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Interview with Frank G. Chaplick [February 7, 2003]

Judith Cherbonneau:

In an effort to preserve stories of their service by veterans of the United States military on this 7th day of February, in the year 2003, for the Veterans History Project the information documented on this tape and enclosed transcript has been graciously offered by Frank G. Chaplick who resides in the town of Hudson, in the state of New Hampshire. Mr. Chaplick was born on May 22, 1920 and served during World War II and served during the years 1939 to 1944. He served in Hawaii, North Africa, and Italy. I, Judith Cherbonneau am volunteering at the Veterans Hospital in Manchester, New Hampshire and am conducting and taping this interview for the project. Upon completion of this interview and documentation, this interview...information will be sent and preserved in the Library of Congress, in the Folklife Center.

Judith Cherbonneau:

Mr. Chaplick, did you enlist or were you drafted?

Frank G. Chaplick:

I enlisted.

Judith Cherbonneau:

And what branch of service were you?

Frank G. Chaplick:

Army Air Corps.

Judith Cherbonneau:

And um, were you happy with that choice?

Frank G. Chaplick:

Yes.

Judith Cherbonneau:

Was there a particular reason why you chose the Air Corps.

Frank G. Chaplick:

I wanted to go somewhere far away and there was an opening in the Philippines, but at the last minute there was no opening, but there was an opening in Hawaii so I went to Hawaii. I wouldn't be here today if I had gone to the Philippines.

Judith Cherbonneau:

Ah, can you tell me something about your experience in boot camp?

Frank G. Chaplick:

Ah...yes.

Judith Cherbonneau:

Can you tell me...did you have any specialized training? Or how did you survive boot camp?

Frank G. Chaplick:

We had...we were forced to eat a square meal. [Mr. Chaplick demonstrates using his hand and imaginary fork with right angle movements to eat his food]. And if we dropped anything on the floor we had to stomp on it before it made an awful mess. This was done by upper classmates, so we really had to toe the mark.

Judith Cherbonneau:

So they were right on you?

Frank G. Chaplick:

Right!

Judith Cherbonneau:

They were right there watching you.

Judith Cherbonneau:

Did you receive any specialized training?

Frank G. Chaplick:

Yes, I...after Pearl Harbor, I was approved for Flight School and I went through flying school. And then I flew combat in Europe.

Judith Cherbonneau:

How long were you in the service? Well, let's back up. Where did you first serve?

Frank G. Chaplick:

I first served in Hawaii.

Judith Cherbonneau:

That was your first...

Frank G. Chaplick:

Hickam Field.

Judith Cherbonneau:

And how long were you there?

Frank G. Chaplick:

Probably a month or two after I enlisted. Until a month or so after Pearl Harbor.

Judith Cherbonneau:

Can you tell us about Pearl Harbor? What happened that day? What you were doing that day?

Frank G. Chaplick:

We had a three day alert, prior to Pearl Harbor. The feeling was that absolutely no one would dare bomb the United States. We were the United States. No one would dare bomb us. The day of the raid a radar operator saw some targets coming in from the Pacific. He told his Lieutenant. The Lieutenant told him to forget about it because we have some B-17's flying in from the United States. These targets were over here (pointing in one direction). The United States was over here (pointing in another direction). Talk about 'head up and locked'. It was a prime example of it.

Judith Cherbonneau:

So you are saying they did have warning that this was..could happen, but they ignored...

Frank G. Chaplick:

Yes.

Judith Cherbonneau:

What was coming in...

Frank G. Chaplick:

Yes.

Judith Cherbonneau:

Do you know what time of day this was?

Frank G. Chaplick:

Seven fifty-five in the morning.

Judith Cherbonneau:

That was when the first attack...

Frank G. Chaplick:

That was the first bomb.

Judith Cherbonneau:

Where were you when the first bomb...?

Frank G. Chaplick:

I was on the third floor of a barracks. Waiting for a Sunday newspaper to be delivered by a Japanese paperboy. For some reason he never showed up and I wonder what that reason was?

Judith Cherbonneau:

Was he living in Pearl Harbor? Was he living...obviously he was a newspaper boy...

Frank G. Chaplick:

He was in Honolulu.

