Jack Chamberlain was the son and oldest child of James (Jim) Chamberlain and Scottie (Royston) Chamberlain of McMahan. He was born on February 5, 1919. His younger siblings were Sarah Irene (1920-1992), James Scott (1923-1986) and Henry Lyndon (1926-1987). Jim Chamberlain ran a general store in McMahan. He would live to the age of 99 and be remembered fondly by many whose families were kept alive by Jim’s generosity during the Great Depression.

After graduating from Lockhart High School Jack became a Fightin’ Texas Aggie. He was a cadet in Headquarters Battery, Second Battalion Coast Artillery. He completed two years of study and then quit and enlisted in the Army Air Corps as an aviation cadet on December 30, 1940. On the date of his enlistment he stood 5’10” tall and weighed 142 pounds. His basic and primary training took place at the private contractor-run Cal Aero Flight Academy (later Chino Airport, California) and at Goodfellow Field in San Angelo.

His letters home to his mother reflected the natural progression of a young man from pre-war aviation training to a military pilot in a wartime setting. In January of 1941 he wrote from California of a cadet who failed to fasten his seat belt, and who fell out of an open cockpit trainer when it went inverted. Fortunately, the








student was wearing a parachute and survived. He mentioned rumors that ‘dodoes’ (apparently the name given new trainees) were going to be washed out at a high rate because of the lack of aircraft. Later than month, he confessed that “the instructors say that according to the law of averages we are past due for some dead cadets.” In that he was most certainly correct. He was allowed to solo with less than four hours of dual instruction. Nonetheless, he survived Basic and Primary training and received his wings on August 15, 1941 at Kelly Field in San Antonio, graduating in Class 41-F. Although he had not graduated from college, Kelly’s class album, “The Gig Sheet,” listed him as a petroleum engineer – probably based on his unfinished studies at A&M.

Jack was transferred to Wheeler Army Airfield on Oahu, Hawaii and assigned to the newly activated 73rd Pursuit Squadron, 18th Pursuit Group. The Group was part of the Hawaiian Interceptor Command. The squadron aircraft contained obsolete P-36 Hawks as well as the newer P-40. The P-40, soon to be obsolescent, was nonetheless an excellent fighter in the hands of experienced pilots such as the Flying Tigers, and British and Free French flying in North Africa. Jack thrilled at its speed and maneuverability, but he also was one of many who confessed to a healthy fear of its quirks. On November 9, 1941 he wrote, “The more I see a P-40, the more cautious I become when flying it. It has a very vicious and unorthodox spin and it comes out at its own leisure.”

In the ramp-up to World War II Jack met many college mates: “The Aggies must be everywhere, because I see someone I know everywhere I go,” he wrote in early November 1941. Like any proud Aggie, he was elated that the University of Texas had just been beaten by Baylor and hoped for the same result with A&M on Thanksgiving (alas, it was not to be). By now, everyone in the military expected war, but the tone of his letters home still did not possess any sense of urgency or alarm. In another pre-war letter, he told of enrolling in Jiu jets classes, of pistol shooting, and the expectation of aerial gunnery school “in the spring.” He purchased a car for $600.

The casual pace of the military training would change on December 7, 1941.

In a letter dated December 15, 1941 sent by Pan American ‘Clippergram’ (military rate of 6 cents per ½ ounce for first class mail) he explained to a young lady named Doris (whom he was apparently sweet on) that “[w]e were caught with our pants down the morning of Dec 7th and it will not happen again. If the [Japanese] ever come back they will get a very warm welcome. I was awakened by the first bomb that was dropped here and I can assure you that it is best not to have a hangover during a bomb attack. I lost no time in getting out of my room. When they strafed the field with machinegun fire I jumped in a ditch.  I believe I shrank to half of my normal size.”  Jack minimized the damage to Wheeler Field. All 18 of the squadron’s P-36s were destroyed on the ground.  His letter to his mother (presumably a teetotaler) of the same date makes no mention of the hangover. Neither letter described the horror of damage inflicted by sneak attack. CHAMBERLAIN - WHEELER FIELD BOMBING

With the onset of war came a new urgency. And also a request: “I need an insignia for my plane [presumably a P-40 at this stage]. It should be approx. 5 in. in diameter. As a suggestion – a mule kicking up his hind legs.”

Early 1942 was spent in training and air patrols over Hawaii. It appears to have become monotonous.

On June 1, 1942, he mentioned that his friend Mansel Williams had been promoted to first lieutenant at the same time as him (March 1, 1942). Mansel would be killed in Italy in December of 1943 while part of the 36th Division.  Jack’s pay was now $275, a princely sum when coupled with housing and food allowances of $78.  Jack sent money home to assist in Irene’s college expenses.  That month he shipped home two footlockers of civilian clothes. They were no longer needed.

Shortly after the Battle of Midway, Jack’s squadron was transported to Midway Island and on June 22, 1942 flew off the deck of the USS Saratoga for a two-month rotation on the island, relieving a battered Marine combat squadron. It then rotated back to Oahu. While on Midway, he expressed his opinion of younger brother James’ desire to join the Navy: “I’m agin it.”

Jack volunteered for a new squadron, the 6th Night Fighter CHAMBERLAIN -Douglas_P-70_in_flight__The_first_P-70_061024-F-1234P-036Squadron, in late 1942. Rumor abounded as to its ultimate assignment. And during this time, Doris found another beau. Like so many young men, he apparently received a “Dear John” letter. He inquired of Scottie if she knew what had happened.

