Van Chandler was born on March 5, 1925, in Kemp, Texas. He enlisted in the Aviation Cadet Program of the U.S. Army Air Forces on February 17, 1943, going on active duty beginning March 22, 1943, and was commissioned a 2d Lt and awarded his pilot wings on January 7, 1944. After completing P-51 Mustang training, Lt Chandler joined the 336th Fighter Squadron of the 4th Fighter Group in England in June 1944, and served in combat in Europe with that squadron until March 1945. During this time, he was credited with destroying 5 enemy aircraft in aerial combat plus 1 damaged, and 4 enemy aircraft on the ground while strafing enemy airfields. Capt Chandler served at bases in Michigan, Texas, Montana, and North Carolina between May 1945 and August 1946, and then joined the 531st and then the 76th Fighter Squadron on Guam in September 1946, where he served until October 1948. His next assignment was with the 61st Fighter Squadron at Selfridge AFB, Michigan, from December 1948 to June 1952. During this time, he deployed to Korea and served with the 25th Fighter Interceptor Squadron of the 51st Fighter Interceptor Wing from December 1951 to March 1952, scoring an additional 3 enemy aircraft destroyed in aerial combat plus 2 damaged, for a two-war total of 8 destroyed in air combat, 3 damaged, and 4 destroyed on the ground. Maj Chandler next served with Headquarters Air Defense Command at Ent AFB, Colorado, from June 1952 to November 1956, and then as an F-104 Starfighter project officer at Edwards AFB, California, from November 1956 to March 1958. He attended Royal Air Force Staff College in London, England, from March 1958 to May 1959, and then served as Executive Officer, Operations Officer, and finally as Commander of the 22nd Tactical Fighter Squadron at Bitburg AB, West Germany, from May 1959 to May 1961. He then served on the staff at Headquarters Strategic Air Command at Offutt AFB, Nebraska, from June 1961 to January 1966, followed by service with the 1141st Special Activity Squadron in Turkey from January 1966 to July 1967. Col Chandler next served with Headquarters U.S. Air Force in the Pentagon from August 1967 to August 1968, and then attended Air War College at Maxwell AFB, Alabama, from August 1968 to August 1969. He deployed to Southeast Asia in August 1969 and served as the Deputy Commander for Operations of the 31st Tactical Fighter Wing at Tuy Hoa AB in the Republic of Vietnam until August 1970. His next assignment was as Director of Command and Control of the 4608th Support Squadron at Ent AFB, from September 1970 to June 1972, and then as Deputy for Operations for the 23rd Norad Continental Air Defense Region at Duluth International Airport, Minnesota, from June 1972 until his retirement from the Air Force on August 31, 1974. Van Chandler died on March 11, 1998.
His 3rd Distinguished Flying Cross Citation reads:
Colonel Van E. Chandler distinguished himself by extraordinary achievement while participating in aerial flight as an F-100 pilot near Hoi Lam, Republic of Vietnam, on 29 January 1970. On that date, Colonel Chandler participated in an air strike against a hostile gun site. Restricted to a single run-in heading by high terrain and adverse weather conditions, Colonel Chandler made repeated low single ordnance deliveries which silenced the gun sites. The professional competence, aerial skill, and devotion to duty displayed by Colonel Chandler reflect great credit upon himself and the United States Air Force.