My family has a strong military background. My paternal grandfather, Fred Childers, experienced the horror of war as a combat medic in World War I. All three of his sons followed him in military service to their country. His oldest two sons, my uncles Lloyd and Wayne, served in the Navy and Marines and fought in the historic Battle of Midway. His youngest son, my father Lee, served in the Air Force and flew in the Berlin Airlift.
I want to begin by paying tribute to my uncle, Lloyd Childers (1921-2015), who died less than 4 years ago. Lloyd was a true World War II hero, receiving the distinguished Flying Cross and the Purple Heart for his heroism as a tail-gunner in a torpedo plane of the USS Yorktown at the Battle of Midway. But, like most heroes, he would just say he was doing his job.
This brief video excerpt below is taken from hours of his video testimony, when he was 85 years old, now archived and made available to the public at the Digital Collections of the World War II Museum.
In this video, Lloyd Childers describes in great detail what it was like to be in air combat against the Japanese Zero fighters during the Battle of Midway. After clearing anti-aircraft fire from a Japanese destroyer, two Japanese Zero fighters began attacking his plane at the same time. He was gravely wounded, shot twice in his left thigh and once in his right ankle, shattering the bones. Then his machine gun jammed.
Childers looked out of his plane directly into the eyes of a Japanese pilot. He stood up in the cockpit, pulled out his 45 caliber pistol, aimed at the Japanese pilot, and opened fire.
The plane dropped out of sight. Then the engine of his plane was hit and the pilot, Harry, told him they were not going to make it back to the aircraft carrier. Harry was killed in combat later.
Of 12 torpedo planes, his was one of two planes from his squadron to survive the attack on the Japanese and make its way back to the American fleet. His plane was so damaged it could not land on a carrier and ditched next to the USS Monaghan. Childers was later transferred to another ship for emergency medical treatment where he witnessed the sinking of the USS Yorktown from the sickbay.
After World War II, he was commissioned as a Marine officer and assigned to fly combat missions in the Korean war in 1950 – 1951. He was re-trained as a helicopter pilot and was later deployed to the Belgian Congo for humanitarian assistance in 1959.
After the Korean War, Childers commanded a Marine helicopter squadron in 1965 and 1966 in Vietnam. It was there he led the first successful night troop landing in a “Hot Landing Zone” where his helicopter was under fire from the enemy. In Vietnam he received the Legion of Merit as well as his second Distinguished Flying Cross.
After retiring from the military he earned a Master’s degree in education and a Ph.D. in higher education in order to serve at Chapman College in Orange, California until his final retirement.
He became the sole protector and provider for his little brother, my father, teaching him to be a warrior too.
Childers learned to be a warrior from an early age. Sadly, he came from a broken home, where his parents divorced when he was 10 years old, leaving him and his two younger brothers on the street to fend for themselves. He became the sole protector and provider for his little brother, my father, teaching him to be a warrior too.
I am deeply grateful for the life and service of my uncle Lloyd, and for all veterans who have sacrificed for our liberty. Freedom is not free.
Click this link below to watch Lloyd Childers’ first-hand account (7 minutes) of what it was like to be a tail-gunner in the historic Battle of Midway.