Judith Cherbonneau:

How long had he been your paperboy? Do you know? Do you remember?

Frank G. Chaplick:

I don't remember, but I would ...

Judith Cherbonneau:

Did he just show up one day?

Frank G. Chaplick:

No, ah...I would say for several months, anyway. I don't really remember how long, but not just a few days, probably several months.

Judith Cherbonneau:

Well, that is very interesting.

Judith Cherbonneau:

So, what did you do when they first, they first attacked?

Frank G. Chaplick:

Well, at seven fifty-five in the morning, we heard a low flying plane come over the barracks and all of a sudden the whole island shook. So, we all dashed to the window and here is a plane making a climbing left turn. We had never seen one before, but on the wing there was the Japanese mark of the Rising Sun. Instinctively, we knew what it was and from then on all hell broke loose! They bombed the ships in the harbor. They bombed the planes. They bombed the hangers. They bombed the barracks and they would bomb and then they would come in and strafe.

Judith Cherbonneau:

What does that mean?

Frank G. Chaplick:

Strafe means machine gun fire. So anything that was moving they would fire. Having the planes lined up nice and pretty, which was the military style...it doesn't look good to have a plane over here and over there.

Judith Cherbonneau:

Exactly.

Frank G. Chaplick:

When they're lined up they look pretty, so out the door...right down there...pull the trigger and get 'em all! We made it very convenient for them.

Judith Cherbonneau:

What did you? What was your first reaction? What did you do?

Frank G. Chaplick:

Tried to take cover. There was no place to take cover. We came running out of the barracks. A bomb hit in front of me that killed dozens and knocked me up against the wall and kind of held me there, in back, together. And then I went outside and they were dropping bombs and I got hit here.

Judith Cherbonneau:

In your wrist?

Frank G. Chaplick:

Yes. Then they came in a strafe...three of us dove, dove under a so-called command car which is something like a Hum-vee. Two of my friends were killed and I got a bullet in my right leg.

Judith Cherbonneau:

So you were pretty well incapacitated by that time?

Frank G. Chaplick:

Very much so.

Judith Cherbonneau:

How long was it before anyone could come to your aid? Or could you help yourself?

Frank G. Chaplick:

Oh, I would say a couple of hours. Something like that.

Judith Cherbonneau:

Were you conscious all that time?

Frank G. Chaplick:

Ah, yes. I saw one gentleman...he had his stomach ripped open and a Major was picking up bodies and putting them into his command car to take to a hospital and he asked him to hold onto his stomach like this (demonstrates wrapping his arms in front of his body and hugging himself); which he did; so he picked him up like a baby put him in the command car to take him to the hospital. While we were going to a hospital in a....they strafed, the ambulance. g

Judith Cherbonneau:

Everyone in the ambulance was...deceased?

Frank G. Chaplick:

Yes.

Judith Cherbonneau:

How long did the attack last? Do you know? Do you remember?

Frank G. Chaplick:

Ah...three hours. Yeah...

Judith Cherbonneau:

How...did you loose any close friends?

Frank G. Chaplick:

Yes...yes...I never heard from them again.

Judith Cherbonneau:

What did you do after, ah, when you received some aid, you were taken to a hospital?

Frank G. Chaplick:

Yes, I spent, ah, six weeks at Tripler General Hospital in Honolulu.

Judith Cherbonneau:

Do you know how many other men were there? How many survivors there might have been?

Frank G. Chaplick:

I have no idea, but the hospital was full...ah...how old are you?

Judith Cherbonneau:

I am fifty two.

Frank G. Chaplick:

You're old enough! A nurse came by one day and there was a wounded veteran while I was in a hospital bed and the nurse said, "Well, where did they get you?" And he said, "Well, nurse," he says. "I'll tell you, if I had what you've got they never would have touched me." And this is the absolute truth! Yup.

Judith Cherbonneau:

Do you recall any stories that any of the other survivors might have told you or did you hear any other stories?

Frank G. Chaplick:

Not really, but we were trying to save our lives and we never had to face anything like this, why, you just don't know what to do.

Judith Cherbonneau:

Do you see any similarity in Pearl Harbor and in September 11, what happened on September 11*, 2001?

