Charles “Chuck” Walker: Inspiring war hero dedicated to honouring his fallen comrades
He travelled more than 150,000 miles over 17 years to pay tribute to the fallen airmen he flew with. Reporter DONNA-LOUISE BISHOP reflects on the life of Charles “Chuck” Walker – an inspiring war veteran who died this month aged 95.
The last remaining B-24 Liberator pilot to have served at a south Norfolk air base during the Second World War, has died at the age of 95.
Charles “Chuck” Walker, of Dallas, Texas, was stationed at Tibenham, near Diss, with the 445th Bomb Group of the 2nd Air Division of the United States Army Air Force (USAAF) and flew 35 missions as a pilot of the American heavy bomber plane nicknamed “Bunnie”.
Born in 1918, in Illinois, he moved to Boulder Colorado at an early age and from there he attended the University of Colorado.
But it was the surprise military strike on the US naval base Pearl Harbor, by the Imperial Japanese Navy, on December 7, 1941, which hastened Mr Walker’s entry into the USAAF and the war.
It was his childhood dream to become a pilot and he was called in for active duty at Tibenham Airfield on June 7, 1944 – the day after D-Day.
During his final visit to the site in November 2013 he recalled a mission to destroy the Henschel motor transport plant at Kassel, in Germany, on September 27, 1944.
There was a navigational error and the bombers lost their fighter aircraft protection.
Of the 35 aircraft sent up for that mission from Tibenham Airfield, only four made it back and 117 young American airmen lost their lives. By chance, Mr Walker missed flying that day as he had flown his bomber on the three preceding days and was therefore given leave.
And so, during the last 17 years of his life, Mr Walker travelled more than 150,000 miles to visit the south Norfolk base to pay tribute to loved ones who died during the Second World War.
Matthew Martin, friend and former chairman of the 2nd Air Division Memorial Trust, paid tribute to Mr Walker.
He said: “Chuck stayed in the American armed services after the war, ultimately ending up as a Lt Col. He never forgot all those who flew with the 2nd Air Division during the war.
“He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Croix de Guerre. Always a modest man, when his two children asked him how he won these and other medals, his reply was ‘showing up for dinner’.
“He also became a leading member of the 2nd Air Division Association – an organisation in the US with the primary purpose of supporting the 2nd Air Division Memorial Trust for the nearly 7,000 young American airmen of that division who were killed in action.”
Mr Walker served as president of the 2nd Air Division Association in 1994.
On August 1 that year he received a telephone call from the American Embassy in London to advise him that the Memorial Library in Norwich had been destroyed in a fire along with the remainder of the city’s public library.
Mr Walker was instrumental in supporting a new Memorial Library in The Forum, which today consists of a library housing books about American life and culture. The 2nd Air Division Association was closed down in Chicago in 2012 and at its peak it had a membership of over 9,000.
The association appointed one of its members to serve on the board of governors for the UK charity established in 1945 and Mr Walker was appointed. He was the last of the representative governors and served until late last year. Mr Walker died on June 16 in Dallas, Texas.
- There will be a celebration of Mr Walker’s life later in the year. Anyone interested in attending should advise the Memorial Library by calling 01603 774747 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org