Edward A. Chipkevich – Lieutenant Colonel, United States Air Force

From a contemporary press report:

Son identifies co-pilot in World War II rescue

February 1 – The day the story about Wilkes-Barre native Alvin “Buddy” Rothstein being rescued from a downed B-17 in the frigid North Sea during World War II appeared in this newspaper, the identity of the co-pilot of the rescue plane was revealed by the co-pilot's son.

The co-pilot was Lieutenant Edward A. Chipkevich, a native of Hazleton, Pennsylvania, who would go on to serve valiantly in WWII, the Korean War and Vietnam. His son, Edward A. Chipkevich Jr. of 858 N. Locust St., Hazleton, not only immediately realized that his father was the co-pilot of the rescue plane, a PBY, but also provided an identical photo of his father being thanked by Rothstein at a hospital in England. In the story, Rothstein, now a successful Mountain Top contractor, said he was sure that one of the pilots on the rescue plane was from Hazleton and added, “I believe he had a Polish name.”

Rothstein was on his second mission on February 3, 1945, over Berlin when his plane was hit by flak. Unable to maintain altitude or stay in formation, Rothstein made it over Germany and Holland when the last of four engines failed over the North Sea.
The plane broke in half when it hit the sea, tossing the crew into the cold water where life expectancy was a matter of minutes. They managed to get into a dinghy and were eventually rescued by an Emergency Rescue Squadron PBY that was part of a recently organized squadron in England.

“Talk about courage,” Rothstein said of the rescue plane's crew. “He damn near capsized (in the rough seas).”

Chipkevich retired as a Lieutenant Colonel with 28 years active service and returned to Hazleton. He died February 20, 1995.

Chipkevich enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1942 and after basic training earned his silver wings as a paratrooper with the 82nd Airborne Division, one of World War II's most famous divisions. His interest in the air arm of the Army, then known as the Army Air Corps, led to him becoming commissioned as a pilot officer following flight school training. It was during his service in England (European Theater of Operations) that Chipkevich was the co-pilot on the PBY that made the daring rescue of Rothstein and his crew members by landing in the choppy and frigid waters and having them climb aboard. He also piloted C-130 Hercules and C-119 Gooneybirds during his WWII service.
Chipkevich transferred from the Army to the U.S. Air Force when it became a separate branch of the service in 1948 following World War II. He served as a pilot during the Korean War and followed that service with three tours of duty in Vietnam.
In addition to PBY Catalinas, Chipkevich piloted C-47s, C-119s, C-123s and C-130s.

His military decorations and awards received for his 28 years of service, including three wars, include: Air Medal, Air Force Commendation Medal, Distinguished United Citation Badge, Air Force Outstanding Unit Award, Good Conduct Medal, European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal, World War II Victory Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Korean Service Medal, Air Force Longevity Ribbon, Vietnam Service Medal, Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, United Nations Service Medal and Vietnam Campaign Medal.

Chipkevich and his wife, the former Mary Ragan, who also died in 1995, are buried in Arlington National Cemetery. They parented five children, one of them being Navy Lieutenant Commander Mary Beth Chipkevich, a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy.

Edward Chipkevich Jr. did not serve in the military, but he has a strong interest in the armed forces. He has compiled a history of the men and women from the Hazleton area who have served with distinction, attained high rank or otherwise had notable careers. He is a life member of the Naval Institute and the Navy League. He is also writing a family history and a book of cooking recipes. Chipkevich Jr. has stayed in contact with USAAF Emergency Rescue Squadron veterans and historians, including Ragnar J. Ragarsson of Iceland.

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