K E N H O L T
1945 > < 2001
Ken grew up in the Lone Star State, the son of a building contractor. Although the Holts had no significant history of military service or aviation interests, Ken joined the war effort in 1942 and applied for flight training. His military courses took him west to California, back to Texas, and finally to Arizona where he graduated and received orders for Europe.
Arriving in Naples, Italy in June of 1944, he was assigned to the 86th Fighter Group as a fighter pilot. Over the course of his tour, he flew 93 combat missions, and on at least one occasion, even strafed the Messerschmitt jet airfield at Lechfeld. The mission remains a vivid memory, as his squadron was drawn in by the sight of several aircraft out on the ramp, and ultimately lost a pilot and plane to ground fire. As it turned out, this was the same field that he would return to during the LUSTY project. Over the course of his tour, Ken's squadron suffered an exceptionally heavy loss rate, but he survived several brushes with death to heed a call to the 262 project.
Although he received orders to report to Colonel Watson's team, there were actually no more vacancies by the time he actually arrived. Watson had finalized the roster on the day prior to Ken's arrival, but the two discussed the matter over dinner and a few drinks. Ken made it clear that he was the right man for the job (a fact he was to prove in the months to come) and somehow convinced the Colonel to add him to the team. Around midnight, Watson did just that: he directed the Duty Officer to replace one of the names on the list with Holt's and reissued the orders.
Following the mission on the continent, Ken returned to the States aboard the H.M.S. Reaper with the others. He then was placed in charge of the flight test program for the Me 262 and other advanced aircraft. In this capacity, Ken went on to log more hours (approximately 200) in the 262 than any other pilot in the world. While this remains a little known and vastly under-appreciated achievement, Ken is truly the subject matter expert when it comes to flying the Messerschmitt 262.
When the flight test program concluded in 1946, Ken separated from the service and returned a career with the family contracting business. He resides in the Southwest, and enjoys spending time on the golf course, reading, and watching his grandchildren (more than a dozen at last count) grow.
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