Howerd Leon Chatelaine was born on November 24, 1922 to Louis and Emma Chatelaine in Haddonfield, New Jersey. Howard's grandparents were immigrants from Switzerland. His father fought in the U.S. Army in World War I as a private.

Howard was a 1941 graduate of Collingswood High School. He was an aviation enthusiast, and had flown small planes at the Pine Valley airfield before the war.

Howard Chatelaine enlisted in the Army just after his 19th birthday, on 1 december 1944. Sent to Camp Lee, VA for his basic training, he qualified for the Air Corps, and was sent to Miami FL. On January 1, 1943 he was sent to Air Force Technical School in Amarillo TX, where he spent five months, graduated with honors, and was promoted to Sergeant.

 

367th Bomb Squadron

306th Bomb Group

On the last day of May he was transferred to the Air Force Flexible Gunnery School at Yucca AZ for a two month course. He arrived at Salt Lake City UT on August 5, 1943 and was subsequently sent to Ephrata WA, where he joined a B-17 crew as a flight engineer and top turret gunner. He was sent, with his crew, to Spokane WA for flight training on September 4, 1943, and then on to Pendleton Field WA for training with the 383rd Bomber Group, where preparations were made to go overseas.

On October 25, he flew to Grand Island, NE for final preparations were completed. Hs crew arrived at the East Coast point of embarkation on November 11, and he arrived in England on his 20th birthday, November 24, 1943. In England he was attached to the 367th Bomb Squadron of the 306th Bomb Group, operating out of Thurleigh.

On 11 January 1944, Howard would fly his third combat mission to the aircraft factory of  Halberstadt. This day would go into history as one that saw one of the fiercest air battles of Europe during World War Two.

Howard's crew consisted of:

pilot 2Lt Ross A McCollum
co-pilot 2Lt Marcum E Thomas
Navigator 2Lt Daniel P Jones
Bombardier 2Lt Lloyd G. Crabtree
Radio operator S/Sgt Henry A Stelmach
Top turret gunner SSgt Wayne A Warner
Right waist gunner Sgt Leander J Aurie
Left waist gunner Sgt Warren B Goss
Tail gunner Sgt Andrew P Barrus

Howard was the ball turret gunner on this crew.

After the war, 2Lt Crabtree would write a report about the shoot down of the B17. They had just crossed into Holland: "17 miles from the Zuiderzee, we were lead between two cloud formations: one some 30 feet above us and the other about 200 feet below us.

Due to some reason I never learned the ship to our left changed its position in formation by coming under us, chaving off the tip of our right wing and jolting the plane and crew considerable".

At this point, the pilot, 2Lt McCollum sounded the alarm bell indicating to the crew to bail out. However, he managed to get the plane under control and the bail out order was reversed.

2Lt Crabtree continues: "After the pilot Lt R.A. McCollum righted the ship we were attacked from the nose, out of the clouds directly over our heads in elements of three's by enemy ships (as well as I remember they were ME-109s)

Three waves of them from the front brought is down. I stayed with the ship for a short time after it was out of control heading for the earth. Then I bailed out"

Just before the plane was shot down, waist gunner Leander Aurie told the crew over the intercom that he had shot down a plane, what he thought to be a ME210.

2Lt Crabtree was the only one to survive. The rest of the crew was either killed, according to Lt Crabtree, by enemy gunfire or the crash. He also stated that the navigator, 2Lt Daniel Jones, from New York, had spilled his parachute in the plane earlier. He urged Jones to jump with the spilled parachute, but Jones refused.

The plane crashed near hotel "De Witte Raaf" (The White Raven) near the town of Epe, the Netherlands. The nine crew members were recovered and buried in the local cemetery.

Initially listed as missing, Howard's loss was reported in the February 5, 1944 evening edition of the Camden Courier-Post. A later newspaper report on March 15, 1944 reported that at least one of the crew had survived the crash and had been taken prisoner.

His mother said at the time, “We were shocked to hear that his career in England was cut short, but we still have hopes that he may be a prisoner of war.”

Sadly, his death was later confirmed. The father of the pilot, Captain W.A. McCollum, went to great lengths to recover the remains of his son and his crew. He and the US Graves Registration finally found the graves in Epe.  The wife of the caretaker of the cemetery sent a picture of his grave to the families in the United States. After the U.S. Army arrived, the remains were removed to the American Cemetery at Margareten, Holland.

After the war, Howard Chatelaine was brought home, and was buried in Locustwood Memorial Park in Cherry Hill, N.J. on March 26, 1949, He was survived by his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Leon Chatelaine, of 213 Toledo Avenue, Westmont NJ, a sister, Mrs. Robert Davis, and his brother, Raymond Chatelain.

 



“Photo by Sue Quinn Morris; courtesy of www.findagrave.com”  

Locustwood Memorial Park, Cherry Hill, New Jersey

See Also:
2Lt Ross A McCollum
2Lt Marcum Thomas
2Lt Daniel P Jones
S/Sgt Henry A Stelmach
SSgt Wayne A Warner
Sgt Leander J Aurie
Sgt Warren B Goss
Sgt Andrew P Barrus

Sources and Acknowledgements:
Mrs Sue Quinn-Morris
Findagrave.com

NARA AAD
Phil Cohen's Camden County website
MACR 1934

All Casualties of the 306th Bomb Group killed in Holland or buried at Margraten


Directions to Locustwood Memorial Park, Cherry Hill, New Jersey

Posted 4 August 2008

If you have any suggestions, comments or additional information, please contact me.

This website is dedicated to the men and women who died and/or are buried in The Netherlands during World War II.

 

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