9 January 1945 — Isley Field on Saipan in the Mariana Islands
Wilbur James “Sleepy” Chapman (2nd from left) was born on 8 March 1925 near Hereford, Texas.
Enlisted in the Army Air Corps on 13 November 1943 at Lubbock, Texas. Joined “Crew A-5” and underwent B-29 aircraft transition and combat crew training at Pratt Army Air Field, Kansas.
In October 1944, deployed to the Central Pacific Theatre of Operations and was assigned to 20th Air Force, XXI Bomber Command, 73rd Bomb Wing, 497th Bombardment Group, 869th Bomb Squadron stationed at Isley Field on Saipan in the Mariana Islands.
On 9 January 1945, he flew as an Aerial Gunner in the right blister station aboard a Boeing B-29 Superfortress nicknamed “Waddy’s Wagon” (serial #42-24598) Tail Code: A-Square-5.
It was one of 72 aircraft launched in a multi-group formation to bombard the Musashino Aircraft Works and Nakajima Aircraft Engine Factory near Tokyo, Japan. After the bomb run, his aircraft was last sighted 10 miles east of Choshi Point off mainland Japan at 27,000 feet and descending to provide protection to B-29 A-Square-46 which was under attack from 15 Nakajima Ki-44 “Tojo” fighter planes.
He was listed as MIA when his aircraft was forced to ditch at a geographic location of approximately 34 degrees North and 143 degrees East. The next day a B-17 “Dumbo” search plane was dispatched to the area, but no wreckage or survivors were ever found.
He was declared KIA one year later.