Tracy loses its adopted war hero, Chuck Childs

WORLD WAR II VETERAN CHUCK CHILDS poses with his book of memories about the Berlin Airlift. Childs died Sunday at age 99. Tracy Area Headlight Herald file photo

By Per Peterson

Chuck Childs might have only been in Tracy for a couple of years, but his personality and his passion for life and his country left quite an impact on those who knew him while he was here.

The World War II war hero who endeared himself to everyone he met died Sunday at the age of 99.

“He fit in really well,” said Clint Peterson, who directed the Tracy Community Band in which Childs played percussion from time to time. “Both he and his wife did. When he came to town and found out there was community band he said, ‘I want to join that.’ He played drums for us for many years until he felt he just couldn’t do it anymore.”

Childs lived with his wife, Grace, at O’Brien Court during his time in Tracy. When looking back on his time in the service, the decorated veteran was most proud of the humanitarian work he did, delivering supplies to Germans in post-war Berlin in an effort that came to be known as the Berlin Airlift, an event he would go on to write about. The loquacious and affable Childs was always more than ready to share stories of the war and his service with anyone, whether he knew them or not.

“C-Span did a program last week on the Berlin Airlift,” said fellow World War II veteran Dick Donaldson, who on Sept. 13 joined Childs for the ceremonial coin toss at a football game between Tracy-Milroy-Balaton and Wabasso at the first-ever “Panthers & Patriotism Night.” “I don’t know if he had a chance to watch it; I watched the program and they interviewed a guy that had been a flight engineer during that period of time … he was giving insight to how it worked and he mentioned his good friend Chuck Childs. I never got the chance to tell him about that.”

“His stories when he was a pilot in World War II were just amazing,” Peterson said. “He gave me a chance to read the book he had written from his diary. It was really interesting.”

Swede Campbell was among a number of people who had brunch with Grace and Chuck just about every Sunday. He remembers a story Childs told him about his diminutive stature and how it played a role in his early military days.

See this week’s Headlight Herald for more on this article.