Veterans Day Remembrance of My WWII Hero

Veterans Day Remembrance of My WWII Hero

Veterans Day Remembrance of My WWII Hero

On each Veterans Day, I wear a long black scarf with bright red poppies. I bought it several years ago at the National World War I Museum in Kansas City, and it reminds me that Veterans Day had once been “Armistice Day.” On that day in 1918, on the “11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month,” World War I ended.

But on that day I also remember a special veteran of World War II whom I lost in 2019. It is now my second Veterans Day without him. That man was my father, my hero.

My dad, Harold Chubbs, was born in April, 1924, in Gary, Indiana, a grimy steel town on the southern tip of Lake Michigan, in the shadow of Chicago to the northwest. He grew up as a blue collar kid, the son of a mill worker, experiencing not only the Great Depression, but the serious illnesses of his mother and older sister. They both had contracted tuberculosis, a disease that devastated enormous numbers of Americans in the days before antibiotics.  Dad’s mother and sister both entered a TB sanitarium for treatment. His mother survived, his sister did not. She died in 1939 at the age of 22.

He graduated high school in 1942, the first full year of U.S. involvement in World War II. But rather than being drafted, Dad volunteered for the military, despite friends telling him to “wait until they get ya!” Perhaps it was patriotism. Or perhaps it was also because he would be able to choose which branch of the military he would serve in. Dad had always loved airplanes, so he volunteered with the Army Air Force. (The former Army Air Corps became the Army Air Force in 1942.)

Airman Chubbs

Personal collection.

Dad had his sights set on becoming a pilot. However, after stateside training, the AAF instead assigned him to a B-17 heavy bomber crew with the 15th Air Force stationed in Sterparone, Italy. He arrived for combat service in the summer of 1944, right after D-Day. By that point in the war, bomber crews no longer completed 25 missions; instead they were to complete 50, as fighter planes then escorted the bombers. Their escort group went on to achieve legendary status as the Tuskegee Airmen.


Actual B-17 bomber in which my father flew; Italy. Personal collection.

Dad served as the flight engineer. His job was to make sure the plane was airworthy before takeoff, and that the fuel was balanced between the wing tanks during flight. During combat, he manned 50-cal. machine guns in the top turret. All this responsibility, and he was only 20 years old.


Harold Chubbs, front row center. Personal collection.

During missions, the B-17 would climb to 27,000 feet altitude and plunge the men into temperatures down to 50° below zero. As they entered their assigned bomb run, both German and American fighter planes would peel off, leaving the bombers at the mercy of anti-aircraft guns below. To make things worse, the bombers also had to slow down in order to hit their targets. Dad saw planes hit by flak; one time the bomber in front of them took flak and burst into flame. Another time a plane beside them took a shell through its wing. Dad’s plane would also return with bullet and shell holes.

Despite all this, Dad completed his 50 missions in 90 days, receiving the Air Medal for “meritorious achievement while participating in aerial flight.” The AAF also promised him an officer’s commission if would continue his service in the Pacific. But he declined. He had seen enough of war.

So he returned to Gary after being discharged in 1945. In 1947, he married my mother, and they remained together for 65 years, until she passed away in 2012.


Old hometown buddies meet over the hood of Dad’s 1941 Pontiac; March, 1945. Personal collection.

My father rarely spoke of his service when I was a child. Much of it was too awful to remember, I suppose. However, as time passed, he became involved with reunions of his bomb group, which he would attend each year. He even became a rock star of sorts in town, and would speak of his time in WWII to various groups who would ask him. Yet his attitude was like that of most veterans of World War II: they weren’t heroes, they just had a job to do. So they did it, and came home.

I still have Dad’s bomber jacket. My brother recently found his AAF-issue flying goggles in the old house — complete with box. And when I get the chance, I tour the old bombers that sometimes pop up at air shows. There are fewer of them around, just as there are fewer WWII veterans each year. Most of them are now gone.

jacket & goggles

Personal collection.

Dad lived a long life, passing away in October, 2019, at the age of 95. As my husband said with admiration, “he was a tough old bird,” but eventually, the flame burned out. He died in his own bed, in the house he had built himself, the house in which I grew up. He may have thought he was just “doing his job” in 1944, but to me he was my hero. So I wear my black scarf with the bright red poppies on Veterans Day, especially for my dad.

Featured image: personal collection.

Written by

Kim is a pint-sized patriot who packs some big contradictions. She is a Baby Boomer who never became a hippie, an active Republican who first registered as a Democrat (okay, it was to help a sorority sister's father in his run for sheriff), and a devout Lutheran who practices yoga. Growing up in small-town Indiana, now living in the Kansas City metro, Kim is a conservative Midwestern gal whose heart is also in the Seattle area, where her eldest daughter, son-in-law, and grandson live. Kim is a working speech pathologist who left school system employment behind to subcontract to an agency, and has never looked back. She describes her conservatism as falling in the mold of Russell Kirk's Ten Conservative Principles. Don't know what they are? Google them!

  • John A Wilson says:

    You wrote a wonderful tribute to your father. He was a handsome young man.

  • Maureen OBrien says:

    The pictures aren’t coming up. But a wonderful tribute.

  • Aussie Supporter says:

    Very moving Kim ,brought a tear to me eye, more than a tear actually.

    “He died in his own bed, in the house he had built himself, the house in which I grew up” Beautiful.

    I did my best to keep Mum and Dad at their home until their time, at great emotional and financial cost to my wife and i. But i would have never done any other way. I gave my word that i would do it.

    Thank you for beautiful story

  • Joe R. says:

    Great story, and great read. Thank you, and thank you for your Dad.

    It is in hearing of successes like his that cause future veterans to more easily entrust their fates in the service of their country, and to conform their comportment in their carriage of that service.

  • Kim, I also had a wonderful WW2 dad, also a flight engineer! What your dad may not have told you, but back in the day, the college guys were the pilots but sometimes did not know how to fly as well as the flight engineers! My dad was in the C-47 – Biscuit Bombers! Delivering supplies to the front line troops in the South Pacific, where he met a gorgeous red-haired Aussie beauty and brought her from the sunny shores of NSW Australia to the frozen north of Syracuse NY. We are fortunate to have pictures of him in New Guinea, other islands, where, as a mechanic, he had to put the planes back together when they were downed by fire or worn out parts. The natives there were not well treated by the Japs, so used to steal parts off the Jap planes and take them to the Yankee mechanics (probably in exchange for whatever!) On Dad’s 90th birthday, I flew back to Virginia to celebrate it and at every transfer asked the pilots to sign a Bday card for him. One even told me that his father had flown with my dad in the Pacific theatre! Great guy, great memories, thank you for your story – brought back warm thoughts on a rather cold eve here in troubled California..

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