|Death: ||Mar. 26, 1943, At Sea|
Lieutenant Colonel, U.S. Army Air Forces
Harold N. Chaffin entered the U.S. Army Air Forces from the state of Arkansas to serve during World War II.
The earliest information available is that First Lieutenant Chaffin, a B-17 pilot, was with the 88th Reconnaissance Squadron (Heavy), 7th Bomb Group, in December 1941. On 6 December 1941, eight aircraft of the 38th Reconnaissance Squadron (Heavy) and eight aircraft of the 88th Reconnaissance Squadron (Heavy) were prepared for delivery to the 19th Bombardment Group (Heavy) at Clark Field in the Philippine Islands. Enroute to the Philippines, the bombers were scheduled to refuel at Hickam Field, Oahu, HI.
The planes were to depart from Hamilton Field, CA, at 10-minute intervals beginning around 5:00 PM Saturday night. To conserve fuel for the 14-hour flight to Hawaii, the planes navigated separately rather than flying in formation, and all unnecessary items were stripped from the aircraft. So although the B-17s had the normal compliment of big machineguns, they carried no ammunition, planning to pick it up in Oahu.
As the flight prepared to leave, two aircraft from the 38th experienced engine trouble and aborted the mission. A little after 5:00 PM local time, six aircraft of the 38th took off followed by seven from the 88th. However, once airborne, one of the aircraft from the 88th had problems and returned to Hamilton Field. The result was that, four B-17Cs and eight B-17Es, spaced about ten minutes apart, made the flight to Hawaii.
The long flight over the water was uneventful, and no one experienced any major difficulties. The Navy had positioned ships across the Pacific for the aircraft to use as directional indicators, and as they neared Hawaii, radio station KGMB was playing Hawaiian music for them to use in locating the island. Captain Richard H. Carmichael from the 88th contacted the Hickam Field tower at 0745 hours local but was still too far away, and the transmission was too garbled for anyone to understand.
A few minutes later, the B-17s from the 38th sighted the Hawaiian Islands and spotted a flight of fighter aircraft coming out to meet them. Thinking they were Americans, the pilots were glad to have escorts for the remaining miles into the field. Suddenly, what they had thought to be friendly aircraft began firing at them, and each bomber took whatever evasive action it could. The Japanese attacked at least five aircraft, destroying two. First Lieutenant Robert H. Richards tried to land his B-17C at Hickam Field, but the Japanese harassed him so badly that he aborted the landing and headed east out to sea. He then turned the aircraft and attempted a downwind landing at Bellows Field, but came in too fast and ran off the end of the runway into a ditch. Japanese ‘Zero fighters' repeatedly strafed the aircraft after it was on the ground. Initially maintenance personnel thought they could repair the aircraft, but they eventually used it to supply replacement parts for other aircraft, and it never flew again.
Captain Raymond T. Swenson of the 38th managed to land his B-17C at Hickam Field, but a strafing ‘Zero' hit the flare storage box in the middle of the aircraft, igniting the flares and the tail of the Flying Fortress was blazing when it touched down at Hickam Field. When the plane skidded to a stop on its nose, the tail assembly fell off causing the aircraft to burn in two. The crew all reached safety except for the flight surgeon, First Lieutenant William R. Schick, who was mortally wounded by a passing ‘Zero' while he was riding in the observer's seat.
Major Landon of the 38th wanted to fly his B-17E to the island of Hilo but was talked into trying for Hickam. As he approached the field, the control tower advised him that he had three Japanese fighters on his tail. Landon made it along with First Lieutenant Karl T. Barthelmess who thought this was the most realistic drill he had ever seen. The two remaining aircraft landed at Hickam Field, having experienced various attacks which caused minor damage. Maintenance personnel worked around the clock to have all four repaired within 24 hours.
The 88th arrived shortly after the 38th and met a similar fate. Captain Carmichael and First Lieutenant Harold N. Chaffin passed up Hickam Field, flew over Wheeler Field and safely landed their B-17Es on the 1200 foot auxiliary strip at Haliewa on the northwest coast of Oahu. Haliewa was a strip designed for fighter and observation aircraft, not heavy bombers, making the safe landings a remarkable feat.
