PERSHKE, KENNETH HERMAN, Technical Sergeant, # 13040925, USAAF
Kenneth H. Pershke was born on 8 November 1922 in Braddock, Allegheny Co., Pennsylvania, to Herman Christian Pershke (1898-1958) and Pauline Georgia (Thompson) Pershke (1902-1978). Sibling was Harold Leo Pershke (1925-2008).
He enlisted in the USAAF in Pennsylvania on 8 January 1942. He was trained to operate the radio equipment as assistant radio operator and was a gunner. He earned his crewman wings. He was sent overseas to India and China. On 15 September 1943 a B-24J Liberator, “Daisy May,” # 41-24218, assigned to 14th Air Force, 308th Bomb Group, 373rd Bomb Squadron, Yangkai, China, departed the airfield to bomb Haiphong, French Indochina (Annam or Vietnam). The flight of five of seven B-24s (two were unable to take off) were to bomb the cement plant. Planners were unaware of enemy fighters that had been brought in and were nearby. The B-25s had no fighter cover and were attacked by about 50 enemy fighters over Haiphong at about 8,000’ altitude. A crew reported that they saw 41-24218 going down in a spin, its bomb bay door close, and no parachutes were seen. Capt. Don B. Smith, 0-793188 reported that he saw the B-24 flip inverted and crash into the Gulf of Tonkin. There was an explosion when it impacted the water. The body of TSgt Pershke was recovered by French who saw the crash. The rest of the formation parted and dropped their bombs in the Gulf of Tonkin to improve their chances of escaping the many enemy fighters. He is remembered on the tablets of the missing in the Manila American Cemetery & Memorial, Philippines. He was awarded the Air Medal and the Purple Heart.
His father, born 11 February 1898, served in the U.S. Army, Private, # 2774417, while attending Pennsylvania State College from 15 October 1918 to 10 December 1918. He died 5 March 1958 and is buried in the Valhalla Memorial Park, North Hollywood, Los Angeles Co., California.
His brother, Harold L. Pershke, born 1 July 1925, served in the U.S. Navy, SoMC2C, # 6520496, from 18 December 1941 to 10 December 1945. In 1944, he served on the U.S.S. Nicholson (DD-442), a Gleaves-class destroyer, served in the Atlantic, Miditerranean and Pacific theaters. After five months in the Mediterranean, Nicholson returned to the United States for overhaul in preparation for Pacific deployment, for which she sailed from Boston early in January 1944. When she reached New Guinea in February, she was assigned to escort LSTs in the Cape Gloucester campaign, already under way. Throughout the long New Guinea campaign, a matter of successive assaults on coastal points and nearby islands, Nicholson gave gunfire support to troops ashore. She had similar duty in the Admiralties; when, during the conquest of Seeadler Harbor, she was assigned to draw fire from an enemy battery on Hauwei Island. Here she was hit by a 4-inch (102 mm) shell which struck in No. 2 ammunition handling room, killing three and wounding four. She eliminated the enemy position. In August 1944 Nicholson joined the 3rd Fleet in the Marshalls. She screened fast carriers in raids on the Bonins, Formosa, and the Philippines, supporting the invasion of the Palaus and the neutralization of Yap. Returning to the Philippines, her group assisted the 7th Fleet during the invasion of Leyte and the decisive Battle for Leyte Gulf, from which Nicholson sailed for a Seattle overhaul. Returning to the western Pacific in February 1945, Nicholson escorted ships passing between Guam and Ulithi, and arrived off Okinawa for its invasion late in March. Serving in the exposed radar picket line, Nicholson came through untouched by kamikazes, but rescued survivors from stricken destroyers Little and Morrison. He died 23 April 2008 in Riverside Co., California.