He was killed on January 29, 1943. He had been promoted to captain a few weeks before his death. The accident report (#16268) contains little information. Oddly, it does not even identify the type of aircraft Jack piloted:


The Entirety of the Investigation

Research indicates that Jack and Sergeant Jacobson were flying a variant of the A-20 Havoc designed as a night fighter, designated P-70 Nighthawk with a two man crew. A shipment of P-70s had been received by the squadron in September of 1942. Jack and Sgt. Jacobson went up to check on an unidentified object in the waters near Pearl Harbor and lost control, crashing and exploding off Oahu. Jack is memorialized on Wall C, Tablets of the Missing, in the National Cemetery of the Pacific (Punchbowl) on Oahu, Hawaii. He had not reached his 24th birthday.



Inscription-Tablets of the Missing

Scottie’s last letter to her son, dated January 22, 1943 was never received. It was returned to her by the War Department, marked “Killed in Action.”


Scottie’s Last Letter To Her Son



Duke D. Cummings is inexplicably left off the official listing of men and women from Caldwell County who died in WWII. It may be that he had moved off briefly to California. Nonetheless, he is most definitely one of our own. Duke was born in Port Aransas but spent most of his school years in Luling. He was a star football player on the Eagle squad. His father Newton Cummings was a teamster in the oil patch. His mother was Elva Lynn Duke, who was living in Grayson County, Texas when she met and married Newton Cummings. Duke’s first name was apparently in honor of his mother’s family. The family moved around. His younger sister, Val Jean, was born in Erath County in 1927. In 1930, the family was living at 167 Rife Street, Aransas Pass. Between 1930 and 1935, his parents divorced. His father, Newton S. Cummings, was a teamster, and would eventually move up to central Texas. Duke was raised by his mother in Luling. Elva Lynn remarried in 1942, moving to Texarkana, Arkansas.

After high school, he attended Seguin Lutheran College (now Texas Lutheran University) for two years. According to his high school classmate, Dr. Tom Matthews, Duke moved to California to work in the defense industry. He enlisted the Army Air Corps on November 1, 1941 at Ft. Sam Houston. In all probability, he was told he would be called up when a slot opened. The 1942 Paso Robles phone book still showed Duke living at 629 Osos Street, with a listed occupation as a ‘warehouseman.’

Sometime in 1942, Duke was called up. After successfully completing primary and basic flight training, he was sent to Geiger Field in Spokane, Washington, and graduated with a co-pilot designation on the B-17 four-engine bomber. He was assigned to the 301st Bombardment Group’s 353rd Bombardment Squadron (Heavy). Part of the U.S. Twelfth Force, the Group and its four squadrons were based in North Africa. Extensive bombing raids were made over the island of Sicily as part of the Allied attempt at strangling Axis supply lines to North Africa (Operation Flax) and in anticipation of the invasion of the island. The B-17 was one of one of the US Army Air Corps’ most prolific bombers. However, despite its designation as a ‘Flying Fortress’ is could prove easy prey to enemy fighters, unless properly escorted. In early 1943, this often was not the case.

On April 13, 1943, his ship was piloted by 1st Lt. Jerry E. Thomas. It took off from its base at St. Donat, Algeria on a bombing raid against airfields at Castelvetrano, Sicily. After turning back toward North Africa, it was attacked by German aircraft. The plane went down in the


353rd Bombardment Squadron Emblem  

 waters ten miles west of Cape Granitola, Sicily. As Dr. Matthews says, “It was wartime. No one had time to look for survivors.”

Missing Air Crew Report 16302, declassified in 1982, shows just how little effort was made, and possibly how little effort could have been made, to ascertain the exact circumstances of B-17, Aircraft Number 41-24394’s disappearance. Five pages, mostly blank, with a few blanks filled in on a pre-printed form, are all that memorialize the deaths of a crew of ten. “Failed to return from a mission over Castelvetrano, Italy,” is all that is said.

The Luling Newsboy was hopeful. “It is entirely possible that Lieut. Cummings has bailed out of his damaged plane somewhere in the African wastes – again, he may be a prisoner of the enemy. Luling has already experienced several instances of our sons reported ‘Missing In Action’ who turned up later, and it is the fervent hope of every soul of this community that such are the circumstances now.”

Elva received a letter from Duke’s tent-mate, Lt. William Benson. Benson wrote:

The plane of which Lt. Cummings was a crew member was damaged, but not badly, but practically all of the crew got clear and parachuted to safety, though in enemy territory. I believe he is safe, but a prisoner of war, for I took particular notice to look where the             



 A 301st Bomb Group B-17 – North Africa

 parachutists came from and although I was flying some distance ahead of his damaged plane, I am nearly certain he got clear…

It was not to be. By letter dated April 14, 1944, the War Department notified his mother at her rented house on North Oak Street in Luling that a year had passed, and there was no more hope. She was told that the War Department “must terminate such absence by a presumptive finding of death.”

            The plane and crew were never found. Duke’s name is memorialized at an American Cemetery in Italy.

Duke Cummings was twenty-one years old.



Tablets of the Missing, Sicily-Rome American Cemetery, Nettuno, Italy