US Air Force Celebrates Centenarian Arthur Hatfield


Retired Master Sgt. Arthur Hatfield holds a coin from Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force Kaleth Wright in his home in Bedford, Mass., April 27. Hatfield, who recently celebrated his 100th birthday, received a letter and coin from the chief master sergeant of the Air Force in recognition of the milestone. (U.S. Air Force photo by Mark Herlihy)


By Mark Wyatt
66th Air Base Group Public Affairs
L.G.Hanscom Field, Bedford, MA

A letter from Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force Kaleth Wright sits in front of an old portrait of retired Master Sgt. Arthur Hatfield in his home in Bedford. Hatfield recently turned 100 years old and received the letter from Wright in recognition of it. (U.S. Air Force photo by Mark Herlihy)

A local military retiree with Hanscom ties recently celebrated his 100th birthday.

Since reaching the centennial milestone, retired U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Arthur Hatfield has received birthday wishes from friends and family, including Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force Kaleth Wright.

“It is my honor to wish you a very happy 100th birthday,” Wright wrote. “Thank you for your many years of service. As a veteran, you not only set an example for those of us who serve today, you also represent the countless men and women who have proudly worn the cloth of our great nation.”

The 18th chief master sergeant of the Air Force included his personal coin in his letter to Hatfield.

“As a veteran of both the Army Air Corps and the United States Air Force, you certainly understand what it means to selflessly serve your nation in a time of war,” the letter continued. “They [Airmen today] stand on your shoulders, using your example to take our Air Force and nation even further.”

Retired Master Sgt. Arthur Hatfield holds a coin from Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force Kaleth Wright in his home in Bedford. Hatfield, who recently celebrated his 100th birthday, received the coin with a letter from Wright in recognition of his milestone birthday. (U.S. Air Force photo by Mark Herlihy)

When asked what it meant to receive the chief’s letter and coin, Hatfield gave an emphatic thumbs-up gesture.

“It means a hell of a lot,” said Hatfield, who toward the end of his career was at the top of the enlisted rank structure. The Military Pay Act of 1958 authorized the additional grades of E-8 and E-9.

The retired master sergeant spoke about what originally motivated him to enlist.

“I was hungry,” said Hatfield, who enlisted in 1937 during the Great Depression. “I was paid $15 per month.”

Retired Master Sgt. Arthur Hatfield talks about a photo album from his family’s time in Germany during a Public Affairs interview in his home in Bedford (U.S. Air Force photo by Mark Herlihy)

Hatfield grew up with his family in South Boston.

Throughout his military career — from the Army to the Army Air Corps to a fledgling Air Force — Hatfield served across the world, including time during World War II.

During the war, he was a C-47 crew chief. Affectionately nicknamed the “Gooney Bird,” the Army Air Corps used this aircraft to carry personnel and cargo around the globe.

Retired Master Sgt. Arthur Hatfield and his daughter, Beverly, look through a family photo album from their time in Germany  (U.S. Air Force photo by Mark Herlihy)

When the war ended, Hatfield had several assignments. Among them was Bolling Air Force Base in Washington D.C., where he met his late wife, Marion.

She had served in the Women’s Army Corps, a women’s branch of the U.S. Army during World War II. After leaving military service, she had a successful civil service career.

When they met, she worked for the Atomic Energy Commission, a post-war government agency created to foster and control the peacetime development of atomic science and technology.

In 1956, after an assignment in Germany, the young family transferred to a small research base in Massachusetts, known then as Laurence G. Hanscom Field. Hatfield was the “first sergeant of a transportation squadron” before retiring four years later in 1959.

The Hatfield’s established roots in Bedford, Mass., where he still owns a house today.

Mrs. Hatfield had a long civil servant career at Hanscom, retiring in 1978. She was a human resource specialist in a number of Electronic Systems Division Special Program Offices, known then as SPOs.

After retiring from military service, Hatfield went to work for Massachusetts Institute of Technology Lincoln Laboratory as a transportation supervisor. He later worked for Instrumentation Laboratory outside the base.

His daughter, Beverly, who cares for her father, spoke about her parents’ service and the example it set for her.

“They’re both very strong Depression-era adults, both of them grew up in poverty,” she said. “If I learned anything from them it was determination.”

She spoke about her father’s “Air Force family” and what it meant to him long before the term was part of our lexicon.

“He came from tough circumstances,” she said. “Getting in the service was the first time my father knew any kind of family.”

During a birthday party for him in Billerica, Mass., two weeks ago, Tech. Sgt. Paul Cram and Staff Sgt. Alec Cope, both members of Hanscom’s Patriot Honor Guard, stopped by to congratulate him on his milestone birthday.

“That was pretty cool,” Hatfield said.

While reminiscing about his service in the Air Force and looking at an old family photo album from his time in Germany, Hatfield paused and then announced he would do it again.

“To tell you the truth, if I had to do it again — I’d do it again,” he said. “Absolutely, I’d go right in.”

Editor’s Note: Thank you to the Public Affairs Office at Hanscom Air Force Base for sharing this story and the photographs with The Bedford Citizen

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