Henderson T. Chambliss Sr. (Pete)
June 10, 1918 – June 10, 2007
Henderson T. Chambliss, Sr. (Pete), at rest on his birthday June 10, 2007 at the age of 89 in Sunnyvale, CA. Husband of the late Beth Chambliss (1997): loving father to Karen Chambliss of Petaluma, CA, Tom Chambliss of Mtn, View, CA, Margaret Carroll of Sunnyvale, CA, John Chambliss of Mtn. View, CA, Robert Chambliss of San Leandro, CA: devoted grandfather of 7 and great grandfather of 3. He was a native of Texas having been born in Lake Creek, Delta County, on 10 June 1918. He picked up the nickname Pete during his time in the service and it stayed with him his entire life.
Henderson was the loving son of William Allen Chambliss, Sr. and Sallie Melverta Tarpley, and loving brother of Noval Chambliss, Minerva Chambliss Smith Nance, and William Allen Chambliss, Jr. all of whom predeceased him. He was the grandson of Henry Henderson Chambliss and Annie Shotton, Ezra Tapscott Tarpley and Martha Josephine Springer. His great-grandparents were James Allen Chambliss and Lucinda Morgan, William Ira Tarpley and Sarah Ann Foster Tapscott, William Newby Shotton and Mary Pratt, as well as John Lee Springer and Virginia Texas Francis. They were some of the early families that settled Delta County, Texas.
After joining the Navy in 1936 he was sent to San Diego, Norfork Virginia, followed by naval flight training at Pensacola Florida, and Naval Airship training Lakehurst New Jersey.
In 1937 he was assigned to VP-18 squadron at Pearl Harbor. In 1941 the squadron received orders they were being reassigned to the Philippines. At the same time the Bureau of Naval Personnel requested volunteers for Lighter Than Air. He was accepted and was sent back to Lakehurst for further training. VP-18 was sent to the Philippines and not long after their arrival the Japanese attacked the islands following the attack on Pearl Harbor. Most of the squadron was either killed or captured and sent on the infamous Bataan Death March. He has said that volunteering for Lighter Than Air may have saved his Life.
During the war years he flew submarine patrol, trained new blimp pilots, and managed the erection of several blimps at different air bases along the west coast. He was in Guam at the end of the war and was transferred to the Marshal Islands to take part in Operation Crossroads, the testing of the atomic bomb on the islands of Eniwetok, Kwajalein, and Bikini.
He had first arrived in Mtn.View in Feb of 1942 and fell in love with the area. When he returned from the Pacific he was stationed at Moffett field and decided to stay and raise his family. He left the Navy after 10 years of service and went to work for Douglas Leigh Sky Advertising Co. based in New York. They used blimps to advertise products like Wonder Bread, Mobil Gas (Flying Red Horse), and other brands flying over different west coast 'events' much like the Goodyear blimps do today. After leaving Douglas Leigh in 1949 he went to work for Formway Machine Shop in Los Altos, managing the business. Formway was a maker of agricultural equipment and a general machine shop. During this time with Formway he met Walt Disney while working jointly with Arrow Development. He helped with design work on several rides for the then new Disneyland.
In 1956 he left Formway and went to work for Vacu-Blast Corp. (a leader in abrasive medium equipment) as Field Engineer and was later promoted to Western Sale Manager. During this time he developed purpose designed machines for the U.S. Navy, Atomic Energy Commission, North American Rockwell, General Motors, United Air Lines, and the Mexican National Railroad. He is a holder of several joint patents. He left Vacu-Blast and purchased Formway Machine Shop in 1966. During this time with Formway he developed agricultural processing equipment for walnuts, pecans and other agricultural crops. He sold the business in 1979 to retire.
He had many hobbies and interests, including astronomy, sailing, camping, a student of history, and found time to build a replica of a 1901 Oldsmobile. He had a passion for flying, as a civilian he held a commercial pilots license and logged over 5,000 hours. He was chosen by the Department of Navy to represent the Navy for the Decommissioning Commencement of Moffett Field in 1993.
He was member of the Lighter Than Air Society, Naval Airship Association, National Association of Atomic Veterans, the Light House Society, and the Society of George Washington Family Descendants.
He descended from 13 patriots of the American Revolutionary War. He was the 12th generation of his family to serve in the US Military beginning with the militia in colonial Virginia.
Published in the San Jose (CA) Mercury News from 6/15/2007 - 6/17/2007.