1st Lieutenant Benjamin Francis Kitchens, U.S.A.A.F.
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Ben Kitchens, his older brother Bill and father Fred seen in 1935.
(Photo courtesy of Ann Dolce)

1st Lieutenant Benjamin Francis Kitchens.

1st Lieutenant Benjamin F. Kitchens in his P-47 Thunderbolt during World War II.

1st Lieutenant Benjamin F. Kitchens standing next to his P-39 Airacobra during World War II.

1st Lieutenant Benjamin F. Kitchens, date and location unknown.

"Wing by Wing" portrait of the P-47 Thunderbolts flown by 1st Lt. Benjamin F. Kitchens and
1st Lt. Bert Espy, Jr. over the village of Périers, France moments before the two aircraft collided and crashed on June 24, 1944.
(Photo courtesy of Christian Levaufre)

June 2, 2011

How lovely it was for me to find this site, and pictures of the memorial to the young men of New Forest. Ben Kitchens was my father's best friend and brother - my grandmother took young Ben in and unofficially adopted him in their hometown of El Paso Texas.  I have all of Ben's items now, the letters he wrote home (many from England), the telegrams from the War Department from the time he was MIA to the final confirmation of his death.  I covet and protect his Purple Heart and his War Medal, posthumously awarded to my Grandmother.  

My research into Ben's crash on behalf of my father revealed many things about how he was killed and where. Yet to find (quite by accident) this site celebrating where he lived and likely took his last steps, shared his last laughs, slept his last night... was incredibly uplifting to me.  So it is with personal gratitude to whomever worked to honor those of New Forest, that I write.  On my way to visit Ben's grave in France, I will be sure to make a detour to visit this remarkable memorial to them.

Susan Cooper
New Mexico

Aug. 18, 2011

I am doing family history research and came across the photographs of my cousin, Benjamin Francis Kitchens, on your MaritimeQuest web site. I did not know Kitchens, but am fascinated by the photographs. Would it be possible to learn how to contact the donor of the photographs? His grand mother was my father's sister.

Thank you,
Ann Johnston Dolce
Spicewood, Texas

Nov. 11, 2014

Ben Kitchens and Bert Espy Jr. collided over my village of Périers at Normandy. My father witnessed the crash on June 24, 1944. He and his brother even saw the body of Ben Kitchens leaning at the foot of a hedgerow outside of his cockpit. The wreck of his aircraft was scrapped after the war. Bert Espy's plane went deep into the ground. When I was a kid my father and I went to dig the wreck out of  the spot of its crash. Here is a picture of the engine still staying in my parents' back yard. Years later, I asked a friend who was good at painting planes, to draw me a painting showing the 2 P47s (with their right markings and serial numbers) flying wing by wing over the recently bombed city of Périers just a few minutes before their collision. The painting (shown above) is on the wall right over my computer.

Hope it helps,
Christian Levaufre

Feb. 8, 2017

Well, it took us longer than expected, but the memorial dedicated to the memory of Ben Kitchens and Bert Espy, KIA in the mid air collision of their two P-47s, will be dedicated in Périers (Normandy) on June 24, 2017. 73 years exactly after their crash. If any or some of you can attend this ceremony, they will be the most welcome.

Thank you,
Christian Levaufre

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Page published June 16, 2011