"MISSION NO. 88, SEA SEARCH, APRIL 7, 1944
"As we headed out to sea we spotted two freighters going out the mouth of the river. Because of the embankments on both sides of the river we had difficulty making the kind of run that we would like. We made several passes at the ships, strafing them. The ships were beached and smoldering when we left the scene. Within an hour or two we spotted two more steam ships. We made a run on one ship and scored a direct hit. We saw the ship blow up and sink. With the other ship, we made several strafing passes. It was left smoking and damaged. We then headed for land and our base. As we approached the coast line we came upon a severe storm and between 8 and 9 PM we lost our radio compass. We were drifting and had no idea where we were. The navigator thought that we might still be over the ocean so we bailed out with our life jackets on. Our altitude was between 10,000 and 11,000 feet. We fell through the clouds and at about 200 feet we broke through the clouds. Biography of Tom Chenoweth
Thomas O. Chenoweth
1Lt. Thomas O. Chenoweth, ASN 18069759
Bombardier - Ritter Crew
14th Air Force / 308th Bombardment Group / 373rd Bombardment Squadron
Distinguished Flying Cross Air Medal
Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal American Campaign Medal
World War 2 Victory Medal Chinese War Memorial Medal
(All Images/Info Courtesy of Rebecca Golba, daughter)
Distinguished Flying Cross
(Click to enlarge)
Left to Right, above
WW2 Victory Medal
American Campaign Medal
Chinese War Memorial Medal
Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal
Hand embroidered silk, received when Lt. Chenoweth bailed out over China on April 7th, 1944
Embroidered Pictures; Gifts from Chinese after bailout. Picture on left is interpreted as, "We'll be coming home---Victory is ours!"
Picture on right is interpreted as, "Go to the light---We will win." Note: The message on the back of Picture No. 4 which refers to all the gifts received, says: "Presented in April 1944---Heng Yeng, China following our bailout after a Sea Sweep of the South China Sea. We sank 2, possibly 3 Japanese ships on this mission. We were at an altitude of 15,000 feet when we abandoned the plane as we were running out of fuel in a storm." Signed: Tom Chenoweth
An account of the mission and bailout from the Mission History of the 308th Bombardment Group:
On April 7, 1944, two B-24s, one a "Sniffer" and the other a "J", departed Kweilin on a Sea Search, flying separate parallel courses. One plane, No. 253, piloted by Lt. Lowe, attacked and probably sank a 150 foot vessel at 21:00N-18:35E, and after the attack, landed at Kweilin on three engines.
The other plane, No. 632, piloted by Lt. Ritter, damaged a 75 foot river boat at 22:00N 112:27E, sank a 150 foot freighter at 21:30N 115:40E; and damaged another freighter of 125 feet at the same location. After completing its mission, this plane was unable to find Kweilin because of bad weather and the fact that their radio compasses were not functioning properly, and at 1930 hours, after being in the air for a little more than 10 hours, the crew bailed out near Hengyang when the gasoline supply was exhausted. Two crew members, Lt. Bernstein and S/Sgt. John N. Costello received minor injuries on landing, and after being carried into Hengyang, were taken to Kweilin on 8th of April. The remainder of the crew, uninjured, reached Kweilin by train from Hengyang on April 10th. Both planes met with fairly intense A.A. and small arms fire from the vessels attacked, and both received minor damage, but so far as known, the enemy action did not contribute to the loss of the plane from which the crew jumped."
From the recollection of Lt. Chenoweth -1995:
I landed on the roof of a house. We were separated. Thrain and Costello joined me and we were taken by a Chinese group back to the Heng-Yang Base. The other members of the crew were scattered a few miles from us and we didn't get together until the following day.
Before we bailed out, Ritter ordered someone to get the film from the camera. Someone failed to load the camera. I can't recall a de-briefing. We knew that the mission was very important and all regretted not having documentation of it.
Seems like a long time ago. I can recall flying a mission with Ritter as co-pilot over Hong Kong Harbor and we saw enough ships to last for everyone."