Frank G. Chaplick:

Yes! We were sleep at the switch. Yes. And the thing was, absolutely no one would dare do anything like that. It was...it was impossible! We're the United States.

Judith Cherbonneau:

Ah uh. Do you think we are too trusting?

Frank G. Chaplick:

Too trusting, is right.

Judith Cherbonneau:

Did you receive any medals...during your time of service?

Frank G. Chaplick:

Yes. Yes, I have seven air medals for missions. And I have two purple hearts.

Judith Cherbonneau:

Both from this... from Pearl Harbor?

Frank G. Chaplick:

No, no. One is from Pearl Harbor. The next one is when I was shot down flying combat in Europe. Would you like to see my B-17 under water?

Judith Cherbonneau:

Yes, when we're finished with this interview yes, I will and hopefully, I can get a picture of it to send in also.

Judith Cherbonneau:

So, after Pearl Harbor, after you recovered, where did you, where were you stationed after Pearl Harbor?

Frank G. Chaplick:

On the west coast; California for pre-flight and ah, primary and basic Hemet California, and Bakersfield, California and ah, Roswell, New Mexico.

Judith Cherbonneau:

So were you, ah...you were in the Air Corps. Were you a pilot or what was your...?

Frank G. Chaplick:

No, um, at that time, I was training to become a pilot.

Judith Cherbonneau:

What, um, military, urn, serves did you provide while you were in, were in Pearl Harbor? What was your job there? FC. I had an office job.

Judith Cherbonneau:

So you went to California and you received your flight training, ah, what kind of planes were you flying?

Frank G. Chaplick:

Ah...B-13; I believe, A, what was it, AT-26; and a very small plane, I forget what it was. I can't remember what it was; the first one was. At one point, my instructor said, "Now you watch what I am going to do and then you do the same thing. We were over 'North Overshoe', California and I am going to 'slow-roll' to "East Jockstrap' without losing any altitude. When I get through, you turn around and you do it the opposite way." So, he did it. He turned around and said, "Okay, now you do it." So, I'm going ..(demonstrating with his hands how that was accomplished).

Judith Cherbonneau:

And you did it! Obviously! Was he surprised that you successfully completed that maneuver?

Frank G. Chaplick:

There were civilian instructors and they were marvelous! I can't say enough good for them.

Judith Cherbonneau:

Now, why were they civilian instructors? Where did they get them from?

Frank G. Chaplick:

Well, we, we didn't have any military instructors. Whatever we had, were flying combat.

Judith Cherbonneau:

Hum... interesting. So, after that period of time, where did you go, after you became a pilot, where did you go?

Frank G. Chaplick:

I graduated from flying school at Roswell, New Mexico and I sent for my girlfriend, who was at U.N.H. (The University of New Hampshire), so ah, she boarded a train and three months, nine days and sixteen hours later, she finally made it and a classmate and I were married the day we graduated!

Judith Cherbonneau:

Very good! So, then where did you go for your military service?

Frank G. Chaplick:

We went to a place called Hobbs, New Mexico for B-17 training.

Judith Cherbonneau:

How long were you there?

Frank G. Chaplick:

Ah, oh I would say a month or two, something like that and ah, after that we went, I forget, to the mid-west somewhere. And ah, I trained with my combat crew and then we were given orders to fly to Europe to fly combat. When I was yeah big, I said to myself, if I ever become a pilot, I am going to fly under the biggest bridge in the world; across the Merrimack River between Haverill, Massachusetts and Grover, Massachusetts. When we took off from Grand Island, Nebraska on to Bangor, Maine, I made a detour over this bridge. The bridge was only this big (indicating with his hands that it was very small), so I couldn't fly under it.

Judith Cherbonneau:

But you tried! So where did you go when you were assigned to Europe?

Frank G. Chaplick:

Well, we landed...we...I called the tower in Bangor and he told me to land runway two-four, so I landed and he said, "Okay, take a left." Have to go down that way. I put the brakes on...the left brake held, the right brake did not. There was a hydraulic leak that they supposedly fixed in Grand Island, Nebraska. They didn't fix it. When I pulled the gear up, it cracked a fitting and I told my co-pilot to pump the hand brake, which he did. It was pumping hydraulic fluid out and we were doing all kinds of maneuvers. There was a colored fellow, standing guard duty at the intersection of the two runways and I'm heading for him. He threw his rifle away and headed for the woods. Bulldozer operators were working down there and they were all looking as if to say, "Where in hell did he get his flying lessons?"