First Lieutenant Frank P. Bostrom attempted to land his B-17E at Hickam Field but gave up when U.S. Navy gunners fired at him. He briefly retreated to a cloud and, during his second attempt to land at Hickam, Japanese fighters attacked and knocked out two of his engines. He headed to Barbers Point and eventually flew to the northern part of the island where he was again attacked by the Japanese and forced to land at the Kahuku Golf Course. Three more aircraft from the 88th eventually landed at Hickam Field, timing their landings between Japanese attacks.
On 18 February 1942, Dutch airmen arrived at Archerfield, Australia on three Lockheed Lodestars. On that same day, six B-17 Flying Fortresses of the 88th Reconnaissance Squadron of the 7th Bomb Group arrived at Archerfield from Hawaii. They were six of ten B-17's that were diverted to Archerfield as a result of a cyclone.
Chaffin's B-17E, "Naughty But Nice," was damaged that night when an Australian DC3 civilian aircraft, VH-ACB, piloted by Keith Virtue, ran into it while taxiing. The civilian aircraft also badly damaged a Dutch Lockheed Lodestar that was parked beside the American B-17.
Chaffin's B-17 suffered damage to its starboard wing, the tail and part of its fuselage. Fortunately the parked aircraft had nobody in them at the time that they were hit by the civilian aircraft.
In March 1942, General MacArthur, his family and senior staff were evacuated from the Philippines. The MacArthur evacuation party arrived by PT boat from Corregidor on 16 March and four B-17E Flying Fortresses from Australia flew up to Del Monte Field, a heavy bomber-capable airfield located on Mindanao in the Philippines. The B-17Es were Serial Numbers 41-2408; 41-2429; 41-2434; and 41-2447. [The first three Serial Numbers listed were all planes that flew into Pearl Harbor during the Japanese attack on 7 December 1941.]
On 18 March 1942, B-17 #41-2408, piloted by 1st Lt. Harold N. Chaffin. took off from Batchelor Airfield in Australia loaded with emergency supplies. He landed at Del Monte and took on board the remainder of General MacArthur's staff along with a number of valuable records. Chaffin and the three other B-17s evacuated the MacArthur party back to Batchelor Airfield in Australia.
In March of 1943, Lieutenant Colonel Chaffin was assigned to Headquarters Squadron, V Bomber Command at Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea.
On 26 March 1943, Chaffin was co-pilot of the B-17 Flying Fortress #41-24384, "Pluto." Also on board as pilot, was the Commanding General of V Bomber Command, Brigadier General Howard K. Ramey. The mission of the aircraft that day was to carry out a scheduled 7-hour reconnaissance flight of Merauke and Horn Island.
The last communication ever heard from the aircraft was a message from the radio operator twenty minutes after takeoff. An extensive air search was conducted but no sign was ever found of the aircraft, or the twelve men on board. All on board the aircraft were officially declared dead on 19 November 1945.
The crew and passengers remain MIA:
Pilot Brig. Gen. Howard K. Ramey, O-10874
Co-Pilot Lt. Col. Harold N. Chaffin, O-22469
Passenger Capt. Stanley A. Loewenberg, O-0282379 NY
Passenger Lt. Comm. Ferdinand D. Mannoccir II, 131324 USN
Passenger Capt. James R. Griffin, O-389636
Passenger 2nd Lt. William Lief, O-726002
Passenger M/Sgt James D. Collier Jr., 6920942
Passenger T/Sgt Ortis L. Quaal, 6149056
Passenger S/Sgt Robert R. Stith, 18004634
Passenger S/Sgt Harry A. Johnson, 12031847
Passenger Sgt Marvin Berkowitz, 6979447
Passenger Pfc George T. Hopfield, 6668063
Date Missing In Action: 26 March 1943
Official Date of Death: 19 November 1945
Lt. Col. Harold N. Chaffin was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart.
LTC Harold N. Chaffin has Honoree Record 3627 at MilitaryHallofHonor.com.
(bio by: Charles A. Lewis)
Note: Note: The names of the crew and passengers are listed on the Tablets of the Missing at The Manila American Cemetery and Memorial, Manila, Philippines.
Manila American Cemetery and Memorial
National Capital Region, Philippines
Plot: Tablets of the missing
Maintained by: Charles A. Lewis
Originally Created by: ShaneO
Record added: Mar 31, 2009
Find A Grave Memorial# 35384550
Thank you for your great sacrifice in preserving our country's freedom. I will honor you in the only way that I can . . . by remembering you always. May you rest in peace.|
Charles A. Lewis
Added: Jan. 27, 2011