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Owen David Kerens

Courtesy Bonnie Batdorf, Kerens's niece

West Virginia Veterans Memorial

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Owen David Kerens
1919-1945

"Courage is rightly esteemed the first of human qualities . . . because it is the quality which guarantees all others."

Winston Churchill

Owen David Kerens was born in Evenwood, Randolph County, West Virginia, on October 29, 1919, to Clyde Emmett Kerens and Ellie Effie Harper Kerens. Owen had one sister, Irene Gladys, and one brother, Emmett Harper.

Owen Kerens graduated from Elkins High School in 1936. He graduated from Davis and Elkins College in 1938, after which he taught in the Randolph County elementary schools.

His flying career commenced in 1940, when he enrolled in a civilian pilot training course, which resulted in a pilot’s license in January 1941. He joined the Naval Air Corps on June 7, 1941, and trained at the U.S. Naval Reserve Base at Anacostia, D.C., and at the Jacksonville, Florida, Naval Air Station.

Owen David Kerens was commissioned on February 17, 1942, and he served as a flight instructor at Jacksonville and at Anacostia. He was promoted to Lieutenant (Junior Grade) on March 1, 1943. His outstanding ability as a trainer of pilots led to his transfer to the Naval College for Primary Flight Instructors at New Orleans, Louisiana, where he served as one of the highest rated senior staff flight instructors. He received a promotion to lieutenant on April 1, 1944, and he was ordered to duty aboard the USS Ticonderoga on August 17 of that same year.
Owen Kerens

Owen Kerens. Courtesy Bonnie Batdorf

Twenty-four Essex class aircraft carriers were built for the U.S. Navy during World War II, among them, the USS Ticonderoga CV-14. The Ticonderoga was commissioned in May of 1944. Lt. Owen David Kerens was designated as Hanger Deck Officer. The hanger deck was a huge open space below the flight deck that was used for storage and maintenance of aircraft. Large elevators were used to move the aircraft between the flight deck and the hanger deck.

Owen Kerens

USS Ticonderoga listing after kamikaze attacks. Courtesy U.S. National Museum of Naval Aviation

Just after noon on January 21, 1945, while the USS Ticonderoga was conducting flight operations in the Pacific near Formosa, a kamikaze crashed through the flight deck. His bomb exploded just above the hanger deck causing several stored planes to burst into flame, resulting in major destruction to the aircraft. A second kamikaze struck the carrier near the island on the flight deck, resulting in more planes being set on fire, extensive damage to the flight deck, injuries to 202 men, and loss of life of several sailors. Lt. Owen David Kerens and 142 of his shipmates were killed during these attacks.

On February 7, 1945, his parents received a telegram from the Navy Department informing them that their son was missing in action. A second telegram received on August 10 read as follows: “Deeply regret to inform you that a careful review of all facts available relating to the disappearance of your son, Lt. Owen David Kerens, USNR previously reported missing, leads to the conclusion that there is no hope for his survival and that he lost his life as result of enemy action on January 21, 1945, while in the service of his country.”

The name of Lt. Owen D. Kerns USNR is among the 36,285 names recorded on the Tablets of the Missing at Manila American Cemetery, Fort Bonifacio, in Taguig City, Manila, Philippines. In addition to that memorial, a marker was placed in the Elkins Memorial Gardens at Elkins, West Virginia, to commemorate the life of Lt. Kerens.
Kerens marker

Purple Heart
Victory medal
Lt. Owen David Kerens was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart and the World War II Victory Medal.

Article prepared by Leon Armentrout

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Owen Kerens

West Virginia Archives and History welcomes any additional information that can be provided about these veterans, including photographs, family names, letters and other relevant personal history.


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