In Memory of
Army Air Force First Lieutenant
Wayne Darrel Cherrington
Canton, South Dakota
Lincoln County
August 14, 1922  -- January 11, 1944
Killed in Action over Greece

Wayne Darrel Cherrington

Wayne D. Cherrington was the second child of Vernon and Anna Cherrington,  born on August 14, 1922, near Naples, South Dakota. On April 28, 1929, Wayne’s father passed away suddenly, leaving behind Anna and siblings, Wayne, Verlla, Loren, and unborn baby Ardis. Shortly after, the children contracted polio. The Cherrington family moved to Canton, South Dakota, where Wayne attended school and graduated from Canton High School in 1940.

Wayne took part in many activities in his spare time, two of which were hunting and trapping.  He was also involved in Boy Scouts, swimming, skiing, and ice fishing. In school, Wayne excelled in basketball and track and was chosen a member of his school’s homecoming royalty his senior year of high school.      

Always interested in planes, Wayne, 18, enlisted in the army on December 9, 1940, at Ft. Snelling, Minnesota.  Wayne was first trained as a gunner and bomber at Jefferson Barracks, Missouri; March Field, California; and Lowry Field, Colorado. Later Wayne decided that he would rather be an Air Force pilot, so after further training he earned his wings and was commissioned as a second lieutenant at Luke Field, Arizona, in April of 1943.  He was then stationed at Air Force bases in South Dakota for a time and spent June of 1943 with his family and friends before he was shipped overseas in July of the same year.  

As part of the 419th Squadron, 301st Bomb Group (H), Lt. Cherrington led raids from North Africa to Germany, Rome, France, Sicily, Yugoslavia, Austria, Hungary, Italy, and Greece, having, at times, “a ringside seat” to many of the important Allied invasions.   

In a letter home dated December 27, 1943, Wayne wrote to his mother:

I went on a tough mission to Germany on x-mas day but got back in time
to open four x-mas boxes, so had a pretty good x-mas after all. Guess you
probably know I’m in Italy now, and not far from the lines; I hear the big
guns rumble all nite and day. Boy, I sure will be glad when I get back to the
states.

After flying many successful missions in very dangerous circumstances, Cherrington was promoted to first lieutenant and made first pilot. While stationed at Foggia, Italy, on January 11, 1944, Lt. Cherrington’s mother received a telegram informing her that Wayne was missing in action in Greece. Several months later another telegram arrived, confirming Lt. Cherrington’s death. The following story was relayed by the mother of Jack Murray, a survivor of the plane crash:

There were several hundred planes flying the mission. They flew
into a snow-sleet and rain storm. Temperatures were 45 degrees
below zero. One plane in Jack’s formation was having engine
trouble. Since they are not permitted to fly the bomb run with
engine trouble, the pilot tried to turn back. In doing so his plane
collided with another plane. They both exploded. It must have
been this explosion which caused damage to the eight planes
for the entire formation was lost.

The plane our sons were in had the tail blown off and turned over,
falling. They were 19,000 feet in the air. The boys were pinned and
dropped to 2,000 feet when the plane hit an air pocket and began
to break up.... Jack said he was sure the pilot and co-pilot were unable
to escape....

In a letter from Bernard Stucka, the father of the co-pilot of Wayne’s plane, told Wayne’s mother, “Your son Wayne D. Cherrington was a very good pilot and had 47 missions completed to his credit, 3 more and he would have completed 50 and returned to the U.S. Too bad he had to come down in that terrible storm and clouds. But they died for a good cause.”

Lieutenant Cherrington received four oak-leaf clusters to the Air Medal “for meritorious achievement while participating in twenty sorties against the enemy.” Also, he was awarded three oak-leaf clusters to the Air Medal “for meritorious achievement in aerial flight while participating in sustained operational activities against the enemy.” Cherrington was also awarded the Purple Heart.

Lieutenant Cherrington was first buried on the battlefield, but later his remains were returned home and buried with his co-pilot, 2nd Lt. Leonard Stucka, at the Fort Snelling National Cemetery in Minnesota. 

Wayne Darrel Cherrington, headstone

Mika Roberts, 8th Grade West, Spearfish Middle School, Spearfish, South Dakota respectfully submitted this entry, November 27, 2000. Mrs. Verlla Peterson of Sioux Falls, South Dakota, sister to Wayne Cherrington, provided the information for this entry.