March 5, 1944:
The Bomber Group was the 5th and the Squadron was the 23rd or the 31st.
Joel Matthews was KIA spring of 1944.
Ollie Rice is a retired Baptist Minister living in Jacksonville Fla.
Richard Niesig is retired and living in Bremen, Georgia.
Ken Otstot died 1973.
The correct named of the plane was actually "Balls o' Fire". If you know any of the men in the article or may know the whereabouts of Tom Whitfield or James F. Menzie please contact me. I am also looking for information on Bill Market, Howard C. Ness, Peter "Pete" Pecci (deceased) George Ellis (deceased) and Frank Bates. Our anyone connected with the 557th Flying Training Squadron and The Class of 43-A Chico Army Basic Flying School (M Flight) please contact me.
A special Thanks to:
Harold A Hofmann
Thomas B. LaMon
Arthur J. Finnell
Article donated by:
Eric F. Otstot
Star Rt. Box 22-A
Reno, Ohio 45773
(740) 376 0632
"Ball Of Fire"
LIEUT. K.L. OTSTOT AT THE CONTROLS DURING KNOCK-OUT AIR BOMBING
(Special to the News-Sun)