2d Lt John H. Chavis
August 19, 1921 – February 16, 1945
Unit: 332nd Fighter Group, 99th Fighter Squadron
Service # O-828047
John was born in 1921 to John Chavis and Addie Dunston. He grew up in Raleigh where his father worked at odd jobs to make a living. Records show that his father had an 8th grade education and his mothers was through 4th grade. In 1930, his father was working as a shoemaker. In 1940, his father was working in a laundromat while his mother worked as a housekeeper for a private home.
During this time, John attended Raleigh schools and completed a college education at Shaw University where he excelled in the track and the football programs. He then enlisted in the army and attended the Tuskegee Air Pilot program. He was commissioned as a second lieutenant and received his pilot wings in April of 1944. In May of 1944, he married Cocheyse Brewington in Wake County, NC.
He graduated from flight training on April 15, 1944, at Tuskegee Army Air Field in Alabama, and soon deployed to Italy with the 99th Fighter Squadron.
On Feb 15, 1945, his squadron was escorting a group of bombers to Munich, Germany, on a bombing mission. John was flying a P-51C nicknamed Connecticut Yankee. After take-off, he was spotted joining the formation and even entering a thick cloud. However, when the other planes came out of that cloud, he could no longer be seen. It took about one minute to get through the overcast, and although several men were originally missing, 2 LT Chavis was the only pilot who was never located. Neither he nor his plane has ever been recovered.
“When we started up through the overcast, the formation got strung out, but I could see Lt. Chavis up in front of me,” 2nd Lt. Harold H. Brown wrote in a military report. “The clouds got so thick that I could not see him anymore, so I went on my own instruments. I broke out of
the overcast about 30 seconds later. Lt. (Wendell W.) Hockaday was on my wing then, but I didn’t see Lt. Chavis break out of the overcast.”
Hockaday said he saw each pilot fly into the clouds, but was unable to see them once he entered the overcast.
“Breaking out of the overcast, I didn’t see Lt. Chavis,” Hockaday wrote in the report. “It took approximately one minute to get through the overcast. After checking our flight, we found several men missing and Lt. Chavis was the only one unaccounted for.”
Chavis’ name is included on the Tablets of the Missing at the Florence American Cemetery and Memorial in Italy. According to a government database, he was awarded a Purple Heart for his military service.