Forrest Spencer Chilton III was born on December 1, 1921 in Syracuse, New York. Forrest's spent his early life with grandparents in Brooklyn, NY before his family moved to Pompton Plains, New Jersey. He attended Butler High School in Butler, NJ, graduating in 1939. Forrest enrolled in Bucknell University, Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, where he earned a varsity letter in football and also played catcher on the baseball team. Forrest majored in Chemistry. He planned to follow in his father's footsteps and become a physician.
With the United States participating in World War II, Forrest decided on March 21, 1942 to put his college career on hold. He volunteered to enter the United States Army Air Corps. In May the US Army sent him to Maxwell Field for aviation training. In August he transferred to Lowick Aviation Military Academy, Avon Park, FL followed by transfer to Shaw Field, SC (October), and then to Spence Field, GA (December) where he received his commission as a Second Lieutenant on February 16, 1943. The same day Forrest married his college sweetheart, Marie Grabowski. After a short leave, Marie and Forrest spent a week at Maxwell Field, AL and then they returned to Shaw Field, SC.
In 1943 Forrest studied at Randolph Field, TX, Eglin Field, FL and at Shaw Field. Forrest & Marie’s son, Forrest S. Chilton IV, was born on November 17, 1943. Having earned the right to wear the silver wings of the US Army Air Corps, Forrest’s basic assignment at Shaw Field was as a Flight Instructor. Early 1944 brought more educational experiences, mostly flying P-47's in Florida assigned to the 3'd Fighter Command. On April l2, 1944, in Ft. Myers, FL, Forrest received promotion by being commissioned as a First Lieutenant.
Shortly, he returned to his home state of NJ which would be his point of embarkation for England on April 29, 1944. Forrest left a pier in NY City on the Queen Mary to be stationed “somewhere in England" as part of the 313rd Fighter Squadron, 50th Fighter Group. Although he was free to write home, Forrest could not name the place of his airfield. He wrote his wife, Marie, that the area was very beautiful, but damp and cold. He did have enough blankets to keep warm. He also told Marie that the food was good. Although he was very lonely for his wife and son, he felt it stirring to be part of the European Theatre of Operation (ETO).
On June 21, 1944, about two weeks after D Day, Forrest participated in a dive bombing mission to St. Quentin, France. He was the pilot, and sole occupant, of a P-47 Thunderbolt fighter-bomber when struck by anti-aircraft ground fire. He attempted returning to England, though his plane had low oil pressure and was eventually on fire. About 2315 hours (11:15 pm), Forrest radioed that he was bailing out of his plane, which eventually crashed in the English Channel.
Another pilot saw Forrest bail out of his burning aircraft. Witnesses noted his parachute opening and hitting the water below, as well as his life raft inflating. Forrest was never seen in the water. Search and rescue never recovered his body. A few weeks later, July of 1944, the US Army confirmed Forrest's status as MIA (Missing in Action) -- to indicate that the whereabouts, or status, of an individual is not immediately known.
The case was not closed and every effort to clear up the status of Forrest was being taken. All Allied Military Forces continued searches for those MIA, by land, sea and air with any additional details found being provided the next of kin.
In July of 1945 the US Army officially determined Forrest had died in the European area. A US Army letter to his wife, Marie, stated Forrest “was a reliable officer who energetically and bravely performed his duties and was regarded with the utmost confidence by his superiors.”
The US Army awarded Forrest the “Purple Heart" posthumously on August 22, 1945 for "the sacrifice of his life for his country." In November 1945 his family further received his award of the "Air Medal" in recognition of meritorious achievement while participating in aerial flight in the European Theatre of Operations".
In 1954 the Forrest S. Chilton III Memorial Hospital opened in Pompton Plains, NJ. Forrest's parents, Dr. Forrest S. Chilton, Jr. and Betty, had donated a tract of land for the building of a hospital. The Trustees and civic leaders determined to name the Hospital in honor of Forrest III to serve as a memorial to all from the area (about 100) who had given their lives in the service of our country in World War II.
Units served with
Before the build-up to D-Day, the group were based in the United States as part of the Fighter School Command and the Army Air Forces School of Applied Tactics. In spring 1944 though, like so many other fighter and bomb groups, the 50th Fighter Group...
Military site : airfield
Used by US units including the 50th Fighter Group. The present-day private grass airstrip is to the north of the Second World War airfield site.
||1 December 1921
|Missing in action
||21 June 1944