- Robert Stevens Tate
- Flight Officer XXXX349
- U.S. Army Air Corps
- On Saturday March 25, 1944, Flight Officer Robert S. Tate, of
Nashville, Tennessee was shot down by enemy flak near Montdidier,
France. He was flying a B-26 Martin Marauder Medium Bomber named
"UTOPIA" which was last seen by returning crews about 2000 to 3000 feet
below their formation when the plane exploded and no one was seen to
parachute from the bomber.
- I first met Bobby Tate in November or December 1942 at Barksdale
Field, Shreveport, Louisiana. He was assigned as co-pilot on Joseph E.
Haley's crew; Harry C. Evans was the Bombardier-Navigator, Sgt. Howard
Holliday, Engineer, Sgt. Lewis Cyr, Radio Gunner and Sgt, H. Ivy,
Armorer Gunner. We received our crew training at Barksdale and were sent
to England via the Southern route in April 1943.
- Haley's crew was assigned to the 452nd Squadron of the
group (M) which was located at Andrews Field, Great Saling near
Braintree, England. Here we trained for low level attacks, 50 to 100
feet above the ground, to avoid detection by radar. The first low level
mission flown by the Group on May 14, 1943 was a failure. The second
mission was a total disaster against the same target, a power plant at
Ijmuiden, Holland. The second mission on May 17, eleven planes were
dispatched to attack at low level but only ten planes attacked the
target. They were all shot down. Only 20 of the 66 man on these planes
survived the crashes and all but 2 were captured. The eleventh plane had
engine trouble and returned to base before crossing the North Sea.
- After these unbearable failures at low level, our Bomber Command
decided to deliver our attacks from 12,500 feet. That altitude was our
maximum altitude for efficient operation.
- Flight Officer Tate continued as co-pilot for Joe Haley for about 45
to 50 missions. In January 1944, Bobby Tate was promoted to first pilot
and given a crew. He was one of the youngest first pilots in the Group.
Unfortunately he was not promoted in rank which he justly deserved.
- Bobby Tate's 1st mission turned into a grueling nightmare. He told
me about his belly landing at an RAF base and the injuries to his
Bombardier and Tail Gunner. The account of this terrible encounter is
told in the Feature Section of the Stars and Stripes dated, April 27,
1944 by Lt. Charles H. Franks. Franks describes Tate's crews' problems
- "The grueling experiences of the "AWOL Kid" start in the plexi-glass
nose just after the bombardier, Flight Officer Julius Szollosy had
dropped 4000 pounds of bombs. Flak fragments tore through the nose of
the ship and took off the bombardiers left foot just above the ankle. He
cried hysterically over the intercom that he had been hit and then
groped his way out of the nose. Halfway out of the nose he was aided by
the co-pilot, 2nd Lt. Francis J. Rassiga but in the move his right foot
caught the rudder pedal, throwing the ship out of control. The pilot
Robert S. Tate, of Nashville, Tenn. fought with the controls and finally
prevented the "AWOL Kid" from being AWOL' Lt. Rassiga moved the wounded
bombardier into the radio compartment and elevated the left leg above
the rest of his body in order to stop the rapid flow of blood from the
leg. He then injected a shot of morphine. At the same time the
bombardier was hit, flak fragments broke the leg of the tail gunner.
Hearing the cries of the bombardier and tail gunner over the intercom,
the top turret gunner, S/Sgt. Harold M Michaels stepped down from his
turret to investigate. It was the most fortunate move he ever made. A
flak fragment flashed through the plexi-glass top of the turret with
such speed that it could be heard, not seen. Had Michaels remained in
his position the fragments would have gone through his head.
- Sgt. Michaels, aided by the waist gunner, S/Sgt Russell E. Allen
applied a tourniquet to the tail gunner's leg.
- After the English coast was reached, Flight Officer late headed the
"AWOL Kid" for the first available airdrome me could find. He found a
field but also discovered that his main and auxiliary hydraulic lines
had been shot away. He succeeded only in bringing the nose wheel down in
place. The serious wounds of the two members prevented the crew from
bailing out and also stopped any thought of prolonged attempts to bring
the main landing wheels down. Tate decided to crash-land the ship. He
tried to bring the nose wheel up but it wouldn't come, so the "AWOL Kid"
headed down for a crash landing with its nose wheel down.
- On the way down Sgt. Michaels braced the wounded bombardier in the
radio compartment and Sgt. Allen braced the tail gunner in the tail
section of the ship-braced him in such a manner that if the fuselage had
cracked or sprung, Allen's arms and back might have been broken.
- The tail of the "AWOL Kid" skidded in first, and then the nose wheel
touched surface. The men at the Royal Air Force field who witnessed the
landing sent a message to a Marauder command later. It read in part: "We
have never seen a more beautiful crash landing."
- But Flight Officer Tate is worrying somewhat about bent propellers.
He brought the aircraft down without damage to the engines, but he bent
the props. And the boys are warning him: "You're going to catch hell for
that". It was Tate's initial trip in the first pilots seat".
- After getting replacements for the injured crew members, Bobby Tate
was ready to continue his combat work as aircraft commander. As stated
above he was flying the aircraft named "UTOPIA" which was named and used
by his Squadron Commander, Col. Ervin Wursten, Retired.
I feel certain that Robby Tate flew between 50 and 60 combat missions
before his death. I believe that all combat crews who flew over 10
missions expected to get hit and not return, but we could not dwell on
that thought. We knew we had to do the job that we had volunteered to
- Robert S. Tate was a brave young man who gave his life for us. He
was my close personal friend and I will always remember him.
- Bobby's grave is located in Plot A, Row 15, Grave 5, Normandy
Cemetery, Omaha Beach, France. If you get a chance please place a flower
on his grave.