Napoleon Hero, Pius Kuntz
Pius Kuntz was born at Napoleon, North Dakota, in 1920. He graduated from high school then spent a year at the State Agriculture College in Fargo. He later traveled to Los Angeles, California, to work as a machinist.
In 1941 Kuntz married his sweetheart, Miss Virginia Jaycox, and took up residence in Van Nuys. Pius had always been interested in airplanes, so he took flying lessons. It was no surprise that when the US entered World War II that Kuntz joined the Army Air Corp. After flight training and receiving his wings, Pius was sent to England to serve with the Ninth Air Force’s 367th Fighter Group. The 367th was nicknamed, “The Dynamite Gang.” 2nd Lt. Kuntz first flew the P-38 twin engine fighter that he named “Napoleon’s Delight” in honor of his home town.
The 367th became operational in May of 1944 and participated in the D Day landings flying cover for the thousands of ships in the English Channel from June 6th to the 8th. The rest of June the Group hit a mix of German targets including power stations, antiaircraft defenses, convoys and troop concentrations inland from the beachhead.
As Allied forces rolled through France, the 367th moved to airfields closer to the front. The Group spent the rest of the year supporting ground forces and attacking German strong points. In December the P-38s attacked German units participating in “The Battle of the Bulge.” In February of 1945 the group’s war weary P-38s were replaced with new single engine P-47 fighters. Pius flew 45 missions in P-38s and P-47s. He was shot down twice, the last time being fatal.
It was on March 25th, 1945. Kuntz was on a dive-bombing mission against targets near Aschaffenburg, Germany, when his P-47 was hit by flak, struck the ground, and exploded. On this date, he was buried by German civilians near the small town of Dettingen, ironically the same part of Germany that his Great Grandparents were from.
Kuntz’s grave was not found for several years. Finally, in 1949, the grave was located and his body identified. At long last, Pius Gregory Kuntz was brought home to Napoleon and interned at the Saint Philip Neri Catholic Cemetery.
Dakota Datebook by Scott Nelson
Find a Grave, Napoleon Catholic Cemetery, Pius (Kunz) Kuntz.
American Air Museum in Britain, 2nd Lt. Pius Kunz.
Book, The Dynamite Gang – The 367th Fighter Group in World War II by Richard Groh.
(Note, Pius’s last name is Kunz in military records. The family name, Kuntz, was used for this story)