Judith Cherbonneau:

Did they think you were being a wise-guy!

Frank G. Chaplick:

But they finally got it fixed

Judith Cherbonneau:

After you finally stopped.

Frank G. Chaplick:

So we went to Gander, Newfoundland. We took off at eleven o'clock at night; still daylight; icebergs in the Atlantic.

Judith Cherbonneau:

Now you were flying at this time?

Frank G. Chaplick:

Yes, flying a B-17 with my combat crew and it got dark and all of a sudden the whole sky lit up and I said, "Oh my God a convoy's been hit and we're burning," or so I thought in my mind. I called the crew up, tell them to come up look and finally my former D.S. says, "Haven't you guys ever seen the sun come up before?"

Judith Cherbonneau:

You didn't realize you had been in the air so long?

Frank G. Chaplick:

So we landed in a place called Belfast. Did I pronounce that correctly? Belfast.

Judith Cherbonneau:

Yes. And then...

Frank G. Chaplick:

We called the control tower and we were told we were clear to 'pancake'. So, I looked to the co-pilot and he looked at me and we called them again and he said, "Yeah you are clear to 'pancake'." So we finally figured out that he meant for us to come in and land. But this was their terminology. And from there I flew to London, England and then to North Africa to a place called Marrakech.

Judith Cherbonneau:

And what did you do there?

Frank G. Chaplick:

Ah, I was there for two or three days. They stole my wheels and tires because they needed them 'up front' so I had to be there for two or three days until they flew some more tires in so I could get going and then we went to, ah, further, further east to North Africa and then we finally moved up to, ah, southern Italy, called, to a place called Taranto and flew combat out of there to France, southern Germany, Greece. Ah, we were told never, never to crash-land in Albania because we'd get shot. So, we had to be very mindful of that.

Judith Cherbonneau:

So when you were traveling from place to place did you see any combat or were you just on your way to a specific place?

Frank G. Chaplick:

Ah, well, after we got to Italy, we flew combat, combat missions.

Judith Cherbonneau:

How long were you there?

Frank G. Chaplick:

Oh, something like three or four months. Something like that. I don't rightly remember. Then we, then we moved north a little bit. Ah, you've heard of Angio Beach Head?

Judith Cherbonneau:

No.

Frank G. Chaplick:

Well, this is when we invaded; our troops invaded Italy at Angio Beach Head and ah, we were getting the hell knocked out of us. So we pulled a dusk raid. It was just getting dark and we had to do 'pin point' bombing from fifteen thousand feet which was very, very low, but we wanted to make sure it dropped here, rather than here, (indicating two points in very close vicinity of each other with his fingers). But it was only a mile difference.

Judith Cherbonneau:

You didn't have the technology then, that you have today.

Frank G. Chaplick:

That's right. Yeap, so we had to do 'pin-point' bombing. Ah, have you heard of Monte Casino?

Judith Cherbonneau:

No.

Frank G. Chaplick:

Well this was an abbey that we won on three different occasions; set way up on a hill; and the Germans had fortifications up there that were knocking the hell out of us, so, if fact, we pulled two raids in one, in one day on that particular point.

Judith Cherbonneau:

How many missions would you perform each day, usually?

Frank G. Chaplick:

I was required to fly fifty, but I was shot down.

Judith Cherbonneau:

Now that is fifty in...how many days, or...? In all?

Frank G. Chaplick:

Just fifty. No time period. Fifty.

Judith Cherbonneau:

Then you were shot down? Can you tell me about that?

Frank G. Chaplick:

I crash-landed a B-17 in Africa, but no one was seriously hurt.

Judith Cherbonneau:

How did you manage that?

Frank G. Chaplick:

And then in my thirty seventh mission I was shot down. I was forced to 'ditch' in the Mediterranean Sea, off the coast of Corsica.

Judith Cherbonneau:

How could you have survived after you had to ditch your plane?

