Chester DeGavre was born in New Jersey on 17 August 1907. He started his military career with three years in the 102nd (horse) Cavalry, New Jersey National Guard. He then entered the United States Military Academy and graduated in 1933. He graduated from the Army War College in 1956, the same year he was promoted to brigadier general.
With the onset of World War II, he was one of the first officers to take parachute training. He joined the staff of the Airborne Command at Fort Bragg as parachute training officer and chief of testing and development. Then a major and later a lieutenant colonel, he pioneered early airborne techniques and developed standardized equipment and procedures for the rapidly growing airborne forces. He parachuted from over a dozen types of aircraft not previously used by parachutists—using experimental parachutes and improvised equipment—from low and high altitudes. He was awarded one of the nation’s first Legions of Merit for these pioneering efforts which required both inventiveness and physical courage.
His Army career continued with the airborne forces, where he served as chief of staff for Operation Dragon, the airborne invasion of southern France. After that he served successively as president of the Airborne Board; liaison officer with the British airborne forces; chief airborne officer with the Research and Devvelopment Division; chief of staff with the XVIII Airborne Corps; and asisstant division commander for combat arms of the 82nd Airborne Division. He also remembered with great affection his assignment to Ethiopia as Chief, Military Assistance and Advisory Group, from 1959 to 1961. His decorations include the Silver Star for bravery as a regimental commander during the Korean War, the Legion of Merit with three oak leaf clusters, the combat infantry badge, and the master parachute badge.
He retired from the Army in 1963 to his 18th Century home in Deep Creek on the Eastern Shore of Virginia. He pursued his great talent for carving miniature waterfowl. As a boy in New Jersey, he carved his own hunting decoys, and later, as an officer in the Army in the field or in combat, he carved miniature birds for relaxation. These were the beginnings of a hobby that was to bring him national acclaim. The General exhibited his work throughout the East Coast in exhibits sponsored by the National Audubon Society in New York City; the Ward Foundation in Salisbury, Maryland; the Waterfowl Festival in Easton, Maryland; the Connecticut Audubon Society in Fairfield; The Wetlands Institute in Stone Harbor, New Jersey; and the Arts Festival in Charleston, South Carolina, among others.
During his years on the Eastern Shore, General deGavre served on the vestry and as senior warden of St. James Church in Accomac and as a member of Zoning Appeals Board of Accomack County.
The General had numerous and diverse interests in life: serving with troops in the field, parachuting, playing sports intensively, observing and carving waterfowl, moving and restoring old barns and other farm buildings, making reproduction furniture, and caring for his farm with its animals and waterfowl.