Richard Henry Claeys

media-7565.jpeg UPL 7565 Richard Henry Claeys, USAAF

This is my great uncle, Richard Henry Claeys, who was shot down over Yugoslavia in 1946. The photo comes from my uncle, John Zudis, in St. Charles, Missouri.

Object Number - UPL 7565 - Richard Henry Claeys, USAAF

Aged 30, Richard Claeys joined the US Army in early summer of 1941 and was discharged in the Fall for being over age. He then decided to enlist in the RCAF, which he did on 28 November 1941 at No.1 Manning Depot in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. He completed training at No.3 Initial Training School in Victoriaville, Quebec, then went to No.21 Elementary Flying Training School at Chatham, New Brunswick and ultimately at No.2 Service Flying Training School in Ottawa, Ontario. He was then sent overseas to join the RAF (Royal Air Force) on 21 November 1942 as a Sargent Pilot. In England, he was stationed at 14 (P) AFU (Ossington) from 22nd March 1943 to 4th May 1943. Having decided to join his American comrades, he was discharged from the RCAF on 24 May 1943 and immediately enlisted in the USAAF. He tried many times to join a combat unit, but was prevented from flying on combat missions. Finally, on 27th July 1944, with the rank of 2nd Lt, Dick Claeys joined the 306th Bomb Group at Thurleigh and was assigned to the 368th BS. Ending the war with 71 missions to his credit, he was awarded the Air Medal and 11 oak-leaf clusters and the Distinguished Flying Cross, the most such decorations of any Officer of the Group. After a brief furlough in the States, he returned to the European Theater and flew transport flights. Unfortunately, on 19 August 1946, his unarmed C-47 (of the 305th Troop Carrier Squadron) lost its way during bad weather and inadvertently flew over Yugoslavian territory . Without sufficient forewarning, the plane was shot down by Vladimir Vodopivec, a pilot in the Yugoslav Air Force, flying a Yak-3. Richard Claeys and the four other men on board were killed in the crash.


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Units served with

Official insignia of the 306th Bomb Group, approved 6 January 1943, and updated 2 October 1951.
  • Unit Hierarchy: Group
  • Air Force: Eighth Air Force
  • Type Category: Bombardment



Event Location Date Description


Saint Charles, Illinois, United States 3 May 1910


Chicago, Illinois, United States 27 March 1941 Was discharged in the Fall of 1941 for being over age. He then enlisted in the RCAF (Royal Canadian Air Force)


Koprivnica, Slovenia 19 August 1946 Shot down on a mail run from Udine, Italy to Vienna, Austria, by a Yugoslav Air Force Yak-3 while inadvertently flying outside of the allowed neutral corridor.


25 September 1946 In a common grave together with the four other men on the C-47 he piloted on 19 August 1946 : Captains Ben H. Freestone and Harold F. Schreiber; Corporals Matthew Comko and Chester J. Lower.
Saint Charles, Illinois, United States


Date17 Oct 2016 09:08:02
ChangesChanges to biography

Reference Richard H. Claeys Record of Achivement

Date17 Oct 2016 09:05:22
ChangesChanges to highest rank

Reference Richard H. Claeys Record of Achievement dated 19 May 1945.

Date17 Oct 2016 08:30:55
ChangesChanges to awards

Reference is a letter dated 19 May 1945 from Major Paul J. Baillie, Major at Headquarters AAF Station 111 APO 557
SUBJECT: Record of Achievement.
TO : Richard H. Claeys, Capt., 0-2045262, Air Corps.

Date19 Aug 2015 15:59:12
ChangesChanges to service number, biography, events and place associations

Richard Henry Claeys: Gallery (3 items)