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Charles W. Arnett
2nd Lt.
Charles W. Arnett
(1919 - 2008)
Pilot - Arnett Crew 717
Lt. Col., USAF (retired)
Life before the War
Charles Arnett was born and raised in Franklin, Arizona. His parents, Thomas and Annie Gale Arnett, owned and operated a farm and ranch along the Gila River near Duncan. Charles did well in school and participated in football, basketball, track and band. After graduating from high school, he worked at the Duncan Mercantile until he was awarded a Working Scholarship at the Arizona Teachers College at Flagstaff, presently known as Northern Arizona University.
To help supplement his income at college, he enlisted in the Arizona National Guard. He served in the 158th Infantry Battalion, I Company, as a Private Second Class. His football coach, Captain McCrary, was his Company Commander. Arnett broke a bone in his right wrist in a basketball accident. With his writing arm in a cast, he was forced to drop out of college for the remaining year.
While recovering back home, Arnett accepted an opportunity to serve as a missionary for his church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, aka the Mormons. After his papers were in order, he obtained a discharge from the Arizona National Guard where he had acquired one year of service.
His church called him to serve his two-year mission in Australia. While he was there, the war in Europe and the Pacific was getting increasingly nasty. After one year, the church brought all their foreign missionaries back to the US. Arnett finished his mission at Lewiston, Idaho. He had little doubt of what he would be doing after completing his church mission... as his last day was on Sunday, 7 December 41.
Into the Army
Six months later Arnett was drafted into the army. He was assigned to the Army Air Corps and trained as an aircraft mechanic. During aircraft school, his application for pilot training was accepted. While attending numerous pilot training schools and Officer Candidate School, he met his sweetheart, Anna Laurene Liljenquist. She pinned his wings on him at his graduation. Arnett was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant on 30 August 43.
After a short leave, he was sent off for B-24 training. Then he went to Salt Lake City, Utah, where he was assigned his crew. They trained in Tucson, Arizona, until January when they were transferred to the new 492nd Bomb Group at Alamogordo, New Mexico.
Training Record
1938 - 1939: AZ National Guard, 158th INF, I Company
5 Jun 42: Inducted into the Army at Phoenix, AZ
Aircraft Mechanic School: Witchita, TX
Pre-Flight Ground School: Maxwell Airfield, Montgomery, AL
Primary Flight Training, BT-17s: Jackson, TN
Basic Flight Training, BT-13s: Walnut Ridge, AR
Advanced Flight Training, AT-17s: Freeman Field, Seymour, IN
30 Aug 43: Commissioned 2nd Lt., Seymour, IN
B-24 Transitional Training: Maxwell Airfield, Montgomery, AL
Crew Assignment Center: Salt Lake City, UT
Crew Combat Training: Davis-Monthan Airfield, Tucson, AZ
492nd Bomb Group: Alamogordo, NM
Service with the 492nd Bomb Group
Arnett led his crew on three combat missions before getting shot down on 19 May 44. His complete mission record and the details are recorded on his crew's page, Arnett Crew 717. During his short career with the 492nd, Arnett accepted additional responsibility by flying as an element leader.
Upon getting shot up by the Abbeyville Kids, the Luftwaffe's elite fighter group, Arnett and crew tried their best to return to England, but were forced to crashland in Nazi-occupied Holland. Arnett says that it was the lowest point in his entire life. He had come to England to do a job and didn't finish it. He felt he had let everyone down, including his crew, his squadron, his group, and his family and friends. He was even more saddened by the death of his comrade, Uriel Robertson.
Prisoner Of War
In jest, Arnett says that for him "North Pickenham was just a layover on my trip to Germany." He was taken to Stalag Luft III outside Sagan, Poland. In January, as the Allies were closing in, they were relocated to Stalag Luft VII near Nuernburg. Six weeks later they were marched off to Stalag Luft XIII at Mooseburg. On 19 April 45, they were liberated by Patton's Third Army.
There were over a hundred thousand POWs waiting to go home. A lottery was held to determine in which order the men would be flown out. Arnett was lucky to be drawn to go with the very first group out. They flew out on a C-47 to LeHarve, France, to be deloused and fattened up a bit. From there they boarded a troop transport ship headed for the Statue of Liberty. Upon his arrival in the US, he got sixty days leave and on 15 June 45, married his sweetheart.
But, the war in the Pacific wasn't over. He began training for it in a B-25 at Douglas Air Field in Arizona. Two atomic bombs put an end to the war and Arnett was discharged from service.
After the war
Arnett took advantage of the GI Bill and returned to college to study Agronomy (soil chemistry). While attending Brigham Young University, he joined the Army Air Reserve. Upon graduating in 1950, he was recalled to serve in the newly formed US Air Force. The military credits him as having served in the Korean Conflict, although he spent his one year tour stationed at Keflavik, Iceland.
By the time his recall activation was up, Arnett was in his mid-thirties and had already served halfway to a retirement. He couldn't see returning to civilian life where he would have to start all over from scratch. He decided to stay in as a career officer.
During the twenty-two years following his recall into the Air Force, Arnett had to move his family of seven kids twenty-six times. His career took him to many places, including three years in Japan and a one year tour in Vietnam.
He retired in 1968 at the rank of Lt Colonel. Combining all of his service time in the Arizona National Guard, the Army Air Corps, the Army Air Reserve and the regular Air Force, the military credits him with 26 years. Arnett says that he just never had any luck at being a draft dodger.
Rest in peace
Charles Arnett passed away quietly on Wednesday, the 12th of March, 2008, at his home in Chandler, Arizona, while sitting in his favorite chair.  Charles W Arnett (1919-2008)
His wife Anna Laurene survives him, as do all seven of their children and most of their 28 grandchildren and 32 great-grandchildren.
Charles Arnett's Bio page can be accessed directly from either
arnett.492ndBombGroup.com   or   arnett.492bg.com
More Info
9 pictures
2004 clip of a
documentary by
his son Mark
QuickTime Video
320 x 240
14 min, 13 sec
Arnett CCT 1158
Arnett Crew 717
Arnett's speech at the 50 year crashlanding reunion in Holland
20 Mar 2008
an article about
Charles Arnett
The Beehive
an assortment of
quotes and sage
advice given by
Charles Arnett
Mission 5
19 May 44
Patriot Guard
Riders forum
Messages of
condolence for
the family of
Charles Arnett
Patriot Guard
Charles Arnett's
Family History
Charles W Arnett
5 Sep 1919
12 Mar 2008
24 Mar 2008
taken by the
Patriot Guard Riders'
492ndBombGroup.com — an Arnett Institute project
Page last modified Friday, May 24, 2013.