Robert Martin (aviator)

Last updated
First Lieutenant
Robert Leander Martin
Robert Martin Tuskeegee Airman.jpg
Born February 9, 1919
Dubuque, Iowa
Died July 26, 2018(2018-07-26) (aged 99)
Olympia Fields, Illinois
Allegiance American
Service/branch Air Force
Rank First Lieutenant
Unit 100th Fighter Squadron and the 332nd Fighter Group
Awards Distinguished Flying Cross, Air Medal with 6 Oak Leaf Clusters, and the Purple Heart
Spouse(s) Odette Ewell Martin

First Lieutenant Robert L. Martin (February 9, 1919 – July 26, 2018) was a Tuskegee Airman active during World War II.

The Tuskegee Airmen is the popular name of a group of African-American military pilots who fought in World War II. They formed the 332nd Fighter Group and the 477th Bombardment Group of the United States Army Air Forces. The name also applies to the navigators, bombardiers, mechanics, instructors, crew chiefs, nurses, cooks and other support personnel.

World War II 1939–1945 global war

World War II, also known as the Second World War, was a global war that lasted from 1939 to 1945. The vast majority of the world's countries—including all the great powers—eventually formed two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis. A state of total war emerged, directly involving more than 100 million people from over 30 countries. The major participants threw their entire economic, industrial, and scientific capabilities behind the war effort, blurring the distinction between civilian and military resources. World War II was the deadliest conflict in human history, marked by 50 to 85 million fatalities, most of whom were civilians in the Soviet Union and China. It included massacres, the genocide of the Holocaust, strategic bombing, premeditated death from starvation and disease, and the only use of nuclear weapons in war.

Contents

Early life

Robert Martin was born in Dubuque, Iowa on February 9, 1919. His mother died shortly after his birth. His father was a podiatrist. When he attended an air show as a 13 year old Boy Scout, he was inspired to become a pilot. While still a student at Iowa State University, Martin learned to fly in a civilian pilot training program. [1] In 1942, he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering.

Iowa State University public research university in Ames, Iowa, United States

Iowa State University of Science and Technology, generally referred to as Iowa State, is a public land-grant and space-grant research university located in Ames, Iowa, United States. It is the largest university in the state of Iowa and the third largest university in the Big 12 athletic conference. Iowa State is classified as a research university with "highest research activity" by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. Iowa State is also a member of the Association of American Universities (AAU), which consists of 60 leading research universities in North America.

Tuskegee

On January 7, 1944, at the age of 23, Martin graduated from flight training at the Tuskegee Army Air Field in Alabama. He was a member of the 100th Fighter Squadron and the 332nd Fighter Group. [2] [3] Martin explained that Tuskegee was "segregated where they wanted it," meaning students, ground crews, mechanics, medics and quartermasters were all black. Senior personnel instructors were all white, and acted almost like "gods." [3] Shortly after completing his training Martin was deployed to Italy. He likes to say he flew "63 and a half" combat missions during World War II. [1]

Alabama State of the United States of America

Alabama is a state in the southeastern region of the United States. It is bordered by Tennessee to the north, Georgia to the east, Florida and the Gulf of Mexico to the south, and Mississippi to the west. Alabama is the 30th largest by area and the 24th-most populous of the U.S. states. With a total of 1,500 miles (2,400 km) of inland waterways, Alabama has among the most of any state.

On December 9, 1944, Martin was returning to base from an escort mission when his P-51 Mustang suffered engine trouble. He was forced to land at a gunnery range Cuetelo, Italy. As the plane fell over the rough ground, the propeller was damaged. Martin was able to walk away from the crash landing. [1]

In March 1945, in what would have been his 64th mission, Martin was "cut down by ground fire" after an attack mission on an enemy airfield in Zagreb, Yugoslavia. [2] In his own words, Martin explained that seven other pilots and himself were attempting to shoot two airplanes parked a little bit off a field. They missed their target, and were blown off course by 100 mph winds. Martin felt a bump in his airplane and realized he had been hit. The engine caught on fire and Martin was forced to bail. When his parachute opened it cut him on the chin and knocked him out. Martin found shelter in a farmhouse. [1] He was eventually rescued and taken into the headquarters of Marshal Josip Broz Tito's Partisans, and hidden until he could safely return to his unit. [3] He remained there for about five weeks. [1]

Zagreb City in City of Zagreb, Croatia

Zagreb is the capital and the largest city of Croatia. It is located in the northwest of the country, along the Sava river, at the southern slopes of the Medvednica mountain. Zagreb lies at an elevation of approximately 122 m (400 ft) above sea level. The estimated population of the city in 2018 is 810,003. The population of the Zagreb urban agglomeration is about 1.1 million, approximately a quarter of the total population of Croatia.

