“The most famous (or infamous) Charlotte draftee in Germany [during World War II] was probably Lt. Kenneth D. Williams. Williams was the bombardier on a Flying Fortress named Murder, Inc. that was shot down over Bremen in December 1943. The Goebbels propaganda ministry photographed Williams in his flight jacket with ‘Murder, Inc.’ emblazoned across the back….
“One Nazi broadcaster in a ‘howling rage’ reportedly declared: ‘Gangster Williams is now in our hands…. He belongs to America’s secret weapon — a mass murder league — which has been set loose against us.’
“Williams’ mother, inspired no doubt by her son’s situation, would later win an award for selling the most bonds during a local War Bond campaign.”
— From “The Queen City at War” by Stephen Herman Dew (2001)
Actually, engine trouble had grounded Murder, Inc. that day, putting its crew in a backup B-17 nicknamed Aristocrap. Lt. Williams didn’t switch jackets, of course.
Williams returned home in 1945 after 17 months in a German POW camp. In 1956 he was named Charlotte-Mecklenburg’s civil defense director, and he retired in 1983 as county emergency management director. He died in 2003.
His “Murder, Inc.” jacket hangs in the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum.
Here’s Williams’ first-person account of being shot down, captured and depicted by German officials as a gangster recruited from Alcatraz.