Masters of the Air: How did Sgt. Ken Lemmons Die?

In Apple TV+’s ‘Masters of the Air,’ a bomb squad lands itself in the middle of the Second World War, fighting Nazis thousands of feet in the air. The 100th, who later earn the title of “Bloody Hundredth,” valiantly goes into the battlefield, but while they take the bullets, the people working behind the scenes are also equally responsible for winning the war. When the battered planes come back to the base, they are immediately sent to be repaired, and it falls on the mechanics to make sure they are battle-ready once again. The one in charge of the mechanics is a young boy named Ken Lemmons, who soon proves himself a force to be reckoned with.

Sgt. Ken Lemmons Lived Quite an Eventful Life

Born on December 29, 1922, in Arkansas, Ken Lemmons was the son of Arch Clayton and Hassel Allison Lemmons. He quit school in the ninth grade and started helping his father run the farm, where he learned farming and mechanical trade, which later made him an instrumental factor in the 100th. After the Pearl Harbor attack, America entered the Second World War, and Ken Lemmons volunteered on December 15. He was set to ship out to England in 1943, but before that, he married Fonda Ragan, his childhood sweetheart, with whom he remained for the next 61 years of his life. With her, he had a son named Dan and a daughter named Michelle.

Image Credit: 100th Bomb Group Foundation

He spent the next two years at Thorpe-Abbotts Army Air Base in East Anglia, England, as the flight chief for his ground crew. He was only 19 at the time. He was made in charge of “Picadilly Lily,” “Mason-Dixon,” and “Boeing Belle,” among others. As part of the ground crew, Sgt Lemmons and his team’s (of fifteen men) job was to make sure that the planes were always in the best condition so that the pilots and the crew could do their jobs effectively. While the pilots and their crew get most of the glory for being in the middle of the battle and seeing all the action, the importance of people like Sgt Lemmons cannot be underestimated.

Lemmons’ commendable service in the Second World War received more recognition through a book called ‘The Forgotten Man: The Mechanic: The Kenneth A Lemmons Story,’ written by Cindy Goodman and Jan Riddling. ‘Masters of the Air’ also gives space to his character and the team of people who served under him to emphasize the role they played in winning the war.

Once the war was over, Lemmons returned home to resume a normal life. He moved to Rockford in 1948 and started working at Rockford Clutch Division of Borg-Warner, where he remained in employment till 1963. After leaving the company, he decided to start his own business, for which he moved to Memphis, Tennessee. A year later, he went back to Rockford Clutch and remained there till 1968, this time working as the Service Manager. In ’68, he left the company for good and, once again, focused on building his own business. In 1973, he established Ken’s Rebuilders Supply and worked on it till his retirement in 1987.

Ken Lemmons died on December 17, 2004, at the ripe old age of 81, at his home in Rockford. He had been suffering from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease for a very long time, and it eventually claimed him. He was laid to rest in Scandinavian Cemetery in Rockford, Illinois.

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