8th Bomber Maintenance Squadron, Very Heavy, 444th Bomber Group
Cpl Huffine was initially buried at Kalaikunda Cemetery in India. He is buried at the Honolulu Memorial, HI, B, 1096.
Claude Lee Huffine was working for Gloria Rayon Mills in Johnson City, Tennessee in the Throwing Department when he enlisted in the United States Army Air Forces at Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia on 12 March 1943.
Claude completed basic training at Kessler Field, Mississippi and advanced training at New Orleans, Louisiana, Ypsilanti, Michigan and Great Bend Army Air Force Base, Kansas. Here, he was assigned to the 8th Bomb Maintenance Squadron, 444th Bomb Group (Very Heavy), 58th Bomb Wing, 20th Air Force. Claude and the 444th left Great Bend in March 1944 and after re-assembling in Marrakech, French Morocco, North Africa they arrived Chaara Airfield, near Puruliya, West Bengal, India on 11 April.
On 1 July 1944, after it was determined Chaara could not support all the 444th’s B-29 Superfortress aircraft they were redeployed to Dudkhundi Airfield, 12 miles southeast of Jhargram, Paschim Medinipur District, West Bengal. Before they could strike targets in Formosa, Thailand and Japan they needed to fly supplies, fuel, bombs, etc., over the Himalayan Mountains, called “The Hump” to their forward staging base located at Kwanghan Airfield (A-3), near Chendu, Sichuan Province, China. Many of the B-29s flew these supplies and support personnel back and forth, before and after completing their bombing missions.
As a support (maintenance) troop, Claude made these trips back and forth and on 6 September 1944 he was assigned to a B-29 from the 679th Bomb Squadron to make the trip over the Hump to Kwanghan. B-29, tail number 42-6277 named Lil Shanghai piloted by Captain James F. Williams was set to take-off at 1015 hours with a total of 14 personnel, bombs and supplies on board. After take-off the propeller on the #2 engine started to runaway endangering the crew, since this could cause the engine to break away and possibly taking the wing with it. Captain Williams, gave the order to salvo the bombs, bomb bay tank and prepare to bail-out. Not hearing prepare to bail-out, but bail-out, Claude and five others did so from the back of Lil Shanghai at about 500-600 feet above the ground. After arriving back to Dudkhundi, Captain Williams decided to land the aircraft. All looked good by the indicators, but after landing the left side landing gear either collapsed or was not down causing Lil Shanghai to do a ground loop off the runway destroying her. She would never fly again.
At this time a check was done to account for the 14 crew members and it was discovered that six were not there and had bailed out. Claude was the third man out and it was determined he must have not fastened his parachute straps properly and he either dropped through or was thrown free of his parachute after it opened leaving him to fall to his death. Claude was 20 years old and the only fatality from this mission. He participated in the Air Offensive, Japan Unit Campaign.
Claude was the son of Remer Gentry Huffine and Bessie Bell Zimmerman. He attended Eden Methodist Church. Claude’s brother Richard also served in the United States Army during World War II as a Military Policeman.
Submitted by Allen D. Jackson, USAF (Ret)
- Rank: Corporal
- Date of birth: 10 August 1924
- Date of death: 6 September 1944
- County: Washington
- Hometown: Jonesboro
- Service Branch: Army/Army Air Forces
- Division/Assignment: 8th Bomber Maintenance Squadron, Very Heavy, 444th Bomber Group
- Theater: China-Burma-India Theater
- Conflict: World War II
- Awards: Purple Heart
- Burial/Memorial Location: Honolulu Memorial, Honolulu, Hawaii
- Location In Memorial: Pillar XIX, Middle Panel
- Contact us to sponsor Claude L. Huffine
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