From the time that Tom was born, he was a very fortunate person, and after reading about his life, you’ll understand why. His birthplace in Cokedale, CO, is now a ghost town, but at the time he was born on August 2, 1918, it was a thriving coal mining town. A condition called Pyloric Stenosis kept him from being able to digest milk, so, a young nurse patiently fed him with an eye dropper until his condition corrected itself. He was probably the only baby in a hospital filled with victims of the Great Flu Epidemic of 1918.
When he got older, his family moved to Trinidad, CO, where he lived to adulthood with his brother and two sisters. After graduating from Trinidad High School, he went on to college and was close to graduating when war broke out. During his college years, he usually had to hitchhike to get to and from his school. One time the man who was driving him had a heart attack and ran into a bridge support. Tom was injured, but the driver didn’t survive.
During his college years, he met his future bride through a cousin who introduced him to Loraine Simpson. His cousin Wanda, had been best friends with her all through high school. He married Loraine in Midland, TX in 1942, where he was receiving his training. His good friend, Reece Davies, from Trinidad, was also stationed there at the time. Reece was testing some new planes and asked Tom if he’d like to go up in a particular one with him. Since he had an uneasy feeling about it, Tom turned him down. Sadly, his friend was killed in that same plane.
Tom served in the China-India-Burma Theater of the war. Since his depth perception didn’t meet the standard to qualify as a pilot, he became a bombardier. He was a First Lieutenant with the 14th Air Force/ Flying Tigers. During his service, he earned several medals including the Distinguished Flying Cross. Usually, when his crew had an R&R, they would fly over the hump (Himalayas), so, it was fairly routine. One time when they made the trip without him, since he overslept, they never returned. He lost almost his entire crew that day. In April 1944, Tom and his crew were forced to bail out when they were running low on fuel. (This incident is described in detail on this website.)
Following the war, Tom and Loraine settled in Chicago and he could finally become acquainted with his 10 month-old son, Charles, who was born while he was overseas. During this time, he worked at different occupations, but later started a long career with Allstate Insurance. Although he enjoyed the work, there were several ‘transfers’ as a result. The last move was to Overland Park, KS, where he made a career change. He became a job placement counselor for bank management personnel. By this time, he had four children, two boys and two girls. He worked in downtown Kansas City, which was generally a safe place, but one day while walking on the sidewalk, he was caught in crossfire between the police and a shooter. He reacted quickly by hitting the sidewalk, and thankfully, wasn’t hurt.
In 1982, he and Loraine decided to retire to Tucson, where he enjoyed year-round golf and pursued his artistic side. They both became fans of the University of Arizona basketball team, which caused a little rivalry with family members who were University of Kansas fans back home. It was also during this time that Tom became involved with his local Air Force group and attended the 14th Air Force conventions, which were held in different cities. In 2001, they moved back to the Kansas City area to be closer to their children. They lived with a daughter and son-in-law in Louisburg, KS, who had the good fortune of accompanying them to his last 14th Air Force convention in Branson, MO. It was a memorable trip for all of them. The highlight for Tom was to be reunited with his pilot from the war, John _______________. During this time, he also kept in touch by email with Al Ritter, who was another pilot with whom he served. At this time, Tom started talking to his family more about his war experiences, and some of these stories even his wife had never heard.
Tom passed away on June 12, 2009 at the age of 90, leaving 4 children, 8 grandchildren, and 7 great-grandchildren at the time of his death. All of his family loved him dearly and felt blessed to have had him as long as they did. So, one could say that Tom wasn’t the only one who was fortunate!
"MISSION NO. 88, SEA SEARCH, APRIL 7, 1944
"As we headed out to sea we spotted two freighters going out the mouth of the river. Because of the embankments on both sides of the river we had difficulty making the kind of run that we would like. We made several passes at the ships, strafing them. The ships were beached and smoldering when we left the scene. Within an hour or two we spotted two more steam ships. We made a run on one ship and scored a direct hit. We saw the ship blow up and sink. With the other ship, we made several strafing passes. It was left smoking and damaged. We then headed for land and our base. As we approached the coast line we came upon a severe storm and between 8 and 9 PM we lost our radio compass. We were drifting and had no idea where we were. The navigator thought that we might still be over the ocean so we bailed out with our life jackets on. Our altitude was between 10,000 and 11,000 feet. We fell through the clouds and at about 200 feet we broke through the clouds.
Biography of Tom Chenoweth
Thomas O. Chenoweth