Bob Kelley at a July Fourth parade in 2009. He still fits into his 1944 uniform. Bob was 96 years old and healthy
as a horse until a stroke took him down. We corresponded until the end. Yes, we had become friends and met
out in California and spent a day together sometime around 2014-2015. [Kelley]
came an interference to school attendance and
work he switched to working after school and on
weekends at the family lumber yard, eventually
becoming Vice President of Northside Lumber
Company prior to volunteering for military duty.
David is remembered by his sister as a young
man interested in mechanics and carpentry and
an excellent partner to his dad in the management of the family’s lumber business. He also
was very interested in real estate and land development. She also remembers rides on his motorcycle and, no surprise here, for a “buzz job” of
the family home in North Birmingham just prior
to his transfer to England.
A desire to fly aircraft and fearing being drafted into the Infantry or Navy, David volunteered for
the U.S. Army Air Corps and was sent to Flight
School at Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery, Ala. On March 10, 1943 he began Primary
Training at Avon Park, FL and, later, Advanced
Training at Gunter Field in Montgomery. When he
graduated from Flight Training at Freeman Field
Ind., he received the single gold bar of a 2Lt on
December 5, 1943, one month before Bob Kelley
was commissioned. Assigned to bombers, David
did further training at Salt Lake City and Dahlbert,
Texas, before flying to England where he served
with the 91st BG, 322nd BS until his loss on September 8, 1944.
He was very respected by those who flew
with him. Frank Bolen, survivor of David’s last
mission said he was “… nice and easy going, but
not reserved.” And that he was “… an excellent
and confident …” pilot. Dave Wolnowitz who was
a member of David’s crew prior to that final mission remembers David as “… quiet and the nicest
guy in the world …” and “… a great pilot”.
David McCarty Jr. was survived
by his parents, sister, Ethel Jean
McCarty, and grandmother, Mrs.
Rose Clark McCarty. The family
asked the U.S. Military to return
David’s body to Birmingham where
his funeral service and final burial
took place in July 1947. He is buried in Forest Hill
Cemetery in Birmingham.
Who Would Have Thought Such
Tiny Photos Could Lead To So
I could never have imagined that those three
tiny images would lead me to so many sources
of information. Not only was I able to find what
happened to “My Baby” and her pilot, David McCarty Jr., but I was able, with the help of so many,
to locate people who had had flown “My Baby”
and survived McCarty’s last mission. Archivists
and Bob Kelley helped discover photos of McCarty and the B-17’s that he flew. Bob Kelley sent
me a piece of “My Baby” that he recovered from
a farmer’s field many years after her crash.
My late father was astounded by all of this information and amazed that he was able to hold an
actual piece of the B-17 that he had a “joy ride” in
on August 10, 1944.
David McCarty was 22 years old when he was
shot down over Germany on September 8, 1944.
Dad was 26. Young men united for a carefree afternoon flying over the south of England. For my
dad it was a lifetime memory. For me, it has been
an opportunity to honor my Dad’s role in WW II.
But it has also been an opportunity to remember
a pilot who did not return to tell his kids amazing
tales of his missions with the Mighty Eighth over
Nazi Germany. They were all a part of “The Greatest Generation” and their service should never be
This has been quite a tour and I could not have
tied all the loose ends together without those
who have generously contributed information,
photos, contacts, and editorial assistance. Bob
Kelley very early on got me moving toward solving the puzzle of who was “Mac” and the story of
the demise of “My Baby.” He referred me to many
contacts that filled voids in “The Story.” He also
offered me many photos of “My Baby” and finally,
a relic removed from her burned out carcass that
lies below a French farmer’s bean field. Bob became not only an advisor, but a good friend who
did live to see this story completed. Jean McCarty
Kittrell, David McCarty’s sister sent not only the
recollections of a teenaged younger sister, but
a careful list of editorial corrections. Her career
as an English Professor made her eminently
qualified to do so. Old friend and writer, Ken Dalecki, also offered assistance in the editorial process. The Archives staff at the National Air and
Space Museum lent their knowledge and enthusiasm. Brian Nicklas, Melissa Keiser, and Larry Wilson could not have been more helpful in pointing
me in the right direction. My early contact with
them in 1994 and my subsequent employment
at the NASM have created enduring friendships
with them. Frank Bolen and David Wolnowitz
were also very generous with information about
David McCarty and his last mission. Ray Bowden
and The USAAF Nose Art Research Project were
a critical source of information on McCarty and
the B-17s that he flew. I am also grateful to the
91st Bomb Group Memorial Association for their
assistance and Jan Zdiarsky for his interest
in this story that led him to provide additional
research, photos, editorial assistance and encouragement.
The body of David McCarty Jr. was returned to Alabama by his family in 1947. He is buried in Forest Hill Cemetery in Birmingham.
He is survived by his sister Ethel Jean Kittrell. [Forest Hill Cemetery]