Brigadier General Chester Albert “Chet” Howard was born on 17 July 1917 in Hollister, MO, raised in east central Oklahoma, and graduated from Dustin High School in 1935. Howard enlisted in the Aviation Cadet Program of the Army Air Forces in October 1942 and completed B-24 Liberator Heavy Bomber pilot training in March 1944. He was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant Aircraft Commander and assigned to the 760th Bomb Squadron at Spinazolla, Italy.
On 16 November 1944, Howard flew his 15th mission in “My Arkansas Sweetheart”. He departed Spinazolla at 8:00 AM and expected to return by 4:20 PM after dropping 3,000 pounds of High Explosive on the Munich West Marshalling Yards. His Liberator lost one engine going over the Alps and, after he dropped his bombs, another engine failed due to flak near Munich. As “Sweetheart” lost altitude over Austria, Howard and his crew of nine were forced to bailout. They heard from their captors, “for you the war is over.” Each would survive as POWs until rescued six months later.
In 1946 Howard returned home, built the Okemah Tri-City Air Park, and established an FAA and VA approved flight school. He joined the Air Force Reserve in 1948 and was activated in 1951 with the 6th Bomb Wing at Walker AFB, New Mexico. He flew the B-29, B-36, and B-50 aircraft. Howard was released from active duty in July 1954.
In July 1955 Howard joined the Oklahoma Army National Guard and served as its Aviation Battalion Commander and the State Aviation Officer. He was assigned as the Army Aviation Support Facility Commander in 1965.
In 1972, he was appointed the State Aviation Officer for Pennsylvania and retired in 1976 as a Brigadier General with a flying career that logged over 18,500 hours. His awards included the Legion of Merit, Distinguished Flying Cross, Purple Heart, and Air Medal. Howard retired to McAllen, TX and died in 2003.