Frank G. Chaplick:

A British air/sea rescue boat picked us up and one of the first things they asked us was if we had any internal injuries. If we said no, they gave us a shot of rum. But when the plane ditched and was going down and we plopped out the life raft, the life raft was attached to the plane with an umbilical cord. The plane was going down, but the umbilical cord was still attached to our raft there and to this day I don't remember how we cut the cord because it would have dragged us down with it and very possibly we could have all drowned.

Judith Cherbonneau:

Oh my heavens. So, how long were you in the water before you were rescued?

Frank G. Chaplick:

Ah, I would say probably a half an hour or so. We weren't too far away from shore and there was an allied fighter base close by so they patrolled that area on a regular basis.

Judith Cherbonneau:

So they saw you go down? You didn't have to radio? You didn't have a chance to radio ahead?

Frank G. Chaplick:

Yeah, from the fighter place they saw us go down so they alerted everybody.

Judith Cherbonneau:

Were you hospitalized?

Frank G. Chaplick:

Ah, yes for just a short period of time. But others were hospitalized for a longer period of time.

Judith Cherbonneau:

And that is were you received your second Purple Heart?

Frank G. Chaplick:

Yes.

Judith Cherbonneau:

So, how much longer were you in the area or did you just come right home?

Frank G. Chaplick:

Ah, well after I got flown back to my base my squadron commander determined that I had flown enough as well as my crew. That we had fulfilled our quota so we were told that we would fly back to the United States. Which we did.

Judith Cherbonneau:

So, was that the completion of your service?

Frank G. Chaplick:

No, ah, I went to a rest camp and a hospital in Atlantic City and ah, on the coast of Florida somewhere. A rest camp and then after that I taught transition and instrument flying in Sebring, Florida and Columbus, Ohio.

Judith Cherbonneau:

And how long did you do that?

Frank G. Chaplick:

Ah, until almost the end of the war, so in fact I came home on leave and on the way back there was a newspaper article telling us that we had so many points and we were eligible to be released from the service. I had more than enough, so I decided to get out.

Judith Cherbonneau:

About how long does that take to process?

Frank G. Chaplick:

I would say the process took probably two-three months.

Judith Cherbonneau:

Do you remember the first day you got out of the service?

Frank G. Chaplick:

I really don't., .no. But I imagine I was jumping up and down.

Judith Cherbonneau:

No doubt! Can you tell me about employment or did you go to school after the service?

Frank G. Chaplick:

Ah, I worked for the telephone company for about a year, but they had a big lay-off and I was laid off, so I decided that maybe I should go to school to learn how to read and write, so I went to Wentworth Institute and I came back with a stack of books, yeah high and I didn't know to read and write and I said to myself, "How am I ever going to get through this". About that time, the phone rang and a friend of mine, who I used to fly with, said that the Federal Aviation Administration is hiring air traffic controllers and there were openings and why didn't you go down and apply? So the very next day, I went to Logan Airport and I applied and to the best of my knowledge I was accepted. So then it was a question of more studying, but on a different level.

Judith Cherbonneau:

And how many years were you an air traffic controller?

Frank G. Chaplick:

Oh boy! I think it was about twenty five years.

Frank G. Chaplick:

Ah, several months ago a group of us that meet for breakfast (one of the men) he was there with a tee-shirt that an air traffic controller from Moncton, Canada gave him. On the front of the was a picture of an airplane with an open cockpit. A pilot is sitting in the plane and is shaking his fist and up over the plane it said, "Air Traffic Controllers tell pilots where to go".

Judith Cherbonneau:

Isn't that the truth.

Judith Cherbonneau:

Did you make any close friendships while you were in the service?

Frank G. Chaplick:

Yes...yes.

Judith Cherbonneau:

Could you tell me about someone, maybe? One who was special?

Frank G. Chaplick:

Well, of course my bombardier who lives in Denver, in fact I talked to him a couple days ago because it was the anniversary of our 'ditching'; so, ah, we had a long conversation together. And, ah, the summer before last he flew out here to spend a week or ten days visiting back and forth. But he is the only one that I am in contact with. I don't know where the others are. They are scattered all over.

Judith Cherbonneau:

What did you find unique about the service, ah, in regards to comradeship?

