384th Bomb Group
Born May 4, 1923, in Rochester, New York
WWII Service: 1941-1945
Despite a failed eye exam, 20-year-old Robert was determined to enlist in the U.S. Army. The Japanese had attacked Pearl Harbor and he, like so many young people, wanted to fight back. Robert credited several months of gorging on carrots for improved eyesight. This opened the door to flight school and deployment to Europe in 1944 as a B-17 Flying Fortress navigator. Robert flew a total of 29 missions targeting German factories and submarines.
Though Robert avidly flew planes for sport after the war, he never forgot the horrors he witnessed from the air in WWII. “You could see the other planes being shot out of the sky or blown up in pieces. Many of them, their wings would be off, and they’d careen down to earth. Sometimes you’d see parachutes come out, and sometimes not… That was, of course, very traumatic.”
After landing safely following a mission, Robert often faced the trauma of loss. “The worst part for me was coming back to the barracks, debriefing, and then going back to your room—and then you’d see the empty beds. You’d know these were your friends that the night before you’d drank with or played cards with— and they were no longer there.”