WEEMS—Henri Bertram Chase III was born in Kilmarnock on September 29, 1932, the only child of Henri B. Chase Jr., and Margaret George Chase.
Bertram graduated from Kilmarnock High School; and the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg where he earned a bachelor’s in physical education in 1955.
From the age of 3, Bertram knew he wanted to fly airplanes;, he was able to fulfill this dream when he enlisted in the U. S. Navy on May 4, 1955, and on March 1, 1957, was designated a naval aviator.
Qualifying as a jet fighter pilot, now Lieutenant Junior Grade Bertram Chase completed All-Weather Fighter School at NAS Key West, flying the F9F-2 Panther, Lt.j.g. “Bert” Chase, as he became known to his fellow aviators and shipmates, reported to Fighter Squadron VF-81, stationed at NAS Oceana, flying the all-weather interceptor F9F-8B, Cougar. It was around this time the Rappahannock River bridge was completed and, as far as known by the locals who witnessed this flight, Bertram is the only person to have flown, successfully, under the Rappahannock River bridge in a Navy jet airplane.
In November of 1957, Fighter Squadron VF-81 deployed to the Mediterranean on board the straight deck attack carrier Lake Champlain, and Lt. Chase participated in providing a static display of the A4-D2 Skyhawk airplane and a fly-by for the Paris Air Show.
In October 1964, Lt. Chase was assigned to exchange pilot duties with the Royal Navy at RNAS Lossiemouth, Scotland, RNAS Yeovilton, England; Lt. Chase graduated from the Royal Navy Fighter Weapons School and British Tactical Air Strike Force, course. In September 1965, during a bombing derby with the Greek Air Force and subsequent shore duties, Lt. Chase was given the aviation call sign of “FOX BLACK” by the Greek Aviators; hence Lt. Chase was now “Fox Black.”
Promoted to commander, Bert attended the Naval War College in Newport, R.I., graduating in July 1970, while concurrently earning a master’s in international relations from George Washington University.
Over the next decade, “Fox Black” made five Mediterranean Cruises, one North Atlantic and two combat deployments to Vietnam, the second as commander of Attack Squadron VA-105 (Gunslingers). He was promoted to captain in 1976 and rear admiral in 1985.
His commands included Commanding Officer Attack Squadron VA-105; Commander Officer Attack Carrier Air Wing Six; Commanding Officer Light Attack Wing One; Commanding Officer USS Guam (LPH-9); Commanding Officer USS Belleau Wood (LHA-3). Upon selection to rear admiral his commands included Commanding Officer Naval Safety Center; the FIRST Commanding Officer Strike-Fighter Wings, Atlantic; Commander, Amphibious Force, U.S. Seventh Fleet; and served concurrently as Commander Maritime Prepositioning Force, U. S. Seventh Fleet; Commander Naval Special Warfare Force, U. S. Seventh Fleet; Commander Task Force Seven Six; and Commander Amphibious Group ONE.
Rear Adm. Chase’s career was spectacular and truly made a difference to the U.S. Navy, especially his role in bringing both the A-7 Corsair II and F/A-18 Hornet into full-operational capability in the fleet, including participating in some of the very first combat missions by the A-7. He achieved his dream to fly in naval aviation; once he was in the cockpit, it appears it was practically impossible to pry him out, having logged over 8,500 flight hours and more than 1,100 carrier landings. In August 1990, Rear Adm. Chase returned to Washington, D.C., as Deputy Comptroller of the Navy and “Fox Black” retired on 1 May 1991. The adventure did not end with retirement from the U. S. Navy—“Fox Black” and his wife, Genny, continued flying, only this time it was in their 1956 Cessna 172.
Rear Adm. Chase’s awards include the Legion of Merit (two awards,) Meritorious Service Medal (two awards), Air Medal with numeral “6,” Navy Commendation Medal with Combat “V” (two awards), Navy Unit Commendation, Meritorious Unit Commendation (two awards), Navy Battle Efficiency Ribbon, Navy Expeditionary Medal, National Defense Service Medal (two awards), Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal (two awards), Vietnam Service Medal with four bronze stars, Sea Service Deployment Ribbon, Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross Citation, Republic of Vietnam Civil Actions Unit Citation, and Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal. He was also the 1971 recipient of the George Washington Honor Medal Award from the Freedoms Foundation at Valley Forge.
Rear Adm. Henri Bertram Chase III was knighted by the King of Thailand, for excellent service and inducted into the “Order of White Elephant”, an honor given to only a very few people, especially U. S. Naval Officers.
Henri Bertram Chase III is survived by his wife of 42 years, Genny Clark Bowling Chase; son, retired U. S. Navy Commander Henri Gordon Chase (Betsy); son, retired U. S. Navy Captain Michael Bertram Chase (Debbie); son, Crighton Andrew Chase, Esquire (Heather), son, Ian Chase; granddaughter, Libby; seven grandsons, Micah (Hitomi), Jacob (Jamie), Joshua, Isaiah, Elijah, Colton and Caden; two great-grandsons, Ezra and Soren; great-granddaughter, Heidi; and godson, William Clarke; and numerous cousins, friends and shipmates.
Bert was a member of Claybrook Baptist Church in Weems, where a celebration of life service will take place at 11 a.m. July 17. A fellow Vietnam-era aviator, Rear Admiral “Bear” Taylor said “Bert Chase has checked out, glory gained, duty done” on January 20, 2021, at the age of 88.
There are several charities Bert felt strongly about supporting; if you wish to make a contribution in his name, they are Guiding Eyes for the Blind; Operation Smile; Disabled American Veterans; Special Olympics; Naval Aviation Museum Foundation, Pensacola, Fla.; and Claybrook Baptist Church, Weems.
Currie Funeral Home LLC of Kilmarnock handled the arrangements.