Bertrand T. Cournoyer

Bertrand Cournoyer

Bertrand “Bert” T. Cournoyer (1919-1967) was born and raised in Manville, RI. He graduated from Woonsocket High School in 1937. He was President of the Senior High School Band and received numerous music awards, including All New England clarinetist. He was awarded a scholarship to The New England Conservatory of Music. After one year, Bert decided not to make music his career and transferred to Providence College, continuing to play in dance bands as clarinetist, saxophonist and vocalist to support himself while in college. Music remained an important facet of Bert’s life, even throughout military service.

In 1940, Bert enlisted in the RI Army National Guard Band and was given the rank of Sergeant. In January, 1941, he was promoted to Technical Sergeant, serving in the 243rd Coast Guard Artillery Band at Fort Wetherill, RI. In February, 1941, Bert entered Cadet Flying School at Turner Field, Georgia, where he earned his wings in October. He was first sent to Puerto Rico, where he served as a member of a pursuit squadron for the next several months.

In September of 1942, Bert was sent overseas and assigned to the 23rd Fighter Group, 74th Fighter Squadron in Kunming, China. His primary was flying fighter escort for bombers, including many missions over the over the Hump. During this period, Bert served as a French interpreter for General Claire Lee Chennault. He accompanied the General to the home of Madame Chiang-Kai-Shek.

In late December, 1942, Burt was reassigned to Lahore, India, to conduct flight training for Nationalist Chinese pilots. As a check pilot, he screened the trainees to determine their fitness for further training in the US. Bert organized another band to entertain the troops and was promoted to Captain.

He returned stateside in July, 1944 and served as part of a readiness team at Pinellas Air Force Base in St. Petersburg, Florida until August, 1945. He was promoted to Major and was discharged at Fort Devens, MA in October, 1945. He graduated from Brown University in 1948.

The Cournoyer family remained in Rhode Island until 1958 when Bert, now in the insurance business, was offered a promotion in Rochester, NY. His immediate family, widow Doris and daughters Doreen and Micki continue to reside in the Rochester area. Bert’s last flight as a pilot took place at a small general aviation airport in Primrose, RI. Aboard this flight were his  grandmother, his mother, his wife, and (unbeknownst to all), his first daughter.

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