Remembering Lt. Wally

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First Lt. Wallace W. Chalifoux was a pilot in the US Army Air Corps during World War II. He was lost in action when his B25 Mitchell Bomber went down on a mission to Luzon, Philippines, on January 9, 1945. Wally was one of six men on that aircraft who never made it home. He was also my mother’s brother.

Wally was 9 years my mother’s senior and was both very responsible and very protective of her. Once when he was babysitting her, he realized that he needed to run down to the corner store. He woke Marlene up to tell her what he was doing but that he’d be right back. My mother also remembers how he would make his buddies wait for him to go out at night until Wally had finished the dishes. “My mother would tell him, ‘Wally, go ahead. Don’t worry about the dishes.'” But Wally insisted on doing his part.

Wally was studying to be a CPA at night school when World War II broke out. He begged his parents to allow him to enlist in the Army Air Corps so that he could fly a plane. They relented after he convinced them that he would eventually be drafted anyway. After only 11 months of flying lessons, Lt. Wallace Chalifoux was off on missions in the South Pacific.

There were more than 78,000 military personnel missing in action after World War II ended. (miafacts.org) Most of these fallen or captured soldiers were never found. But on October 28, 1992, a Philippine national happened upon the remains of an aircraft on Sibuyan Island, and the artifacts and remains were later identified to be those of Wally and his crew.

My grandparents, Emil and Olive Chalifoux, never lived to give closure to the life of their son, who presumably died at the young age of 22. But my mother and two other sisters, along with some of their children, were able to travel to Virginia to attend the burial service for their brother Wally at Arlington National Cemetery.

Memorial Day is a good day to remember the sacrifices not only of our men and women in uniform, but also the families left to grieve their loss. So while we enjoy our barbecues with family and friends, let’s take a moment to pray for these families and to thank them for the loved ones who gave their lives in service to America.

With special thanks to Annette Chalifoux Nozicka, whose tribute to her brother gave me the facts of Wally’s death, and to my mother, Marlene Chalifoux Infanger, who gave me the stories of his life.

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8 thoughts on “Remembering Lt. Wally

  1. Jim Briggs

    Mary:
    Just came across this in searching for details on my father, Capt. James Underwood of the 501st Squadron, the pilot of another bomber on the same mission as your uncle whose plane went down on Mindoro Island on the same day, 9 Jan 1945. (His plane was assumed to have gone down on Sibuyan Island, and search missions were sent there in 1947 and 1948 looking for it – obviously didn’t find your uncle’s plane then, though the terrain is apparently pretty tough; my father’s plane actually went down on Mindoro Island.) Delighted to read that they found your uncle and other crew members and you were able to arrange a burial at Arlington Cemetery. My father’s case is pretty confusing – his crash site was found in 1963 (positively identified by the plane markings), but my family was never told – found out when I got his personnel file in 2002. Five “incomplete” bone fragments were found (from a crew of six) but without DNA in the 60s, they were cremated in 1965. Now the military is not sure where my father’s crash site is – still hoping they’ll be able to do another search.

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    • Hi Jim, I’m sorry you have not been able to get closure on the whereabouts of your father’s remains. I was not personally in attendance at the Arlington ceremony, but I know my mother and aunt found great solace in the service honoring Wally and his fellow soldiers. Thanks for reading, and I hope you are able to obtain the information you seek. We owe a debt of gratitude to your father and all the brave men and women who died in service to our freedom.

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