On 22 November 1944, a P-47D-23, assigned to the Combat Cargo Task Force, 1st Air Commando Group, 5th Fighter Squadron, departed the airfield at Fenni on a combat mission over the Mu River. It was last seen at about 1615 hours near 22º 10’ North & 94º 50’ East. The pilot was 2ndLt Walter C. Lair, # 0-678065. He was last seen by 2ndLt Ernest R. Dornbush, 0-715493, and 2ndLt Rudolph (NMI) Melichar, 0-714967.
LAIR, WALTER CHARLES “CHUNKY,” First Lieutenant, # 0-678065, USAAF
Walter C. was born on 9 April 1919 in Hazelwood, Pittsburgh, Allegheny Co., Pennsylvania, to Addison Walter Lair (1882-1928) and Daisy (Flick) Lair (1888-1978). Siblings included Virginia Adele Lair (1916-1977) and Raymond Additon Lair (1917-2016).
He registered for the WW II draft on 16 October 1940, resided at 2700 W. Liberty Ave., Pittsburgh, PA, employed by Harwood Insurance, and described himself as 5’8”, 158 lbs, with blond hair and blue eyes. He had a scar on his forehead. After enlisting in the USAAF 30 March 1942, he completed flight instruction through advanced schools and earned his commission and pilot wings as a fighter pilot. He was sent overseas to India. On 22 November 1944, a P-47D-23, assigned to the Combat Cargo Task Force, 1st Air Commando Group, 5th Fighter Squadron, departed the airfield at Fenni on a combat mission over the Mu River. It was last seen at about 1615 hours near 22º 10’ North & 94º 50’ East. He was last seen by 2ndLt Ernest R. Dornbush, 0-715493, and 2ndLt Rudolph (NMI) Melichar, 0-714967. He rejoined his squadron after surving six weeks in the Burma jungle. His best friend, Capt. H. R. Davidson wrote his mother, sending home his personal effects. Chaplain Marlin F. Kerstetter of the First Commando Group wrote her that “After six weeks of kiving and traveling in the jungle, [your son] has been found. He is undernourished and weak but we expect to bring him to the home base within a week. The saga of your son during his mission over Burma; of the technique of abandoning the plane and living in the jungle; of the help he received from friendly natives, is thrilling; but it is a greater profound fact that he has survived and is safe again. His mother said, “I just got down on my knees and prayed and thanked God.” She has another son, First Lieutenant Raymond Lair, USAAF, stationed at Casper, Wyoming. He was separated from the USAAF on 17 March 1948. He died on 21 December 1992 and is buried in the Riverside Cemetery, Fort Benton, Chouteau Co., Montana.
His brother, Raymond A. Lair, born 12 December 1917, served in the USAAF, a First Lieutenant, # 0-868209, from 16 January 1943. He retired from the U.S. Air Force Reserves, a Major, after 25 years service. He died on 30 March 2016 and is buried in the Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia.