KARNS, JOHN WILLMOT, Staff Sergeant, #33249171, USAAF
John W. Karns was born 22 November 1921 in Monroe Township, Bedford County, Pennsylvania, to Erastus M. Karns (1888-1973) and Belle (Hall) Karns (1892-1956). Siblings included Paul Francis Karns (1916-1976), Burl Karns (1919-2009), Thomas D. Karns (1923-1988), Betty J. (Karns) Fabian (1927-), Arlene A. (Karns) Bilinsky (1930-2017), and John Albert Karns (1934-1934). In 1930, they lived on Old Plank Road, West Providence, Pennsylvania. His father worked in a saw mill.
He registered for the WW II draft in 1941 and described himself as 5’9”, 175 lbs, with brown hair and eyes. He enlisted 1 August 1942 at Altoona, Blair County, Pennsylvania. He was assigned to the 308th Bomb Group, the 425th Bomb Squadron, 14th Air Force, at Kunming, China. On 25 January 1944, a B-24D, # 42-73242, “Haley’s Comet” (named after Lt Roger F. Haley) (converted to ferry passengers and cargo), upon which SSgt Karns was a gunner, departed Chabua, India, at 7:40 a.m., to fly to Kunming, China. It was assigned to the 425th Bomb Squadron of the 308th Bomb Group. At 10:45 a.m., the formation of five B-24Ds “was forced to break up due to extreme instrument weather conditions.” All five aircraft crashed; B-24D, # 41-23889, crashed near Jorhat, Arunachal Pradesh, India. Crews parachuted from two and a third, which crashed, had two survivors. The fourth and fifth, “Hot as Hell” and “Haley’s Comet,” disappeared, the crews presumed dead (Tara Copp, Stars & Stripes, 8 Apr 2016). Haley’s Comet was found eventually. The bomber was mentioned in China Up and Down by John T. Foster. A memorial marker is in the Fort William McKinley Memorial Cemetery, Manila, Philippines, and another in the Rockhill Cemetery, Clearville, Pennsylvania.
His brother, Burl Karns, served in the U.S. Army (service # 330735045) during WW II, Technician Fourth Grade, and was in the invasions of Saipan, Leyte, and Okinawa. He enlisted 23 August, 1941, at Camp Lee, Virginia (later Fort Lee; home of the Quartermaster Corps, U.S. Army) and served in the U.S. through 19 August 1943, and 22 November 1945 through 7 December 1945. He served overseas from 20 August 1943 through 21 November 1945.