12/14/2005

Richard Chandler Sole Survivor

Here is the story of the sole survivor S/Sgt. Richard Chandler (wedding photo, left) and his rescue by a DUMBO plane off Ha Ha Jima on 10 February 1945 as told by Cpl Zander Hollander in BRIEF on March 13, 1945, pages 6 and 7.
"Richard (Dick) Everett Chandler was born January 14, 1924 in Thief River Falls, MN. During WWII, he voluntarily enlisted to serve in the U.S. Army Air Corps from 1943 to 1945. Richard was a Staff Sergeant crew member filling the tail gunner position on a a heavy bomber B-24 Liberator aircraft. His plane was shot down by enemy fire on February 10, 1945 in the Pacific, upon which he became the crew's sole survivor. He received air medals for a total of 35 missions, a Purple Heart and an Asiatic Service Medal."
It took me 6 years to screw up the courage, but I finally contacted Richard Chandler (Armorer Gunner, S/Sgt. , Serial Number 97562389 - returned to duty), in December, 2006. He is the sole survivor after Frank's B-24 disintigrated near HaHa Jima.

In his "Casualty Questionnaire" he stated in question 9, "Where did your aircraft strike ground (even here it was the European Theater and not the Pacific Theater questions that ruled) he answered, "It didn't - some of the pieces hit the ocean."
Because the plane took Japanese ack-ack in the belly where the 500 pound bombs and fuel tanks were stored, it was engulfed in flame and only small pieces hit the ocean. Another piece of the puzzle.
On 12/8/2005, Mr. Chandler was gracious enough to talk to me about that mission. He said Frank Curley, my uncle, came running up to the plane as it was loading because he was assigned to the mission at the last minute...one of those last minute changes that cost lives in war.
But, ultimately, as I have heard from the pilot (Harry Gibbons) behind Frank, and from the tail gunner (Richard Chandler) on the flight who was there and who survived, it was the incompetent leadership of Major Holland that doomed the mission.
On October 18, 2015 Richard Chandler's grand daughter Traci McPhearson called to say that he had died. She thanked me for the letter I sent him in February when his wife died. And she provided these additional details:
"When the plane exploded, my grandfather ran to the other two tail gunners to check on them. Both were dead and the plane was exploding in fire. He put on his parachute, jumped, and saw that his parachute was on fire. Also, he had only been able to get half an arm through one strap.
On the way down a Jap Zero fired at him. He hit the water hard. He was badly burned and the impact injured his upper spine. He inflated his Mae West flotation jacket. As he did, he felt something beneath his feet and started kicking as he thought it was a shark. Fortunately, it was a dolphin that circled him protecting him from sharks until the PBY rescued him.
In the water he was strafed by the Jap Zero that hit the two life rafts that other B-24's on the mission dropped for him. From the shore, Jap machine gunners were trying to kill him."
Mr. Chandler died on October 18, 2015 with the following poem read at his service.
Why
(A Soldier's Poem)
Far above the storm clouds gathering

Far above that midnight sky
Looking out just past the rainbow
Where eagles dare not fly
Out among the ashe4s
Of heroes long since past
I will take my place among them
When that final die is cast
Let not your heart be troubled
That's what I've always heard
But I stood for what I believed in
With these my final words
For in this life but few things matter
In this short time that we have here
Leaving nothing behind but our honor
The thing we hold most dear.

The story of his rescue and survival and life is the stuff of fiction. His granddaughter is writing that story and so I will leave it to her to do him justice that I can only hint at here.
Blog Note: Click the icon of the three pages here for a larger, easier to read, view.








2 comments:

Traci said...

Amazing story - I'm so proud of my grandfather and all the men he flew with. No one will ever be forgotten. With much gratitiude, Traci McPherson (granddaughter to Richard E. Chandler)

Kyle said...

Bruce, thanks for the great information. I am married to one of Richard's granddaughters and we found this info to be fascinating. Unfortunately, Dick doesn't talk about it much anymore, so it's great to find this info. Did you happen to record your conversation with him? We would love to have a copy of the raw audio if you have it. Please contact me at my email address kyle.hegle@gmail.com if you have any questions or any additional info. Thanks, Kyle