LEO ATWATER (1920 - 1944)
(CNAC January or February 1944 - May 15, 1944)
(Captain - early 1944)
(Hump Flights - XXX)
Leo Atwater was born September 22, 1920 in Lake View, Sac County, Iowa to Charles E. and Idella Atwater.
High School Graduation
In the 1943-45 log book of Don McBride, Leo listed his addresses as:
Grand Island Neb.
January 24, 2001
I received the following e-mail from Sue Ott Baze, a niece of Leo Atwater's:
Good Morning, I found your website yesterday and was so excited. I have spent the good part of the last 30 years trying to find information about China National and validation of Captain Leo Atwater. Leo Atwater is my uncle. What concerns me is that when Leo went down in 1944 my grandmother received many letters and telegrams from China National. Their account is as follows:
"Captain Atwater took off from Dinjan at 0810 GMT. At 0836 GMT he made a routine report. At 0914 GMT or approximately forty minutes later our ground stations attempted to contact him but were unable to do so. the weather at that time was normal for this area. That is to say that the weather in this area is never good but on this occassion it was not unusually bad. There was considerable static which interfered with radio communication. When we were unable to contact your son's plane all stations were notified and we succeeded in contacting two other planes known to be in the general area where your son's plane should be. They were instructed to attempt to contact your son by radio telephone. They were unable to do so.
At the time we lost contact with Captain Atwater, his plane should be in the area in which he would have a fair chance of making a force landing, but up until now we have received no further news. both CNAC and the Army sent out searching planes and the Army sent out its regular ground searching parties. As you can see we have no way of confirming any information as to what went wrong.
As you know, there has been considerable enemy activity in this general area and it is possible that he might have been intercepted by an enemy plane although no enemy planes were reported that day.
In spite of our earnest desire to say something that would be of comfort to you in this, we realize how completely inadequate anything that we say must sound to you. Your son was a fine man. He made many friends in CNAC. He passed every test and demonstrated his ability as a first class pilot."
This letter was dated May 27, 1944 from China National Aviation Corporation and signed by W.L. Bond, Vice President. Again on August 3, 1944 my grandparents received another letter stating that there was still no information. There was never any closure for the Atwater family regarding their son and brother.
I find it interesting that Gene Banning's list stated that he was "killed" when in fact as far as we knew he had never been found. I also found it interesting that Gene Banning's list stated that he crashed on an instrument decent into Kunming, when in fact as far as we know and what China National conveyed was that he was about 150 miles into his flight.
This leads me to a question that I dread asking but I must, did they find him and after the death of his parents not have anybody to contact? Was he found someplace that we didn't think he would be? Can you help me with this question or can you direct me to someone who might know?
I would love to talk to anybody concerning my Uncle Leo Atwater. I was never able to know him. I just know him through my mothers wonderful memories of him and the pictures I have of him.
Thanks you so much,
Susan Ott Baze
February 8, 2001
57 years ago is a long time for an eighty year old person to remember details. As I recall, your Uncle, Leo Atwater was killed on the climb out from Dinjan, Upper Assam, India on the night of May 15 1944. I did not fly that night but I had flown to China and back the day before. My understanding is that he was following a new and imperfect instrument departure from our base. This was a departure cooked up by someone in the US Air Force who obviously had never flown the route. I had received the same clearance the night before but had modified it to my own liking.
The weather was not good and it was night. Because he did not or could not he did not clear the first range of mountains. I thought that he was found at about 9,000 on that first ridge. We lost over 40 planes and crews in such a short time that it difficult so to keep the facts straight. Fletcher "Christy" Hanks would have been about the same seniority as your Uncle so he may remember him better and know more about the crash. Try Fletcher.
Christy has done a marvelous Job of compiling a record of most of our losses and I'm sure that he would be glad to help you.
(Jim Dalby died October 1, 2001)
(Fletcher Hanks died March 16, 2008)
There is confusion about where and how Captain Atwater's plane disappeared. The accident page has additional information.
or would like to be added to the CNAC e-mail distribution list,
please let the CNAC Web Editor know.