History Behind Volunteering for

The United States Air Force & Vietnam

Sgt. Christopher K. Hartley's Photos and Story



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From the time I was very young I remember my grandparents telling me the story of my Uncle Chris and How he died defending his nation. I had been named after him and that always meant a great deal to me. My Mom was a British war bride and after their home in Liverpool England was damaged by shrapnal from German bombs, her parents and brother packed what little they had left and followed her to America. As long as I can remember, wanting to join the Air Force and Honor the memory of my Uncle Chris was a top priority for me.

Military service just seemed to be the natural thing to do in my family. My Dad was a Chief Petty Officer in the CB's (Navy) and my Mom was a member of the Women's Timber Corps in England.

My Mom's brother, My Uncle Ken, also served his country in the Brittish military.

When I was sixteen years old I went to the local Air Force Recruiter. I told him that when I turned eighteen I wanted to enlist. He just laughed at me and turned back to his work. I got angry and Said "I'll see you on my eighteenth birthday and walked out of his office. On my eighteenth birthday I was sitting on the floor at his office door when he arrived for work. As we entered his office I reminded him of two years earlier. He apologised and said let's get this thing done. Three days after graduation from High School I was boarding the bus for Lackland AFB, Texas. Once I was in I volunteered at the first opportunity.

For me Vietnam was all about defending freedom for ourselves and many in vietnam who were wanting freedom. I know a lot of people had adverse feelings about the war and I believe to this day that we fought to preserve that right to have those opinions. I know many disagree with me but it is what got me through that hell. I was not oblivious to the government games that were played, but I chose to serve a bigger cause. After knowing the price my family paid for freedom I could do no less and I would do it again if given the opportunity or necessity.

Sergeant Christopher Frank Nordhoff

This is 20-year-old air gunner Sergeant Christopher Nordhoff from Liverpool. He was posted to 97 Squadron on 21st July 1943 as the rear gunner in the crew of Flying Officer Riches. On the night of 3rd/4th September 1943 the crew took part in their 8th operation - an attack against the German capital, Berlin.

Flying Officer Riches was over the target area, and had just closed the bomb doors after releasing his bombs, when he received instructions over the intercom from Sergeant Nordhoff to “Go to port skipper!” Immediately, the mid upper gunner, Sergeant Lowe, swung his turret to the port quarter, and saw a short burst of tracer coming towards the Lancaster from the port side. Riches had started to do a very slight diving turn to port when the burst of enemy fire entered the rear turret and fuselage of the bomber; he turned around and saw explosions on the port side of the aircraft, while the bomb aimer, Sergeant Pack, saw tracer passing over the top of the starboard wing.

No further attack was made by the night fighter, which was believed to have broken away underneath the Lancaster and was not seen again, but its sole attack had been devastating enough. Tragically, Sergeant Nordhoff, whose vigilance and early warning had saved the lives of his crew, was killed by the fighter’s opening burst of fire.

The aircraft and the rest of the crew returned safely to their base and Sergeant Nordhoff's body was laid to rest in his home city at Anfield Cemetery
These details found on the 97th Squadron Association web site:

Christopher Frank Nordhoff_RAF
Christopher Frank Nordhoff
Grave of Christopher F. Nordhoff, Liverpool, England

Chief Petty Officer Lester Harmond Hartley
Lester Harmond Hartley_WWII

This is my Dad, all my life he had a strong military discipline impact on me. He instilled in me a strong work ethic and taught me that anything worth doing was worth doing right I learned that I could do anything I set my mind to if I was willing to put out the effort.

He served in England durring WWII, which is where he met my Mom. He also worked the D-Day mop up mission on the beaches of Normandy after the attack on June 6th 1944. It was not something I ever heard him talk about but once after I came home from Nam.

Evelyn May Hartley

Mom served in the Women's Timber Corps durring the war. It was while in the Corps that she met my Dad. With all the men in the Armed Forces defending Great Britton it was up to the women to fill the voids that the men's absence created.

Timber Corps Emblem
Evelyn May Hartley

Kenneth Nordhoff

Uncle Ken The younger of the two brothers Uncle Ken served in the RAF as well and became the stability of the family when his brother Chris died. Click to see More on Kenneth