Colonel Stephen J. King
Mar. 16, 1923 Akron Ohio
Colonel Stephen J. (“Sky”) King, U.S. Air Force (Ret.), a World War II, Korea and Vietnam veteran and ex-POW (WWII, Germany), passed away peacefully at the age of 93 surrounded by his loving family.
A resident of La Mesa, CA, he was born and raised in Akron, OH. He is preceded in death by his lovely wife, Lily (nee Harrison), in 1985 and brother, John King of Akron, OH in 2016. He is survived by his children, Stephanie Davidson, La Mesa, CA; Maureen (David) Downey, Florence, AZ; Patrick King, Gaithersburg, MD; Catherine (Michael) DeCenzo, Ashburn, VA; and Madeline King, Santee, CA; grandchildren, Scott Downey, April Bolduc, Lissa Downey, Ryan (Nyomi) Downey, Alexander King, Nicole (John) Brennan, Andrew (Ashley) DeCenzo, Amanda DeCenzo, Patrick Kelly, Katherine (Michael) Robison; great-grandchildren Owen Downey, Olivia Downey and Lorenzo Semas; and many nephews and nieces.
At the young age of 21, he became aircraft commander of his B-17 Flying Fortress after being promoted to 1st Lieutenant in Kimbolton, England during WWII. His crew was the first to fly two bombing missions on June 6, 1944 (D-Day). During their last mission over Germany on June 18, 1944, his aircraft was hit and became engulfed in fire. As he maneuvered his way to the bomb bay to ensure everybody jumped out, an explosion blew him out of the burning aircraft. Four of his nine-man crew perished. Parachuting into Germany, King evaded capture while on foot for ten hours but was finally subdued by German townspeople who dragged him through town and prepared to hang him. But, German soldiers interceded, took him into custody, and locked him in solitary confinement for eight days before sending him to a prison camp, Stalag Luft III, near the town of Sagan, Germany. In January, 1945, he and 10,000 prisoners were marched 50 miles on foot during a blizzard and then transported by boxcar for five days to Stalag VII-A in Moosburg, Germany. He remained there as a prisoner of war until April 29, 1945, when the camp was liberated by George Patton’s Third Army.
He went on to have a distinguished and honorable military career which included participation in the Berlin Airlift of 1948; Chief of Operations for the United Nations Mission on Palestine in Beirut, Lebanon; Commander of the 6000th Operations Squadron in Tachikawa, Japan; C-130 Wing Vice Commander in Topeka, KS; and C-7A Wing Vice Commander in Cam Ranh Bay, Vietnam [483rd TAW, 1970). He was awarded numerous medals, badges, and campaign ribbons, including the Air Force Commendation Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Army of Occupation Medal, Air Medal, Legion of Merit Award, United Nations Service Medal, European–African–Middle Eastern Campaign Medal and American Campaign Medal.