Chester H. Schmidt

Chester H. Schmidt, 779th
2 June 2010
Chester Schmidt

Chester H. "Chet" Schmidt passed away on Sun., 2 June 2010, at the age of 86.  He was born in Madera, Calif. on May 3, 1924 and was raised on a farm near Berenda along with seven older brothers and sisters.  Chester graduated from Madera Union High School in 1941, then attended Fresno State College.  He and his brother Harry subsequently joined the U.S. Army Air Corps.

From 1943-45, Chet served as a B-24 Aircraft Commander and saw combat in the Mediterranean Theatre.  His unit was the 779th Squadron of the 464th Bombardment Group (H) in the Fifteenth Air Force.  He was stationed with the Group in Pantanella, Italy.

Chet was discharged in 1945 as a 1st Lieutenant.  Chet returned to Madera after World War II and married Bonnie Tully of Hannibal, Missouri.  He and his brothers, Sam and Fred, were well known softball players in the Madera-Chowchilla area in the late 1940s and 1950s.

Chet maintained Reserve Status and was recalled to active duty during the Korean War in 1951.  He remained in the Strategic Air Command of the U.S. Air Force for a total of 30 years.  He flew B-47's and B-52's out of Castle Air Force Base in Atwater.  He was on active duty in 1962 during the Cuban Missile Crisis and participated in the airborne alert "Chrome Dome."  He flew 110 Combat Missions in a B-52 during the Vietnam Conflict.  He later became an instructor for B-52 pilots.

During the last years before his retirement, he served as Director of Supply of the 2nd Air Force, headquartered at Barksdale Air Force Base in Shreveport, Louisiana.  He was retired in 1974 with the rank of Colonel.  He received the U.S. Air Force Legion of Merit and Meritorious Service Medal and Commendation Medal.

Upon his retirement, Chet and Bonnie moved to Meadow Valley, near Quincy, California in the high Sierra.  They enjoyed the mountains and visiting Reno.  For many years they spent their winters in Lake Havasu, Arizona, where they had a winter home.  Chet was an accomplished fisherman and skeet shooter.  Decades ago he became the Schmidt family historian, tracing the ancestors of his grandfather, Gottfried Schmidt, who came to Fresno in 1892, back to the village of Stahl in the Volga River Valley of Russia.

After Bonnie's passing, Chet moved to the Coarsegold area to live with his nephew and wife, Gil and Barbara Gilliland.  He is survived by a sister, Alma Wagner, of Fresno, Calif.; a large number of nephews and nieces, many of whom live in the San Joaquin Valley.

A Military Graveside Service was held at Arbor Vitae Cemetery in Madera, Calif. on Mon., 17 June 2010.  Instead of flowers, the family requested that donations be made to the St. Agnes Hospice or the Veterans of Foreign Wars.