Winner Of The Losers

One man's life experiences and lessons


Posted by admin On December - 10 - 2013

PREFACE:  Must remember Pearl Harbor was 7 Dec 1941, but just 3 days later, Capt Colin Purdie Kelly, Jr died in his B-17 over the Philippines after attacking the Japanese Navy vessels, but unable to out run the Japanese fighters.  He was regarded as one of the first heros of WWII.  This morning, 10 Dec 2013, I attended the Anniversary Ceremony here in the Philippines.  Below are my remarks at the same event one-year ago today.


Capt Colin Purdie Kelly, Jr  Remembrance Day

10 Dec 2012, 8am * Clark (Field) Freeport Zone, Philippines

By Edgar J. LaBenne, Lt Col, USAF (retired)


I am so very pleased to be here today with you to remember Capt Colin Purdie Kelly, Jr.  Capt Kelly is widely considered the 1st American Hero of WWII.  Kelly was a West Point graduate from 1937.


My Message Today: 

Capt Kelly sacrificed his life, for the lives of his crew.  

Capt Kelly sacrificed his life, so you and I are here today in freedom. 


In the United State, we often refer to Capt Kelly and the millions of Americans who served during WWII are part of the “greatest generation”.  The “greatest generation” because of the sacrifices they gave over the 4 long years to defeat both Japan and Germany to regain freedom for the free world.  A war that saw over 60M people worldwide killed.  Including over half of million people here in the Philippines.


My personal connection to the “greatest generation” was my Dad, Raymond Edgar LaBenne, who served in WWII in the Army Air Corps in England maintaining bomber aircraft.  Also, my mom’s brother, my Uncle Russell Wallis Robinson, who served in the Army in Europe.




Only 3 days after the Japanese attacked Hawaii, Capt Kelly and his crew were given the mission to attack Japanese Navy vessels.  Amazingly, they were able to hit the Japanese cruiser, Natori, 3 times.  Unfortunately, the B17 was attacked on their way back to Clark Field by a group of Japanese Zeros, led by their greatest ACE, Saburō Sakai, who was recognized with shooting down 64 Allied planes during WWII.  A pilot is called an ACE when he has 5 confirmed aerial victories.


After his B-17 was disabled and on fire, Capt Kelly ordered his crew to bail out, while Capt Kelly, stayed in control of his aircraft to allow time for 6 crew members to successfully bail out of the B-17 and survive.  However, there was no time for Capt Kelly to save himself.  On 10 December 1941, at the age of 26, Capt Colin Purdie Kelly, Jr died flying his B-17 Flying Fortress.


Capt Kelly sacrificed his life, for the lives of his crew.  

Capt Kelly sacrificed his life, so you and I are here today in freedom. 


I can only think of the Bible verse from John 15:13

“Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.”


There are so many more who sacrificed for us.  You only need to drive past the Clark Veterans Cemetery to see the white crosses of both Americans and Filipinos who served and sacrificed for all of us.  Over 8,600 heros are buried there.


My second message today is always take time to “SHARE HISTORY WITH OUR YOUTH”.


Today I have my son here, Joshua Raymond LaBenne, named after his Lolo (my Dad) who served in WWII.  I delayed his arrival to school today for him to be here today to learn about the sacrifices others have made well before him.


We are so fortunate to live in Freedom.

Filipinos LOVE Freedom!

Americans LOVE Freedom!


I ask each of you here today to always try to take opportunities to “Educate our Youth”.  Our Youth need to understand and remember our past history, so to continue to protect the freedoms we share and enjoy.   We have neighbors in North Korea and China who are NOT FREE and their people do NOT even understand the concept of Freedom.  Freedom that our youth may take for granted, if we do not educate them.


Mayor and Guy, I am so thankful for this event.  This simple event to remember only 1 man, Capt Colin Purdie Kelly, Jr who represents the millions before and after him, many who sacrificed the ultimate, with their life, so that we can experience Freedom.


Before us, men like Capt Kelly gave their life to ensure that our youth and the generations to follow would be born in Freedom and live in Freedom.  Hopefully, my son will not need to go to war again to protect this Freedom.  But our youth must be aware of the past and if necessary protect the future.  Always conscience of the generations to follow.


“Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.”

John 15:13


Capt Kelly sacrificed his life, for the lives of his crew.  

Capt Kelly sacrificed his life, so you and I are here today in freedom. 

Thank You Capt Kelly. (Salute)






Below is Edgar LaBenne and Joshua LaBenne, next to the statue of Capt Colin P. Kelly, Jr on the former Clarkfield, Philippines.







Wearth laying ceremony at the Capt Coin P. Kelly, Jr., memorial at Clark Field, Pampanga on the anniversary of his death. Great ceremony with school kids, band, 21-gun salute, 4 WWII jeeps, six (6) reenactors — wow it was a so well organized.






by Robert Taylor

December 7th, 1941, while the Pacific Fleet took a hammering in Hawaii, Japanese aircraft from Formosa were attacking refuelling B-17s on the ground at Clark Field on the island of Luzon in the Philippines. The only surviving B-17s being those dispersed to a small strip at Mindanao.


On December 10th 1941, the surviving19th Bomb Group B-17s returned to the damaged Clark Field to load bombs. Captain Colin Kelly had managed to only get three 600lb bombs aboard when the air raid alarm was sounded. Kelly took off immediately, heading for enemy ships off the coast of Luzon.


Having located a landing force approaching the coast off Appari, Kelly selected the largest ship in the flotilla, the heavy cruiser Ashigara, scoring a direct hit bombing from 22,000 feet. Heading towards Clark Air Field, Kelly descended through broken cloud to 11,000 feet where his B-17 was jumped by a flight of 10 Japanese Zero fighters, attacking one by one in line astern. One burst of enemy fire went right through the middle of the aircraft taking the life of Kelly’s flight engineer and setting the aircraft on fire. With the aircraft mortally damaged and still under attack, Kelly ordered his crew to bail out while he held the aircraft steady. The aircraft exploded throwing the co-pilot Donald Robins clear. The B-17 came down in pieces with the gallant skipper still at the controls. He had no chance of survival.


Captain Colin Kelly was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Cross.

Robert Taylor depicts Kelly’s B-17 under heavy attack from Zero fighters led by Japanese Ace, Saburo Sakai. Sakai later said “Out of ammunition, I flew alongside the B-17 and saw the pilot trying to save the burning aircraft after allowing his crew to escape. I have tremendous respect for him.”


From Oliver Art Gallery (Painting and Details)





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