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Chester Mark Durham


Chester "Chick" Mark Durham was the fourth surviving son of cotton share croppers, Cornelious Jordan Durham and Anita Melvina (Stephens) Durham. He was a talented wood worker and musician. He loved to laugh, kick up his heels, and have a good time. In the early 1930s, after the boll weevil devastated southern cotton crops and the cotton market bottomed out, Chick moved with his extended family to the agriculturally rich San Joaquin Valley of California. There, the family and their extended kin found work in local Kern County agriculture. Chick aspired however to greater things. He soon moved to Los Angeles and began a new chapter in his life as a tool and dye man in an aircraft factory. He met, settled down, and married Betty, mother of his only child, Sharon. This marriage unfortunately ended in divorce.

He enlisted in the US Army Air Corps on 16 Sep 1942. He received basic and flight training at Luke Field near Glendale, AZ, where he soon met his future bride. He married for the second time in August 1943, while he was stationed at Lincoln Army Air Corps Base, Lincoln, NE. After his duty in Lincoln ended, he was assigned to Avon Park, FL, at the Bombing Test run. Then,he joined the 379th Heavy Bombardment Squadron at Hunter Army Airfield, Savannah, GA, before his deployment overseas to Kimbolton, England, in July 1944.

Between 29 July and 29 November 1944, Chick flew thirty-three successful missions over Europe "doing every crew job they had on these buckets," the B-17Gs, as he reported in a letter to his brother back home. On 30 November 1944, he flew with 1st Lt Gilbert J Schlesinger's crew as a replacement Nose Gunner. Because B-17G crew members were required in the fall of 1945 to fly thirty-five missions before stateside leave or reassignment to a duty station back home, this mission was Chick's 'next to the last' before going home.

On this mission, the B-17G, #446140 'Miss Lace' encountered heavy flak over the target, the Brabag Synthetic Oil Plant located just northeast of Zeitz, Germany. After one near explosion of flak, the plane lost its right wing and entered a vertical spiral while ablaze. It broke into two sections: the tail/waist section, which landed near Threna, Germany, and the nose section, which crashed into District 7 of the Oberholz Forest near Großpösna, Germany. About two minutes after the nose hit the forest, an explosion, most probably from 'hung' ordinance blew the nose section high into the bows of the pine trees.

German citizens recovered partial and complete human remains and military identification tags for Chick and other crew members seated in the nose section of the plane at the forest crash site. The citizens of Großpösna placed five sets of remains in individual coffins, which were buried in their town cemetery. The US Army exhumed these sets of remains in late June 1945. Remains for Chester M Durham were not identified from the remains recovered at that time. His death was confirmed solely with the German recovery of his military identification tag. The US Government has retained that ID tag as a part of Box 303, "Captured Enemy Documents," KU-3401, the National Archives, College Park Maryland. The current status of Chick's remains continue to be listed as "unrecoverable."

Killed in Action -- 30 Nov 1944



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  • Charles Bowles

    Military | Technical Sergeant | Radio Operator Gunner | 379th Bomb Group
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  • Eugene Bush

    Military | Staff Sergeant | Tail Gunner | 379th Bomb Group
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  • Shirley Griffith

    Military | Staff Sergeant | Ball Turret Gunner | 379th Bomb Group
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  • Howard Mertens

    Military | Second Lieutenant | Co-Pilot | 379th Bomb Group
    Howard 'Howie' Griffith Mertens was the second son and youngest child born to native Californians, Ferdinand C Mertens and Margaret Mary (Griffith) Mertens, but his paternal grandparents were German immigrants. Howie graduated from Mission High School...

  • Gilbert Schlesinger

    Military | Lieutenant | Pilot | 379th Bomb Group
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  • Stewart Schoch

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Units served with

  • 379th Bomb Group

    379th Bomb Group

    The 379th Bomb Group (H) (heavy), based at Kimbolton, flew more sorties than any other Bomb Group in the Eighth Air Force and dropped a greater bomb tonnage than any other Group. The B-17 Flying Fortress Group was awarded two Distinguished Unit...

  • 527th Bomb Squadron


  • 44-6140 Miss Lace

    B-17 Flying Fortress
    Delivered Tulsa, OK 5/14/44; Kearney, NE 5/24/44; Dow Field, Bangor, ME 1/6/44; Assigned 527BS/379BG Kimbolton, England 10/6/44; Missing in Action northeast of Zeitz, Germany on 11/30/44 with 8 crew Killed in Action: 1st Lt Gilbert J Schlesinger, Pilot...

Associated Place

  • Kimbolton

    Military site : airfield
    Planned for RAF use, Kimbolton airfield was built by W and C French Ltd. in 1941. The airfield was increased in size to accommodate a full US heavy Bomb Group, and the first such unit to us it was the 91st Bomb Group, who arrived in September 1942....


Event Location Date
Born Dallas County, AR, USA 24 January 1916

near Jacinto, AR.

Buried Großpösna, Germany 1944

According to German record "Report of Downed Enemy Aircraft," KU-3401.

Killed in Action (KIA) Großpösna, Germany 30 November 1944
Died Großpösna, Germany 30 November 1944


Date Contributor Update
21 April 2017 22:25:04 lorelei1026 Changes to biography

Personal knowledge.

Date Contributor Update
02 March 2017 22:23:56 lorelei1026 Changes to biography and events

Individual Deceased Personnel File for Chester M Durham; Missing Air Crew Report #11126; German "Report of Downed Enemy Aircraft, KU-3401;" letters of Chester M Durham to brother, John E Durham; Durham family memories; research of Janine (Durham) Hunter, Reagan, TN.

Date Contributor Update
02 March 2017 19:50:55 lorelei1026 Changes to biography

Individual Deceased Personnel File for Chester M Durham; Missing Aircrew Report #11126, German "Report of Downed Enemy Aircraft," KU 3401; personal knowledge and research of Janine (Durham) Hunter, Reagan, TN.

Date Contributor Update
02 March 2017 19:16:25 lorelei1026 Changes to biography, awards, events and person associations

Individual Deceased Personnel File for Chester Mark Durham; Missing Aircraft Report #11126; personal knowledge and research of Janine Hunter, Reagan, TN.

Date Contributor Update
01 March 2017 22:24:02 lorelei1026 Changes to biography

Individual Deceased Personnel File for Chester M Durham, Service #19128200

Date Contributor Update
04 February 2016 17:32:46 lorelei1026 Changes to awards

Tablet of the Missing, Henri-Chapelle American Cemetery and Memorial, Belgium.

Date Contributor Update
04 February 2016 17:25:12 lorelei1026 Changes to media associations

Durham family collection

Date Contributor Update
03 February 2016 22:37:09 lorelei1026 Changes to middlename, nickname, service number, role, biography, events and person associations

Individual Deceased Personnel File for Chester M Durham. Family records & photograph.

Date Contributor Update
27 September 2014 18:06:09 AAM AAM ingest

Drawn from the records of the National Museum of the Mighty Eighth Air Force, Savannah, Georgia / MACR 11126 / MACR 11126; 379th Bombardment Group Anthology, pg 326 / Paul Andrews, Project Bits and Pieces, 8th Air Force Roll of Honor database