433rd Squadron, 86th Fighter Wing Eighth Air Force, Lt. Col., Pilot P51

Combat Experience 300 Combat Hours over Europe

Awards: Distinguished Flying Cross
Air Medal with Seven Oak Leaf Clusters
European African Middle Eastern Campaign Medal
With 3 Bronze Stars
Credited with Destroying 2 Enemy Aircraft

I was born November 24, 1920 at Gilbert, Louisiana. I was what is referred to as an Army Brat. My father (Later to be known as General Claire Chennault, of the Flying Tigers) was stationed in Hawaii, San Antonio and Shreveport. So, military bases were my home until I was about 16 years old.

December 7, 1941, when World War II began, I was working at Natchez for Armstrong Tire and Rubber Company, I tried to enlist in the Army, but was rejected because one leg was shorter than the other. I went to welding school in Mississippi, hoping to get a welding job in the shipyards. Instead, I joined the Merchant Marines. I took two trips as fireman on a Troop Transport.

I found out about jobs with the Louisiana State Police, and in the summer of 1942, I was working as a radio operator for the State Police in Leesville. Bob Osborne, a State Trooper there, said he was going to Lake Charles to join the Air Force. I said, “ I am going with you.”

We took the written entrance exams and passed. I took the physical exam and I passed, getting a waiver for the problem of the short leg, with the requirement that one shoe be elevated. I came home, which was then Lake St. John and in September 1942 and went back to work for Armstrong Tire Company.

I was called to service in January 1943 and found myself at Santa Anna, California as an Air Force Cadet, attending pre-flight school. For Primary Flying School I went to Thunderbird No. 2, Phoenix, Arizona.
I completed this training in August 1943, flying PT-17s and PT-27s. Basic Flying School was at Pecos, Texas, where I flew BT-1312s, completing that phase of training in October, 1943. Advanced Flying School was at Luke Field, Phoenix, Arizona. Clsass 44-A graduated January 7, 1944 and I received my Pilot’s Wings and my Commission as a 2nd Lieutenant.

My next assignment was to Dale Mabry, Florida, learning to fly P-40s and P-47s. I graduated from there in June 1944. I had requested service in China, and had orders to go to China. The Commanding Officer called me into his office and said, “Your orders have been changed. You are going to England.”

I was assigned to the 376th Fighter Squadron of the 361st Fighter Group, Second Bomber Command of the 8th Air Force. Most of our missions were to escort the bombers on their missions. On the return to England, if a bomber was flying alone, out of the formation, we would escort the single plane. In one such instance, I was escorting a B-24 bomber. Just as we the reached the Channel, 7 men jumped and parachutes opened. Almost immediately the plane exploded.

I was promoted to First Lieutenant In December 1944 and Christmas Eve 1944 we moved to St. Deviad, France to support the “Battle of the Bulge”. April 1945 we moved to Sharf, Belgium to give closer support to our forces.

I had flown 72 Combat Missions and had more than 300 Combat Hours. I was elgible to come home. I returned to the United States April 16, 1945. I left the Service July 31, 1945, but decided that I had made a mistake and asked to return to the Service. I was accepted and had assignments as a P-51 flight instructor, first at Sarasota, Florida and then at Biggs Field, El Paso, Texas, the 431st Fighter Squadron, 475th Fighter Group. I was in Korea and saw service at Kimpo Korea. That overseas tour was from September 1946 to October 1948.

After Korea, I went to Greenville, South Carolina, the 316th Air Base Group, and was there from January to May, 1949. In June 1949 I went back to Europe for my third overseas tour. The Cold War was still going on. I was assigned to the 85th Fighter Group based at Neubiburg, Germany. In November 1949 I was promoted to Captain.

In September, 1952 I returned to the United States, and went to Alexandria Air Force Base at Alexandria, Louisiana, 366th Fighter Wing of the 9th Air Force, which in May 1955 became the England Air Force Base. There I was a Test Pilot for the 105 Jets, flying more than 1000 hours in that capacity.

November 1956 I was moved to Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, Goldsboro, North Carolina, where in 1957 I was promoted to Major. Next was a move to Eglin Air Force Base, Florida in July of 1958. I was named Command Pilot January 7, 1959. January 1962, a move back to Seymore Johnson Air Force Base, Goldsboro, North Carolina and a promotion to Lieutenant Colonel. McConnell Air Force Base in Kansas was my station from April 1964 until my retirement in 1966.

Interesting duty in peace time was providing armed escort (Armed Fighters) for special persons or occasions. On one such occasion I was escorting President Kennedy to and from the Carribean during the Cuban crisis, another was to escort Venzuelan President Bettingcourt From the Mexican Coast to Haiti, and from there to the South American Coast.

A third event was the escort for President Kennedy’s funeral.  Following my retirement in 1966, I moved to Ferriday and it has been my home ever since.

C.P. Chennault
My Primary Flying School Group.
Of those standing, our Instructor was on the left and I was in the center.