Community honors Portland airman who died saving wounded crewman

A Portland airman whose sacrifice saved the life of his fellow crewman was honored this Memorial Day.
Published: May. 29, 2023 at 7:34 PM PDT
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PORTLAND Ore. (KPTV) - A Portland airman whose sacrifice saved the life of his fellow crewman was honored this Memorial Day.

In December 2020, Battalion Chief Mark Tilden was cleaning his fire station when he came across a 1940s Oregon firefighter journal. In the middle of the page, he saw a picture of David Kingsley with the words “Congressional Medal of Honor Winner” underneath.

“I couldn’t believe it,” Tilden said. “My jaw dropped.”

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Tilden didn’t know Kingsley’s story, so he started digging. He found Kingsley joined the Portland Fire & Rescue for a short period of time. Then he joined the Army Air Corps in 1942, flying a B-17 and completing 20 combat missions.

In 1944, Kingsley was on a mission flying over Romania. During the combat, a crew member, Sergeant Mike Sullivan was injured. The plane was damaged and the captain urged everyone to evacuate. But Sullivan’s parachute was damaged.

“Kingsley, without hesitation took his parachute off, gave it to the injured gunner, brought them over to the Bombay door, put his hand on the record and said hold on. Let us know when you clear the ship pull the rip cord,” Tilden said. “The last thing they saw, was Kingsley in the Bombay, riding the plane into the ground.”

Kingsley died June 18, 1944 at the age of 26. In 1945, he was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor, the highest military award, for his sacrifice.

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“It is a cool legacy to have in the family, but again it cost him his life,” says Leslie Kingsley Jones, Kingsleys’ niece.

Leslie says her family got to meet Sgt. Sullivan in the mid-90s, but says Sullivan couldn’t talk about the event.

“He pretty much died with it. He ended up being a prisoner of war until September that year I think,” says Kingsley-Jones. “He kept my uncle’s name, or something tucked in his wallet.”

The Kingsley family say they keep his memory alive by sharing his story.