Local Obituaries

World War II pilot Charles Chauncey often spoke to students about B-29 missions

Charles Graves Chauncey epitomized the World War II generation.

A pilot of B-24s and B-29s, he flew the famed "Goin' Jessie," a B-29 that completed 51 missions without having to abort for mechanical reasons or ever losing a crew member. Mr. Chauncey and his crew flew 32 of their 35 missions in Goin' Jessie.

Then he came back to the states, worked until he retired and often spoke about the war to area schools and events.

Mr. Chauncey, a legendary World War II B-29 pilot, died April 7. He was 94.

A military funeral service will be at 10 a.m. Thursday, April 19 at the Riverside Christian Church, 1001 Litchfield, in Wichita. His burial will be at 1 p.m. in Winfield at the Kansas Veterans Cemetery.

He was born April 16, 1923.

Mr. Chauncey was a 1941 graduate of Chanute High School, He enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps in December 1942 and was called into service February 1943.

He first flew B-17s and then, as one of the top 10 of his graduating class, was sent to McCook, Neb., for flying the B-29s. His plane was named Goin' Jesse.

On March 24, 1945, the B-29 was among the aircraft that participated in a night strike of the Mitsubishi Aircraft Factory in Nagoya, Japan.

Two hours after takeoff, one of the engines malfunctioned and quit about 200 miles from the target. The crew decided to continue the bombing mission, despite the dangers of being shot down, and the possibility of having to bail out over enemy territory or having to ditch in enemy waters. They made the run at a low altitude of 7,500 feet. The crew managed to return to their base at North Field, Tinian Island, Marianas, after flying for nine hours on three engines.

Mr. Chauncey and his crew were awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for their efforts.

Goin' Jessie became something of a legend among B-29 circles. The Wichita-built plane was named "the top-performing B-29 in the Pacific."

But, Mr. Chauncey told The Eagle in 1995 that's not to say flying B-29s was easy. The huge planes had chronic engine problems. Pilots had to reach far across a wide aisle in the cockpit to reach the landing gear or flaps, then a flight engineer had to fine-tune the controls in flight, he said.

Still, "it was the greatest thing flying at that time," Chauncey said. "By and large, it was a great aircraft."

August of 1945 was an incredibly memorable month for him. Charles Chauncey was on his honeymoon with his high school sweetheart when news that the war was over reached him.

"I got home back in the states Aug. 4, and then the first atomic bomb was dropped on the 6th and the second on the 9th. I was married to my sweetheart on the 14th, and the war was over on the 15th," he told The Eagle in 2015..

After the war, he would go on tour with the Commemorative Air Force's B-29 called "Fifi." He also spoke at local schools as part of the Commemorative Air Force Jayhawk Wing's Veterans' Lectureship program.

It was that legacy that prompted a friendship between Mr. Chauncey and Vietnam veteran Steve Gonzales.

"We became friends and would often have coffee together," Gonzales said Wednesday. "His favorite dessert was chocolate cream pie. He had a great personality and I will cherish the time we had together. He will be greatly missed. His memories were phenomenal."

Mr. Chauncey had more than 500 combat hours and more than 4,000 hours of civilian flight time.

Besides the Distinguished Flying Cross, Mr. Chauncey was the recipient of the Asiatic-Pacific Theater with 3 Oak Leaf Cluster, the Air Medal with 4 Oak Leaf Clusters and several commendations.

Following the war, Mr. Chauncey returned to Kansas and worked for his father-in-law, Paul Elliott, owner of Western Drilling Tool & Supply Co. He later purchased the company and then sold it in 1990 when he retired. He was a frequent speaker at Wichita area schools about the war.

"The World War II veterans have a special place in my heart," Gonzales said. "When one of them passes, I feel a piece of my heart goes with them. I considered Chauncey a good friend. He was one of those what when he and they came back from the war, basically rebuilt our nation."

Mr. Chauncey was inducted into the Commemorative Air Force's American Combat Crew Hall of Fame, received a Lifetime Achievement Award in CAF B-29/B24 Squadron; and the Lifetime Achievement Award while representing all the World War II Bomber Crews by the Air Force Association.

And, in 2014, he was the recipient of the Federal Aviation Administration's Wright Brothers Master Pilot Award.

Mr. Chauncey is survived by his wife, Mary Green, of Wichita; three children, Paul (Michele) Chauncey; Chuck Chauncey and Janie (Michael) Minick, five grandchildren, five great-grandchildren and many nieces and nephews.

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