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.