75 years later, World War II former prisoner of war recognized with Oregon’s 2020 POW-MIA Day proclamation on his 100th birthday
THE DALLES – An honored resident of the Oregon Veterans’ Home in The Dalles, who recently celebrated his 100th birthday, was recognized this week for his honorable service to his country during World War II — including a year as a prisoner in a German POW camp.
U.S. Army Air Corps Technical Sergeant Phillip William Chaperon (pronounced “chaperone”) was on his 21st mission serving as a waist gunner, when his B-17 was shot down by flak and German fighter planes approximately 35 miles southeast of Frankfurt.
Chaperon was knocked unconscious and blown free from the plane at about 25,000 feet. He came to just in time to try and steer his parachute away from a German farmer’s barn.
He was not successful. He struck the barn, injuring his leg and ankle.
The date was April 13, 1944. It was Thursday the 13th — not Friday — but the date would prove unlucky for Chaperon nonetheless. He was captured by German forces and spent over a year at the Stalag Luft 17B POW camp near Krems, Austria.
Originally built as a concentration camp, by 1944, Stalag 17B was primarily a prison for American non-commissioned officers. The prison consisted of five compounds and housed around 30,000 prisoners of war from various nations.
Chaperon and several of his fellow members of the 384th Bomb Group, who had also been captured, endured the brutal conditions there for almost 13 months, finally being liberated in May 1944.
Chaperon, who turned 100 on Sept. 9, was celebrated at the Home last week with a parade, fly-over, and a host of family and guests.
Due to strict COVID-19 guidelines in place at the Veterans’ Home, Chaperon safely watched the festivities through the windows of a bus that was parked nearby. Local dignitaries spoke in his honor, including The Dalles Mayor Rich Mays, and local law enforcement and members of the Patriot Guard Riders, among others, staged a parade.
Today, Chaperon was honored again when presented with a signed proclamation from Governor Kate Brown designating Friday, Sept. 18, as POW-MIA Day in Oregon.
Kelly Fitzpatrick, director of the Oregon Department of Veterans’ Affairs, virtually presented the proclamation to Tech Sgt. Chaperon, expressing the appreciation and gratitude of a thankful nation.
“Your courage and perseverance as a prisoner of war are testaments to the strength and indomitability of the American spirit,” she said. “The peace and prosperity that all Americans have cherished are the direct results of your service and sacrifice, and those of so many of our nation’s proud service members.”
Tech Sgt. Chaperon trained in Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and Colorado before being deployed to England to join the 8th Air Force. He is credited with 21 combat missions, and is also the recipient of the Purple Heart, Bronze Star, and several other Air Medals and commendations for his valorous service.
Held each year on the third Friday in September, POW-MIA Day honors all of the more than 136,000 American men and women who have been held captive by hostile powers during their military service in various conflicts throughout our nation’s history — as well as the more than 80,000 American service members who are still considered missing in action.
Oregon counts itself as the home state of about 800 military POWs, many of whom endured harsh and inhumane treatment by their captors, often resulting in death, while their families, friends, and other concerned Americans experienced the horrific uncertainty of not knowing their fates.
Governor Kate Brown issued a proclamation declaring September 18th as POW/MIA day in Oregon. Today, we celebrate and thank Tech Sgt. Chaperon, and all of our POW and MIA soldiers, for their service.