Thursday, July 23, 2009

Around Town: War is hell


The facts speak for themselves.

But the facts are few. Sparse. Stuck in the middle of the Foothill Ledger’s society column, dateline Jan. 11, 1945, are the following entries:

Missing in action over Leyte as of November 9 is Second Lieut. Donald J. Kanoff, son of Mrs. E .J. Bucknum of Encinas Drive, La Cañada, a war telegram on January 2 has announced to the anxious relatives. The last letter received from the young flier was dated November 5 and was received her on November 22. Lt. Kanoff was pilot on a P-38. His sister is Mrs. Walter J. Mackey (Anna Lee), a bride of November 1st.

The William Hays home on Hillard Ave was the scene of a gay holiday party on Saturday night, December 20, when Kate Hays was hostess to about 75 members of the younger set at a dancing party with midnight refreshments. Co-hostesses were Eleanor Jessen, Nancy Jaynes and Doree Seymour, all Valley girls and seniors at Westridge.

What happened to Donald J. Kanoff of Encinas Drive?

I asked Denise Hovland, a local historian. “James” Kanoff, officially known as 2LT Donald J. Kanoff, U.S. Army, was killed in action on November 9, 1944, while assigned to the U.S. Army Air Forces, 9th Fighter Squadron, 49th Fighter Group.

Further, his cousin, Bill Kanoff, enrolled him in the World War II Memorial Registry as follows: Fighter pilot, flying P-38 aircraft in Major Bong’s group — South Pacific. Killed in action while strafing a Japanese Battleship at Leyte Gulf.

Major Dick Bong, of course, was a celebrity. He was a World War II ace and Medal of Honor winner, who was later killed while test flying planes for Lockheed toward the end of the war.

Second Lt. Kanoff was not a celebrity. He was a young second lieutenant. His unit, the 9th Fighter Squadron, 49th Fighter Group, was known as the Flying Knights. Their history of 2LT Kanoff’s death states:

Possibly one of the most dangerous missions flown by the squadron was on November 9, 1944. An enemy convoy of 12 ships including six destroyers and 2 destroyer escorts was sighted in Ormoc Bay attempting to reinforce the town. Each plane on the mission was armed with two 1,000 pound bombs. Seven planes made skip-bombing runs at masthead level through the heaviest barrage of anti-aircraft fire the pilots had ever seen. Several direct hits were made, but damage assessment was impossible due to lack of observation. Lt. D. Kanoff’s plane was downed by anti-aircraft fire and crashed into the Bay. He was one of our newer pilots, but his performance of duty even at the cost of his life reflected the spirit of the 9th Fighter Squadron.

We know that James Kanoff lived on Encinas Drive, near Lasheart’s “Circle of Heroes.” He attended Pasadena City College, as did his sister, Anna Lee Kanoff. He had a cousin named Bill Kanoff, who remembered him.

James Kanoff was killed in action on Nov. 9, 1944. Within the year, the war was over.

For a while, people in La Cañada remembered James Kanoff. Knew his name and what he did.

For a while.

Next year, on Memorial Day, we hope to include James Kanoff’s name, and the names of other fallen heroes, on plaques in Memorial Park, La Cañada Flintridge.


ANITA BRENNER is a longtime La Cañada resident and attorney with Law Offices of Torres and Brenner in Pasadena. E-mail her at

Published Thursday, July 23, 2009 4:11 AM PDT
Commentary Around Town: War is hell
By Anita Susan Brenner

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