Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 87 honored the life of Rear Adm. Henri Bertram Chase III with a missing-man formation during a memorial service at Claybrook Baptist Church in Weems, Virginia, July 17.
The tradition of the missing-man formation dates back to World War I and World War II to honor those lost during the war. Today, the formation is reserved only for funerals, memorials, and other solemn events honoring those who have passed. The formation starts in a V-shaped “finger four” pattern and as they approach the ceremony the second pilot, representing the missing service member, abruptly pulls up and out of the formation while the remainder of the formation continues in level flight.
“He loved aviation, loved his country, loved God and his family,” said his wife, Genny Chase. “He was a very patriotic man. He spent 36 years defending his country and doing what he loved to do, and a lot of people aren’t lucky enough to do that.”
Chase, also known as Bert to his loved ones, was a native of Kilmarnock, Virginia and passed away on Jan. 20. Friends and family gathered at the church in celebration of his life and to share their stories and experiences with Chase.
Chase logged over 8,500 flight hours throughout his career and 1,100 carrier landings. He also took part in bringing the A-7 Corsair II and F/A-18 Hornet into full operational capability and was a participant in some of the first A-7 combat missions.
“This opportunity, honoring a man that played such a large role in naval history, is extremely inspirational for both the pilots involved and the squadrons supporting us,” said Lt. Martin Sewell, aviator for VFA 87 and flight lead for the missing man formation. “We all share a love of naval aviation and the experiences that we encounter being in this field. It is a special brotherhood that we all share; the bond that all of us who wear the wings of gold understand and respect. Rear Admiral Chase is such a great example of all the possibilities that each of our futures hold in this amazing career, the impacts we can have, and how to best live your life to the fullest.”
Chase experienced many unique opportunities in his career. He exchanged pilot duties with the Royal Navy in October 1964 and at one point was knighted by the King of Thailand. Even in retirement Chase and his wife Genny, also a pilot, continued their adventures – taking flight in their own aircraft. Together, they flew all over the East Coast and across the country to California.