Lt. Claude Willard Adams, Jr., USNA '42 - Air-Rescue, Philippine Islands
Killed on rescue mission 28 July, 1946, Mt. Halcon, Mindoro Island, Philippines (date probable)
Buried at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery, Missouri, in common grave of 11 man aircrew
-- Richard Adams --
My father, Claude W. Adams, Jr., USN, was born in San Diego, CA on October 20, 1919, to Claude W. Adams, Sr., and Mabel Rorabaugh Adams. His father was in the Navy at the time.
He was raised in Colorado, near Canon City, but moved later to Spokane, Washington, at age 10, after the death of his mother, attending Central High School, graduating at age 17 in 1937.
He joined the Navy, after getting his father to sign for permission, and eventually got on board a ship which had a library.
By studying diligently any time he wasn't on duty, he was able to take the competitive exam for the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, to which he was appointed in 1939 as a member of the
class of 1943. While he was there, he was Editor-in-Chief of The Log magazine. Wartime acceleration meant he graduated in 1942. The first couple under a new law, my father and mother
(Jeanne Cassels) were allowed to get married upon graduation, rather than waiting the usual four years. They had met in high school in Spokane, and kept up a long-distance letter-writing
romance for five years. If that law or regulation hadn't been changed, I would not have been born.
My sister was born in April of 1943 in New York City; I was born in May of 1945 at Naval Air Station Banana River in Florida (now part of the Cape Canaveral complex). In late May of that
year, we traveled to Hayward, California by car at a wartime gas-saving speed of 35 mph. My father's next duty was to Japan, where he flew patrols in a PBM, Martin Mariner (large seaplane).
I last saw him when I was three months old, I've been told.
About three weeks after the end of WWII, he was flying patrol over Sakhalin Island, then Japanese territory, when three Russian fighters pounced on his plane, shooting at him. His crew
wanted to fire back, since the plane was still armed at the time. His comment: "Do you want to start World War III?" He kept them from firing back but flew his plane just above the waves,
where the fighters could not go and couldn't reliably dive to shoot at him.
Upon return, he was court-martialed for flying a seaplane over land, overflying foreign territory, and offending the Russians. His appointed lawyer refused to take this "hopeless" case so
he defended himself and was acquitted, using logic, and noting that only one ambassador at the time knew Russia had claimed the island, and he had not been given a briefing before going on
routine patrol. The Russian press was livid that he'd "gotten off" and it was decided a "change of venue" was best for all. He was assigned to the Philippines.
In July of 1946, he was participating in an air-rescue operation to find some Army pilots who had crashed on or near Mt. Halcon, on Mindoro Island, in the Philippines. Why a seaplane? Huge
wings with lots of fuel meant the plane could stay aloft for many hours and fly slowly too. There was a typhoon in the area at the time. It is thought that his plane crashed on that mountain
on July 28, 1946, killing all 11 aboard. From what I have heard, the pieces of the wreck were small, as if the plane had exploded, but did not burn (so the cause wasn't the fuel). The wreck
of the army aircraft was also later found about 100 yards from his wreckage.
The Mt. Halcon trail is closed now because the rugged terrain has killed far too many hikers. In 1946, remains were recovered by the army but in a condition that meant that all 11 crew members
were buried in one common grave at Jefferson Barracks in Missouri.
My mother, sister, and I were at a military air field to fly to the Philippines on July 28, 1946 when we received word that he was "missing" and told not to come. I was 15 months old at the time
and that is my earliest memory. I, of course, didn't know what was going on but everyone around me was crying and really upset. That made an impression even on an infant. The last image I have
is the plane we were supposed to be on, taking off without us. I can see the tail in my mind and now identify it as the military version of a DC-3.
It was over two weeks later, August 14, 1946, that we got The Telegram confirming his death. My mother never remarried, and the life of a widow with two young children in the 1950s was not one
of plenty, to say the least, as most AWON members can confirm. My sister and I had love from our mother and my sister says she remembers riding on our father's shoulders once when he was on leave.
From all we were told, Lt. Claude W. Adams, Jr., USN was a fine young man who died at age 26. His mother had also died at age 26. My sister and I both felt relief to celebrate our 27th birthdays.
Our mother died of a brain aneurysm in 1977, at almost 57, just as my son was being born.
I never knew my father. My children have never known their grandfather or grandmother. We have stories that portray our father who never came back from World War II as a good person of character.
But that's it.
What's having a father like? What advice would a father give his son or daughter? How would we have learned to deal with the world with TWO parents? It took me seven years to work my way through
college with part-time jobs. My sister never completed her degree. How would our lives have been richer and fuller than what they were with more than just a "good story" and a photograph of a
handsome young man on the wall instead of a real person?
My sister and I have both gotten to be older than our father or mother ever were allowed to be. And we hope we have done well with the time we've been given by their sacrifices.