Super Senior: Harry Chandler

Published: Dec. 26, 2019 at 2:06 PM EST
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In December, Harry Chandler made it into the triple digits, turning 100. But his life was almost cut short over the skies of Germany many years ago.

"I remember it vividly," he said. "It was March 15, the Ides of March. March 15, 1945."

Harry was the pilot of a B-17 bomber. It was his 28th mission over Germany in the plane named TNT Katie. On that day, their task was to bomb a factory north of Berlin.

Decades later he found out what the Nazis were making.

"In that factory, there was, the Germans were producing a component of their atom bomb," Harry said.

They hit the target and the crew was headed back to England when they took fire from below. The whole side of the plane was sheared off.

"But I came to, we lost controls, there was just fresh air in front of me," Harry recalled.

His co-pilot was unresponsive. Harry tried to take control of the doomed aircraft but was sucked out to an unknown fate.

"So I pulled the ripcord and flew it down and as I got to the ground, I was greeted by two German police officers," he said.

In German, they told him for you the war is over. But it wasn't. He was then a POW surviving on black bread and runny soup. But it would be short-lived; the war would be over in months. Harry survived but most of his men, who were like brothers, didn't.

Harry Chandler: For over 50 years I didn't talk much about this experience, I was ashamed of it.

Reporter Joe Carroll: Why?

Harry Chandler: I felt guilty that I had lost six men out of a nine-man crew.

Harry came home, married, raised a family and had a successful career at General Foods. But the scars of war never healed.

"I often wondered why I had been allowed to survive and the others were not," he said.

The pain and guilt though lessened in 2005 when he went back to Germany and met a retired professor.

"At the age of 14, he saw my plane get hit and it was in a spin and on fire," Harry said.

He now knew the plane and his crew couldn't have been saved. The German man brought Harry to the scene of the crash. There, they found parts of the plane.

Joe Carroll: What went through your mind the first time you saw that?

Harry Chandler: I was amazed it was still in existence.

For Harry, it's a reminder of conflicts and consequences.

"Well, I want them to know that war is hell, war is stupid, war is the worst possible solution," he said.

A man who loves life with the knowledge of how fragile it can be.