Josip Broz Tito Yugoslav revolutionary and statesman

Josip Broz, commonly known as Tito, was a Yugoslav communist revolutionary and statesman, serving in various roles from 1943 until his death in 1980. During World War II, he was the leader of the Partisans, often regarded as the most effective resistance movement in occupied Europe. While his presidency has been criticized as authoritarian and concerns about the repression of political opponents have been raised, most Yugoslavs considered him popular and a benevolent dictator. He was a popular public figure both in Yugoslavia and abroad. Viewed as a unifying symbol, his internal policies maintained the peaceful coexistence of the nations of the Yugoslav federation. He gained further international attention as the chief leader of the Non-Aligned Movement, alongside Jawaharlal Nehru of India, Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt, Nicolae Ceaușescu of Romania, Sukarno of Indonesia, and Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana.

Yugoslav Partisans Yugoslavian resistance movement

The Yugoslav Partisans, or the National Liberation Army, officially the National Liberation Army and Partisan Detachments of Yugoslavia, was the Communist-led resistance to the Axis powers in occupied Yugoslavia during World War II.

Following the war, Martin received his military discharge at the rank of captain.

Martin earned the Distinguished Flying Cross, The Air Medal with 6 Oak Leaf Clusters, and the Purple Heart. [2] In 2007, Martin was among the recipients of the Congressional Gold Medal at a ceremony honoring the Tuskegee Airmen hosted by President George W Bush. [4]

Distinguished Flying Cross (United States) military decoration awarded to any officer or enlisted member of the United States Armed Forces

The Distinguished Flying Cross is a military decoration awarded to any officer or enlisted member of the United States Armed Forces who distinguishes himself in support of operations by "heroism or extraordinary achievement while participating in an aerial flight, subsequent to November 11, 1918."

The Purple Heart is a United States military decoration awarded in the name of the president to those wounded or killed while serving, on or after April 5, 1917, with the U.S. military. With its forerunner, the Badge of Military Merit, which took the form of a heart made of purple cloth, the Purple Heart is the oldest military award still given to U.S. military members – the only earlier award being the obsolete Fidelity Medallion. The National Purple Heart Hall of Honor is located in New Windsor, New York.

Congressional Gold Medal award

A Congressional Gold Medal is an award bestowed by the United States Congress. The Congressional Gold Medal and the Presidential Medal of Freedom are the highest civilian awards in the United States. It is awarded to persons "who have performed an achievement that has an impact on American history and culture that is likely to be recognized as a major achievement in the recipient's field long after the achievement." However, "There are no permanent statutory provisions specifically relating to the creation of Congressional Gold Medals. When a Congressional Gold Medal has been deemed appropriate, Congress has, by legislative action, provided for the creation of a medal on an ad hoc basis." U.S. citizenship is not a requirement.

After the war

In 1945, Martin returned to the U.S. after Victory in Europe Day. [1] He looked for electrical engineering jobs, but had a difficult time finding any. At the time people weren't hiring black engineers. [5] Martin held a variety of jobs including driving a taxi and working in factories. He was hired as a draftsman by the Chicago Park District, and went on to work as an electrical engineer for the city of Chicago. Martin retired after 37 years. [1]

Martin was married for 68 years to the former Odette Ewell. They had four children, Gabrielle, Noelle, Dominique and Robert Martin, Jr. Martin died of pneumonia on July 26, 2018, at the age of 99. [6]

Related Research Articles

Lee Archer (pilot) Tuskegee Airman

Lee Andrew Archer, Jr. was an African-American fighter pilot in the 332nd Fighter Group, commonly known as the Tuskegee Airmen, during World War II. He was one of the first African-American military aviators in the United States Army Air Corps, the United States Army Air Forces and later the United States Air Force, eventually earning the rank of lieutenant colonel.

Wendell O. Pruitt United States Air Force officer

Wendell Oliver Pruitt was a pioneering African-American military pilot and Tuskegee Airman originally from St. Louis, Missouri. He was killed during a training exercise in 1945. After his death, his name, along with William L. Igoe's was given to the notorious Pruitt–Igoe public housing complex in St. Louis.

<i>Red Tails</i> 2012 film by George Lucas, Anthony Hemingway

Red Tails is a 2012 American war film directed by Anthony Hemingway in his feature film directorial debut, and starring Terrence Howard and Cuba Gooding Jr. The film is about the Tuskegee Airmen, a group of African-American United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) servicemen during World War II. The characters in the film are fictional, although based on real individuals. The film was produced by Lucasfilm and released by 20th Century Fox. This was Cuba Gooding Jr.'s first theatrically released film in five years since his starring role in 2007's Daddy Day Camp.

