|Shack Rat Crew
At Last Laid to Rest on Home Soil
Services Held at Arlington
National Cemetery on 03 & 04 August 2011
for Recovered Pilot and
Crew of B-24 Bomber
42-40918, the "Shack Rat"—With Photo Gallery
by Al Swilling
14 August 2011
Photo gallery link at the end of
NOTE: Anyone who has photos,
documents, or links to sites concerning anyone in the crew of
the Shack Rat that you wish to share on this Web site, please
contact Al Swilling at
firstname.lastname@example.org The goal is to make this a comprehensive site
for information about the Shack Rat, its pilot Jack Volz, and
its crew. Help is very much appreciated.
During the week of 01-05 August 2011, families of the pilot
and crew of the B-24 Liberator Bomber
42-40918, "Shack Rat", convened at Arlington, Virginia, to
finally lay to rest their lost loved ones on American soil. All 12 of the airmen
have now been brought home and laid to rest on their home soil
and were given full military honors by the nation that they
served and gave their lives to defend.
The United States Army provided
accommodations at the Arlington Court Suites Hotel, 1200 N.
Courthouse Road, Arlington, Virginia 22201, for attending family
members of the pilot and crew. The hotel consists entirely of
suites and was very clean and comfortable.
Each family who arrived at
Arlington was met by a Casualty Assistance Officer (CAO), who
helped get the family settled into the hotel, briefed the family
on the scheduled events, and assisted the family with any
needs that anyone might have. Every CAO was professional,
friendly, courteous, and made the family in his or her charge feel at ease
throughout the stay and the ceremonies.
Pilot Jack E. Volz and all of
the crewmen were represented at the event by family members who
had the opportunity to get acquainted with each other and share
insights into the characters and personalities of their loved
ones. To say that it was an emotional week is an understatement.
There was a renewed sense of sadness and loss for each family,
especially for the families of the three individual crew members
who were buried at Arlington National Cemetery that week. At the
same time, there was the sense of relief and peace that came
from knowing that our loved ones, missing for so many decades,
were finally being laid to rest on home soil--the soil that they
bought for us with their lives.
My uncle, Clifford Chastain, my
grandfather SSgt. Berthold Allen Chastain's brother, said that
he thought they should have left the remains on the mountain
side where they could rest in peace. While I certainly
understand and respect his opinion, I must respectfully disagree with him. If
he had been able to attend the memorial service, the funeral,
and the graveside military honors, he would have felt the
presence and benevolence of the spirits of those fallen soldiers
we were gathered to honor and remember. It is my belief that those soldiers
were finally able to rest in peace only after their remains were
interred on the American soil they fought to defend, in the
American tradition that they died to preserve.
On the evening of Wednesday, 03 August,
families of the fallen warriors gathered at Murphy Funeral Home
in Arlington for viewing of the group casket and those of 2nd
Lt. William J. Shryock; SSgt Frederick E. Harris; and SSgt.
Clyde L. Green.
Each of the crewmen was represented by members
of his family at the viewing. After a local pastor offered his
words of respect for the fallen warriors and assurances to the
families, everyone who so
desired was given the opportunity to speak and give the rest of
the families insight into the character and home life of his or
her fallen loved one and how his life and his death had affected
There were guest books for each of the 12 heroes.
Upon leaving the funeral home, each family received a guest book
signed by all who attended.
The next morning, 04 August, beginning
with breakfast, the CAOs met with and prepared the families for
the funeral and burial services that would take place that day.
At around 10:00, the limousines were assembled outside the hotel
entrance, one limousine per family; and the CAOs ushered each
family to its assigned limousine. The limousines, accompanied by
the CAOs in separate vehicles, then delivered the families to the chapel, where
and individual funerals were held. The speakers were Catholic
Chaplain, Gabriel and Protestant Chaplain Croom.
Following the funeral services, a black caisson drawn by six
white horses bore the group casket to the cemetery where the
three individual caskets were waiting in the staging area. After
the flyover of a B-52 bomber, the group casket was removed from
the caisson by military pallbearers and placed with the other
three. Then there were four flag draped caskets in a row:
2nd Lt. Shryock, SSgt. Harris, SSgt. Green, and the group
The deceased were then given full graveside military
honors, and the families of the fallen airmen were each
presented with cards of condolence by the Arlington Lady, who
was on that day Janet Southley, Col. US Army, Retired.
It was an
impressive ceremony from start to finish.
The day's events culminated with the families being driven
back to the hotel by limousine, comforted by the knowledge that,
finally, their fallen loved one was home and could rest in
"PHOTO GALLERY" link at the bottom of this page will open a
gallery of photos of the viewing, the funeral, and the graveside
honors. Clicking each thumbnail will open a larger image with
captions for each photo.
Hopefully your browser will automatically resize the image to
fit your browser window.
I would be
remiss not to mention and express gratitude to the fine Military
Escorts who escorted the remains of each airman home; the Casualty Assistance Officers (CAOs) assigned to each
family; the Casualty Assistance Officer and Mortuary Affairs
officer that were assigned to the Chastain-Swilling family
during both the funeral at home and the Arlington ceremonies;
the hotel staff where we stayed; and last but certainly not
least, the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC), without whom
our loved ones would still be lost and their fate and location
Escort - The young man who escorted my grandfather, SSgt.
