Skip to main content
Edit entry 

Richard Henry Claeys


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.


Units served with

  • 306th Bomb Group The Reich Wreckers

    306th Bomb Group The Reich Wreckers

    Constituted as 306th Bombardment Group (Heavy) on 28 Jan 1942. Activated on 1 Mar 1942. Trained for combat with B-17's. Moved to England, Aug-Sep 1942, and assigned to Eighth AF Eighth Air Force in September 1942 Station 111 Thurleigh. During combat,...

  • 368th Bomb Squadron

Associated Place

  • Thurleigh

    Military site : airfield
    Built for RAF use in 1941-42, Thurleigh was initially used by RAF Bomber Command before being handed over to the Eighth Air Force. Its runways and hardstandings were improved, and the B-17s of the 306th Bomb Group began using the base. It was their...


Event Location Date
Born Saint Charles, Illinois, United States 3 May 1910
Enlisted 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)

Died 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.

Buried 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.

Lived in Saint Charles, Illinois, United States


Date Contributor Update
17 October 2016 09:08:02 THWatson Changes to biography

Reference Richard H. Claeys Record of Achivement

Date Contributor Update
17 October 2016 09:05:22 THWatson Changes to highest rank

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

Date Contributor Update
17 October 2016 08:30:55 THWatson Changes 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.

Date Contributor Update
19 August 2015 15:59:12 ED-BB Changes to service number, biography, events and place associations

NARA WWII Enlistment records

Date Contributor Update
27 September 2014 18:22:37 AAM AAM ingest

Drawn from the records of the National Museum of the Mighty Eighth Air Force, Savannah, Georgia /">> /