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Kern, Elmer F., Jr. (Elmer Ferdinand), 1923-1945



  • Existence: 1923-03-22 - 1945-04-10

Biographical Information

Second Lieutenant Elmer F. Kern Jr. was born March 22, 1923 in Colorado. His family, parents and one sister, moved to Maywood, Illinois, where he attended Proviso High School and graduated in 1940. Then, he went to Indiana to attend Purdue University. While at Purdue, he was a member of the Alpha Tau Omega fraternity, was in ROTC, and played trombone in the Purdue orchestra. He was inducted into the military on February 17, 1943. He graduated from Purdue University in 1943 with a degree in mechanical engineering, and he became active in the United States Army Air Corps and his unit was the 365th Field Artillery Battalion, 97th Infantry Division.

He was at several military installations. First, he was at Fort Benjamin Harrison in Indiana on September 6th and 8th of 1943. Next, he was at Fort Sill in Oklahoma until January 7, 1944. Then, he was at Camp Roberta in California. In a telegram to his family, he tells them he received new orders to Camp Beale in California on February 1, 1944 and remained at Camp Beale until April 1944. Then, he was at the liaison flying school in Pittsburgh, Kansas until August 1944 until he went back to Fort Sill in Oklahoma until November 1944. Next, he was at Camp Cooke in California until February 1945. At this time, his family moved to Van Nuys, California from Maywood, Illinois. He then received orders to go overseas to aid in World War II. He was around the New York area February 14th and 16th of 1945. Then, he went overseas to France, presumably around Rouen, France according to the photos sent by Lieutenant Willis Schalliol. In his last dated letter to his family of this collection that was dated April 6, 1945, he tells them that he was now in Germany.

He flew a Piper L4-J “Grasshopper'' over France, Belgium, and Germany. In a letter written by his mother to her brother Weldon (featured in his collection), she stated that Elmer wanted to be an artillery officer to which was refused by the superiors, and instead asked for volunteers for cub plane pilots in which he accepted. Lieutenant Kern was shot down and killed April 10, 1945. In a letter from the war department that is included in this collection, he was participating in an aerial flight over enemy territory as a pilot of a Field Artillery liaison place and his mission was to secure information regarding enemy installations and relay that information to the Field Artillery which in turn directed fire on those locations. Before he was shot down, he was able to secure and relay this information along, thus destroying important enemy installations. He was awarded the Purple Heart posthumously. He was only 22 years old.

With this news, his parents and sister, Ruth, put all of his belongings in a trunk and never opened it again. Ruth vowed to honor her brother’s death. She never married or had children and instead spent her life working and saving her money. Upon her death, it was discovered that she saved 2 million dollars in honor of her brother, Lieutenant Elmer F Kern Jr. She bequeathed half of that to Purdue University’s School of Mechanical Engineering department, thus establishing the Elmer F. Kern Jr. BSME 1943 Memorial Scholarship, honoring him through helping other students pursue their education.

Second Lieutenant Elmer F Kern Jr was originally buried in Germany, but his final resting burial site is in Greenwood Memorial Park in San Diego, California.

Found in 1 Collection or Record:

Elmer F. Kern, Jr. papers

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: MSA 394
Scope and Contents The Elmer F. Kern, Jr. papers contain more than four hundred and fifty letters, including twenty-four v-mail letters, written to and from Kern and loved ones. In his letters to family members and friends, he describes his life in vivid details from when he was a student at Purdue University, from his different assignments in the Air Corps, and until his death in Germany. His letters show the different envelopes represent the numerous places he has been with different sender addresses and types...
Dates: 1938 - 1945