Home Col. Andrew H. Weigel – Obituary

Obituary from the May/June 2004 issue of "Taps", published by the USMA Association of Graduates.

Col. Andrew H. Weigel

ANDREW H. WEIGEL ‘42

No. 12798 • 7 Jun 1917 – 18 Oct 2003

Died in Colorado Springs, CO • Interred in Live Oak Memorial Park, Monrovia, CA

Andrew Hudson Weigel was born in Monrovia, CA, to Wendel and Gertrude Hudson Weigel. He was the youngest of their four children and their second son. His parents had immigrated from Toronto, Canada, and the family lived in a number of locations in Southern California. In high school, Andy was an outstanding student. He also participated in a variety of sports (including track and field), as well as performing in the school orchestra. He developed an interest in photography at an early age, which he pursued throughout his life.

He always had his eyes set on West Point, and his journey there was not untypical of the times. Upon graduation from high school in 1934 he enlisted in the California National Guard. After a year, he was able to transfer into the Army. During this time he also took classes at Los Angeles Junior College. After earning an appointment to West Point, he attended the Preparatory School at Fort Winfield Scott, San Francisco.

At West Point, Andy continued his strong performance in academics. He also excelled in fencing, lettering his junior and senior years. He captained the team his final year, and won the gold star for his first class letter for beating Navy. He was also a pistol sharpshooter.

Further afield, he also had time to woo Marjorie Ann Rile of Montclair, NJ. They were married just after graduation, on 24 July 1942. They went on to have four children, Susan, John, Sara, and Andrew Jr.

Andy had requested assignment to the Air Corps, and that’s where he started his commissioned career. After basic and advanced flight training at Roswell, NM, he joined the 8th Attack Squadron of the 3rd Bomb Group in New Guinea in 1943. Flying B-25s and A-20s, he participated in numerous raids in the SWPA, including those on Rabaul and Hollandia. The squadron then transferred to the Philippines, where he continued flying combat missions. He earned three Air Medals and the Distinguished Flying Cross during these actions. After completing 64 missions he returned to the States in 1945.

Andy received advanced instruction at the University of Illinois in 1946 – 1947, followed by a tour as an instructor at the USAF School at Gunter AFB. He also spent time at the Air Command & Staff College.

The family went overseas for the first time in 1950 when Andy joined the Headquarters of the 3rd Air Division in England. That assignment was followed by a first tour at the Pentagon. In 1957 the family once again traveled to Europe, where Andy was on the Headquarters staff of USAFE in West Germany. This was followed by a second tour at the Pentagon. He continued flying for the Air Force until 1963.

In 1963 Andy was transferred to Colorado Springs, where he was stationed at Ent AFB. He worked in Communications and Electronics at NORAD, where he was involved in the development of the Cheyenne Mountain complex. He continued flying as an avocation and was President of the Flying Club at Peterson Field. He enjoyed playing squash and was an avid golfer wherever he was stationed. He continued the development of his early interest in photography, capturing images of friends, family, and cultures at each of his stations.

His final duty posting was at Fuchu Air Station in Japan, where he AC/S for the Communications and Electronics Division of HQ USAFJ. For his efforts in this assignment he was awarded the Legion of Merit.

He returned to Colorado Springs in 1970, where he retired as a Colonel after 30 years of service. He remained a resident of Colorado Springs for the rest of his life.

After retirement, Andy enjoyed the regular family get-togethers and developed his skills as a cook, both in the kitchen and at the back yard barbecue. He attended USAFA football games on a regular basis. He also joined the local Masonic Lodge.

Marjorie was diagnosed with cancer in 1981. After a long and difficult battle, she passed away in 1983, with Andy and the family at her side.

Andy later remarried, wedding Kikumi Chida of Tokyo. The next nineteen years were very full ones. They both enjoyed travelling and had an RV for trips around the US. They took regular cruises, visiting Alaska, Europe, and Asia on several occasions. They had a memorable visit to Los Angeles for the Olympics and enjoyed regular visits to Las Vegas.

Closer to home, they put much of their time and effort into the garden. They spent a number of months every winter in Japan.

Health issues became a problem starting in 2000, when he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s. He broke his hip in 2001, which seriously limited his mobility. This was followed by a broken leg the following year.

Andy was particularly keen on keeping his military connections alive and active. He served as the chairman of his WWII squadron Reunion Committee and looked forward to the regular meetings of the Class of ’42. And though he never relocated to the East Coast, he had four season tickets every year to the West Point football games.

Andy is survived by Kikumi, three of his children, six grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren.

Family and a classmate

Notes

The World War II Raids on Rabaul, and Bloody Tuesday

Andy joined the 8th Attack Squadron of the 3rd Bomb Group in New Guinea in August, 1943. His initial assignment was as co-pilot in the B-25 piloted by the Squadron commander, Maj. Ray Wilkins.

One of the major targets was the Japanese naval base at Rabaul on the island of New Britain, just north of New Guinea. A particularly significant raid was scheduled for late October. Maj. Wilkins was on leave in Australia at that time to visit his fiance, so Andy was assigned as co-pilot to another pilot from the 8th Squadron, Bill Webster, for the mission.

The weather delayed the mission, and Maj. Wilkins cut short his leave to return to the squadron to participate. Rather than pull his regular crew back together, he put one together from the available personnel.

For details of the raid, in which Maj. Wilkins was killed, refer to Home of Heroes — Major Raymond Wilkins. Search for "November 2, 1943", where the discussion of the raid starts. Bill Webster's comments on the mission are some of those in italics. Andy was in the right-hand seat in Webster's plane.

Maj. Wilkins was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions that day.

For sixty years and more after the raid, the pilots of the Squadron would call each other on November 2nd to wish each other "Happy Rabaul Day".

The World War II Raids on Hollandia, and Black Sunday

In 1944 there were a series of raids on the Japanese airfields at Hollandia, on the north coast of New Guinea. One of the largest was on April 16th, 1944, when over 170 U.S. bombers attacked Hollandia and other installations in the area.

No planes were lost to enemy action. On the return to base, a tropical storm barred the way. Over 35 planes were lost, with significant casualties.

For his part in leading 25 planes from his and other squadrons safely back to base, Andy was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.

For a description of this action, see the book Black Sunday, by Michael John Claringbould, Aerothentic Publications, 2000, ISBN 0646232088.

These raids, and the 1943-1944 activities of the Fifth Air Force more generally, are covered in McArthur's Eagles, by Lex McAulay, US Naval Institute Press, 2005, ISBN 1591144795.


Last updated: September 3, 2016.   Copyright 2005-2017, Andrew H. Weigel (AHW).  E-mail: Web2013@andrewweigel.name.