Berthold Allen Chastain's, remains from Hawaii to Cleveland,
Tennessee, epitomized what an escort should be. He remained with
the casket from the time it left Hawaii until it was safely in
the hands of the funeral home, and again from the funeral home
to the cemetery. Not only did he escort the remains, he actually
watched the casket go into the ground and the grave being filled
The escort's name was SSgt. Cherenfant Pierre-Louis, and he
is stationed in Hawaii. The night before he had to return home,
our family treated SSgt Pierre-Louis and SFC John Lee to dinner;
but it was only a small token of our gratitude for their service.
CAOs - I observed, during my stay at the
hotel that each CAO spent time
with the family to whom he or she was assigned, in the lobby as they arrived
or bringing them to the hotel from the airport, putting them at
ease, answering questions, asking if there was anything they
needed and offering their assistance to the families should any
need arise. It was clear from their demeanor that the families
really appreciated the assistance of their CAOs. Mine was no
exception. SFC Darryl Alexander was assigned to me; and I deeply
appreciated his being there. SFC Alexander is excellent at his
job and sincere with the families in his charge.
To all of the CAOs who comforted
and helped the families of the fallen airmen, thank you for your
service to the families; but thank you even more for your
service in protecting and defending the freedom and justice that
our forefathers fought and died to secure.
MAO - If every Mortuary Affairs Officer is as thorough
and attentive to the families that he or she is assigned to as
SFC John Lee was with my family, then I know that the family of
each fallen crew member was treated with respect and TLC.
In addition to
the CAO assigned to me during the Arlington ceremonies, the
Chastain/Swilling family was assigned an MAO when we were
notified that my mother's father--our grandfather--and the rest
of the Shack Rat crew had been found and positively
identified. A representative of JPAC visited in the company of
SFC John Lee, who was our MAO from that day until the ceremonies
at Arlington National Cemetery. It was SFC John Lee who
negotiated and worked with the local funeral home to ensure that
everything was perfectly timed and executed, from the length of
the funeral service and the flyover that followed to the full
military honors that were bestowed upon SSgt. Berthold Allen
Chastain at the burial site. Without SFC John Lee's taking care
of the details, we would have been lost. It's one thing to
witness a military funeral. It's quite another feat to
coordinate everything with such precision. SFC John Lee took
charge and got the job done.
In addition to his excellent work
coordinating everything, SFC John Lee was always in touch and
never more than a phone call away. He took his job seriously and
did it to perfection. When I arrived in Arlington for the
ceremonies, SFC John Lee and his beautiful wife Angie were
there. I was grateful for their presence. With them there, I
didn't feel quite so alone in my representation of SSgt.
Chastain's family. Our family will never forget the
patience, help, and friendship of SFC John Lee. I will always
remember and be grateful for his friendship and presence during
a time when the family and I needed someone the most.
The Hotel - The
Arlington Court Suites Hotel has only suites, and they are very
comfortable and immaculately clean. It isn't often that the
housekeeping staff of a hotel gets any mention whatsoever. It's
a job that guests take for granted. To give credit where credit
is due, the housekeeping staff of
the Arlington Court Suites Hotel deserve to be mentioned. They
did their jobs perfectly and quickly. Doing the job quickly is
less important than doing the job well, but the housekeeping
personnel at the Arlington Court Suites Hotel do both quality
and quick work. My hat is off to them.
JPAC - Without JPAC and
JMAC (Joint Mortuary Affairs Center), there would have been no
recovery of the Shack Rat's pilot and crew, no notification of
relatives, no return home for those fallen warriors, and no
funeral and military honors to honor their service and
sacrifice. It is an extension of the "No soldier left behind"
credo that the Army and Marine Corps live by. Several earlier
attempts to find the wreckage and crew were unsuccessful, but
that did not dissuade JPAC. They followed every lead until they
finally found the Shack Rat and its crew. Then, after wading
through bureaucratic red tape, JPAC recovered them by repelling
down a treacherous mountain slope and constructing rope riggings
from which to work. It was a slow and difficult process, but
JPAC succeeded. Using DNA taken from family members, JPAC's
forensics team was able to positively identify the remains of
the crew members and inform the crew's families of the recovery.
JPAC continues to labor on,
finding, recovering, and repatriating with honor the MIAs of all
our wars and conflicts; bringing to their families knowledge of
what happened and the relief and sense of closure that come with
that knowledge. JPAC deserves our deep respect, gratitude, and
support. It has the thanks of the families of the once missing
crew of the Shack Rat for finding them and bringing them full
Thank you to everyone who had a part in the discovery, rescue,
identification, transport back to home soil, notification of the
families, and the proper and respectful burial of the fallen
crew of the B-24 Liberator Bomber
42-40918 "Shack Rat" and all the other soldiers, sailors,
airmen, and Marines that have been recovered from all the wars
fought on foreign soil.
Please visit the photo gallery of
the Arlington ceremonies by clicking the link below.