(USAF Retired) Albert Chafetz,
(1920-2012) in his own words: "I was 20 years old when on 8 November 1940,
I enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps. It was the start of a 21 year
military career that would take me from St. Louis to the Philippines,
through two wars, from private to Major and a life unalterably changed.
From Jefferson Barracks in St. Louis I was shipped to Hawaii, where I
went through boot camp at Hickam Field. I was assigned to the 19th Bomb
Group and sent to the motor pool. Airplanes were my passion and
fortunately, I was soon transferred to the flight line to train as an
aircraft mechanic. From the time I was a young boy carving model
airplanes out of balsa wood and devouring dime novels about flying aces
of WWI, I knew exactly what I wanted to be. My first day on the flight
line as an aircraft mechanic, a burly master sergeant serving as the
crew chief handed me a rag that was to be my toolbox and told me to wipe
all the oil dripping from the airplane. That was my introduction to
aeronautics, far from the glamourous life I envisioned but a start just
the same. We had four B-18 bombers in our unit and my first ride
in an airplane was in the bomber's nose. When that airplane left the
ground I was hooked. I was on KP duty on Angel Island in San Fransico
Harbor on 7 December 1941. We were dumbfounded, a combination of shock
and adrenaline, as we watched the freighters head out empty each morning
and come back each afternoon with deck guns, ready to head out to sea. A few days later I was assigned to Luke Field in Phoenix, Arizona
and the 924th School Squadron, the tow target squadron for gunnery
practice. We were equipped with AT-6 airplanes, where I served my first
dury as crew chief. The squadron was then shipped to Ajo, Arizona where
I became tow operator from the back seat of an airplane. We had service
pilots flying the missions and it was boring going around the range, so
they would let me fly from the back seat. It would be my first taste
handling the controls of an airplane and I will never forget it.
In late 1942, I was accepted for flight training and sent to Santa Ana,
California for preflight School, assigned to Class 43-J. After
completing ground school, Saturday inspections and Saturday Parade, I
was sent to Visalla, California for Primary Flight Training where I flew
the Ryan PT-22 for 60 hours. Having passed all my checkrides, I was sent
to LaMore, California for Basic Flight training. Finally I would solo.
We were flying the BT-15s, a 22 year old kid manning an aircraft the
size of a modern 747. I had just soloed for the first time when the Air
Corps decided to experiment by taking low time pilots like myself and
putting them in multi-engine airplanes.
We started flying the
Curtis AT-9, which was a great plane and too hot a machine in those
days, for low time pilots. So they brought in the Cessna AT-17 and it
was the "Bamboo Bomber", as we called it, that we would fly until
advanced flight training at Lahunta, Colorado. What a great time we had
flying the stripped down but high performance B-25 bombers.
receiving our Army Air Corps wings and being commissioned in the Army
Air Corps, I was sent to Monroe, Louisiana for a crash course in
Celestial Navigation. From there, it was on to Pensacola, Florida where
I was checked out in the PBY Catalina and received a pleasant surprise.
Expecting to be dismissed, we were instead lined up, handed diplomas,
and pinned with Navy Wings. From Pensacola, I went to Keesler Field,
Mississippi for crew training, where we picked up a new plane and crew
and headed out to the far east to join the Second Emergency Rescue
I flew many missions through the Philippine Islands,
Borneo, and Indo China (See attached article:
"Humanitarian Missions") We were scheduled to go to
Okinawa for the invasion of Japan when the U.S. dropped the atom bomb
and the war ended. Eager to continue the life I had forged as an Air
Corps pilot, I went to Clark Field in the Philippines and remained there
until I returned to the United States, separating from the Air Corps as
a First Lieutenant. I would join the Air Force Reserve at O'Hare Field
in Chicago and checked out in the Curtiss C-46, about 6 months before
the Korean War began on 25 June 1950.
We were on our two week
summer active duty, encamped at O'Hare, when rumors began to swirl that
we would be called up to active duty. At the end of our tour we were
called together by our commanding General, who told us there was no
truth to the rumor and that we should "Go home and pick up where you
left off." I was having dinner with my mother in our apartment in
Humboldt Park after my first day of work at an auto parts store, when
Western Union delivered my orders to report for active duty in 10 days.
When I heard the doorbell and heard the messenger holler "Western
Union", I knew the rumors were true. The 437th Troop Carrier Wing
was activated and shipped to Shaw Field, North Carolina for training. It
was there where we would pick up our rebuilt airplanes and head to
Japan. When we arrived in Japan our troops were at the Yalow River but
we were told the war was over and that we would be going back home.
Little did we know that the Chinese would soon cross the river. To come
to the aid of the Koreans we started flying to the Hamhung Beach Head to
airlift the wounded and survivors from the Chosen Reservoir. We flew
long hours and under terrible conditions until all the Marines were
evacuated to Japan.
I would fly missions down the Korean
penninsula and back up the Penninsula until I logged enough flight hours
to return to the United States and my new assignment at Mitchell Field
on Long Island, New York. Upon leaving active duty in 1952, and going
back home to Chicago, I returned to active reserve, where I was promoted
to Captain and served at the Squadron Operations Office at O'Hare. Prior
to retirement in 1961, I was promoted to Major.
In May of 2005,
my wife Ellyn and I plan to celebrate our 50th wedding anniversary on a
Caribbean cruise with our three children, Richard, Wendy, and Terri. It is
through their loving gift that I submit this profile."
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