BECKWITH, KENNETH AMOS, Staff Sergeant, # 31154891, USAAF
Kenneth A. Beckwith was born 31 August 1921 in Cornville, Maine, to Charles L. Beckwith (1888-1975) (Presque Isle, Maine) and Lephe K. (Henderson) Beckwith (1885-1954) (Greely, Colorado). Siblings included Windell Albert Beckwith (1915-1988), Philip William Beckwith (1917-2006), Charline Belle (Beckwith) Parlin (1918-1999), Merita A. (Beckwith) Hartwell (1924- ). In 1940 the family lived in Corville, Somerset Co., ME. Nearby lived his uncle, LeRoy Sinclair Beckwith (1897-1951), Marion Beckwith (1904-1940).
He enlisted in the USAAF on 28 October 1942 and was honorably discharged on 13 January 1946. He re-enlisted as a Technical Sergeant on 14 January 1946 at Fort Devens, Massachusetts. After four years, he re-enlisted in the U.S.A.F. on 15 February 1950 and was honorably discharged 30 November 1962, a Master Sergeant. He trained in the maintenance and operation of the .50 caliber machineguns on the B-29 Superfortress. He was the right waist gunner aboard the B-29 on the day he was captured. On 7 December 1944, B-29, # 42-6299, “Humpin’ Honey,” of 20th Air Force, Pardoba India, 462nd Bomb Group, 770th Bomb Squadro, departed the airfield at Kuinglai, China, on a bombing mission to Mukden, Manchuria. Over the target, at 0122 Zulu, an enemy aircraft crashed head-long into the B-29, killing all but two of the crew on board (MACR 10125). SSgt Beckwith reported that the first unusual condition that was noticed in the B-29 was the disappearance of about 20 feet of the left wing. The B-29 seemed to fly straight and level for a while then started to spin to the left. SSgt Huss, Sgt Ruddy and Beckwith prepared to leave the gunners compartment to bail out. During this, Beckwith called on the interphone to the pilot to inform him of the damage to the left wing. There was no acknowledgment or answer. After the spin began, the alarm bell started to ring. Before he was able to completely fasten his parachute, he passed out from lack of oxygen. Before, he passed out, Sgt Ruddy entered the radar compartment. When Beckwith regained consciousness, he was out of the B-29 in a free fall at about 4,000 feet altitude. Only his arms were through the parachute straps, not his legs. He did not believe he had time to fasten the chest and leg straps so he pulled the rip cord and stayed with the parachute. After the parachute opened, he noticed that parts of the B-29 falling around him. He believes he saw the tail section hit the ground. They landed near a Japanese guard house, so did not have any chance to practice escape and evasion.
SSgt Huss wrote that he believed he and Beckwith were the only survivors. Neither knew how they got out of the B-29. They thought the B-29 exploded or broke open at the blister section; the fire control room, where they were. During his interrogation by the enemy, he was told that a badly injured crew member had been shot. He did not who this was or if it was true.