Frank G. Chaplick:

Ah, you form a very close comradery because you have the feeling that maybe tomorrow he would save your life or vice-versa so that, ah, we had to work together and in my case, I had a crew of ten and I wanted to make sure everybody knew their job and did their job correctly. Because it would become a life and death situation.

Judith Cherbonneau:

Do you have any friendships now with any of the people you...other than this other gentlemen, that you had during the service?

Frank G. Chaplick:

No, I don't know where they are.

Judith Cherbonneau:

We were talking earlier, ah, you mentioned at Christmas time you got a letter from a gentleman whose uncle was your tail gunner. Can you tell me about that?

Frank G. Chaplick:

Yes. Ah, well, like you said, his uncle was the tail gunner. I wrote back and I was a little hesitate on telling him the gory details under which his uncle was shot, but I finally did and I got a reply back and, ah, he was very, very much interested in it.

Judith Cherbonneau:

It must be nice to know that the relatives haven't forgotten them.

Frank G. Chaplick:

That's right.

Judith Cherbonneau:

Are you a member of any veterans organizations?

Frank G. Chaplick:

Yes, I belong to the American Legion, here in Hudson, Post 48.

Judith Cherbonneau:

Do you feel today's citizens are patriotic?

Frank G. Chaplick:

Could you repeat that again?

Judith Cherbonneau:

Do you feel today's citizens are patriotic?

Frank G. Chaplick:

Yes and no. The older generation definitely are; but the younger generation, I feel they could care less.

Judith Cherbonneau:

If you could tell someone, what would you tell them about patriotism?

Frank G. Chaplick:

Well, I would tell them that there are cases where if you don't stand up for your rights in your country you could become a slave and we certainly wouldn't want that. So you got to stand up and do what you feel is right.

Judith Cherbonneau:

What do you feel about the situation today in the military and the impending situation in the Middle East?

Frank G. Chaplick:

My personal feeling is that, ah, we should not go to war. There should be some better way of resolving our differences without killing thousands and thousands of our troops.

Judith Cherbonneau:

Do you see any way we could possibly do that?

Frank G. Chaplick:

Ah, well just by applying pressure and ah, being ...I would say strong pressure so that they would know we mean business.

Judith Cherbonneau:

Such as sanctions, maybe?

Frank G. Chaplick:

Yeah.

Judith Cherbonneau:

How do you feel about having served in the military?

Frank G. Chaplick:

I feel honored to have been able to serve and over all I, I enjoyed it.

Judith Cherbonneau:

Would you do it again?

Frank G. Chaplick:

Yes. Yes.

Frank G. Chaplick:

When I was in cadets, the upper class-men, ah, they lauded over us and if we smiled they ordered us to wipe the smile off our face, and throw it on the ground and stamp on it!

Judith Cherbonneau:

They were pretty strict.

Judith Cherbonneau:

Is there anything else you would like to add that we haven't covered.

Frank G. Chaplick:

Offhand I can't think of anything. The modern technology they have today and is over my head and, ah, I just hope it works.

Judith Cherbonneau:

Do you think....would you like the opportunity to fly a plane today?

Frank G. Chaplick:

Yes, I would.

Judith Cherbonneau:

That would be something, wouldn't it?

Frank G. Chaplick:

Yeah...yeah. But, of course there are very few propeller driven planes in today's world. Everything is a jet. In fact, last week, two hawks were flying through the desert and a military jet plane flew over them and one of the birds said to the other one, he said, ah, "That bird was in an awful hurry." And his friend says, "You would be too, if your tail was on fire!"

Judith Cherbonneau:

Do you think that people who sacrifice their lives are appreciated?

Frank G. Chaplick:

Some are and some are not. I would say, oh, better than fifty-fifty do appreciate it.

Judith Cherbonneau:

Well, thank you Mr. Chaplick for sharing a piece of your life and history with me and I hope to do justice to your story by sending it to the Library of Congress for documentation. Thank you very much.

Frank G. Chaplick:

Very good.

Judith Cherbonneau:

After our interview was over, Mr. Chaplick notified me of other veterans organizations he is also a member of. Those organizations include: The Pearl Harbor Survivors Association; The 97th Bomb Group, 15th Air Force; The American Legion Post # 48; and The Gray Eagles in North Conway, New Hampshire.

Judith Cherbonneau:

This concludes the interview.

 
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