99th Flying Training Squadron

The 99th Flying Training Squadron flies Raytheon T-1 Jayhawks and they are in the process of painting the tops of the tails of their aircraft red in honor of the Tuskegee Airmen of World War II fame, known as the "Red Tails," whose lineage the 99 FTS inherited.

Robert Searcy United States Air Force officer

Robert J. Searcy was a member of the Tuskegee Airmen, a group of African American military personnel who served with distinction during World War II as the 332nd Fighter Group of the US Army Air Corps. After the war, Searcy lived in Los Angeles, California. He died of colorectal cancer in September 2009 at age 88.

Spann Watson legionnaire of Legion of Merit

Lt. Col Spann Watson was a Tuskegee Airman serving in World War II. He flew over 30 missions for the famed squadron over North Africa, Italy and Southern Europe. On March 2007, Watson attended a ceremony in the U.S. Capitol rotunda, where he and other surviving veterans of the Tuskegee Airmen were honored with the Congressional Gold Medal in recognition of their service. He died on April 15, 2010, aged 93.

Charles McGee (pilot) American Air Force officer

Charles E. McGee is a retired African-American fighter pilot who was one of the Tuskegee Airmen and a career officer in the United States Air Force for 30 years who flew a total of 409 combat missions in World War II, Korea and Vietnam.

Louis Purnell Curator at the National Air and Space Museum, decorated Tuskegee Airman during World War II.

Louis Rayfield Purnell, Sr. was a noted curator at the National Air and Space Museum and earlier in life, a decorated Tuskegee Airman. At the museum, he became expert in space flight artifacts, particularly spacesuits, and was instrumental in curating artifacts related to space exploration, during the 1960s and into the 1980s. Purnell was the first African-American to become a curator at the Smithsonian Institution. As a captain in the Army Air Corps and a fighter pilot, he served in the European and North African theater during World War II. For his service during the war, he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Air Medal with six Oak Leaf Clusters.

Alix Pasquet Tuskagee Airman

Alix Pasquet (unknown–1958) was a World War II fighter pilot, one of only five Haitian members of the Tuskegee Airmen, a soccer star, and a political revolutionary. He was killed while leading a coup attempt against Haitian President François Duvalier in 1958.

Calvin J. Spann American military veteran

Calvin J. Spann was an original Tuskegee Airman and fighter pilot with the 100th Fighter Squadron of the 332nd Fighter Group. Spann received his wings from the Tuskegee Flight School as a part of the graduating class of 44G. As a member of the United States Army Air Corps, he served in Europe during World War II, where Spann flew 26 combat missions before the end of the war in the European Theatre.

Charles Alfred Anderson, Sr., was an American aviator who is known as the Father of Black Aviation. He earned the nickname "Chief" as chief flight instructor of the Tuskegee Airmen.

Colonel William A. Campbell was a highly decorated member of the famed group of World War II-era African-American pilots known as the Tuskegee Airmen. He had a long and storied military career, having served as a wingman in the first combat mission of the Tuskegee Airmen, risen to the rank of Group Commander of the 332nd Fighter Group shortly after World War II, and then serving in both the Korean and Vietnam Wars.

Lt. Col. James Bernard Knighten was one of the first twelve African-Americans to become a pilot in the United States Army Air Corps after graduating from flight school at the Tuskegee Army Air Field. He became a member of the famed 99th Fighter Squadron, part of the World War II-era group of highly decorated African-American aviators known as the Tuskegee Airmen. Knighten flew in the first combat mission by African American pilots on June 9, 1943. Knighten's military career continued through the Korean and Vietnam Wars. After retiring from the military in 1968, he had a 20-year career with the Federal Aviation Administration as an operations inspector in New York and later in Los Angeles. Known as a jokester through his military career, Knighten began performing as a stand-up comedian in Las Vegas under the name of Jay Bernard during his years at the FAA, finally moving to Las Vegas to perform full-time after retiring from his position with the FAA.

Hiram Mann

Hiram Mann was an American aviator, retired lieutenant colonel in the United States Air Force, and member of the Tuskegee Airmen's 332nd Fighter Group, an elite squadron of African-American airmen during World War II. Mann flew forty-eight missions over Europe as a member of the 332nd Fighter Group during the war. Mann was a member of the "Red Tails," as the Tuskegee Airmen were called at the time, so-called because the tails of the P-51D Mustangs flown by the African-American pilots in combat missions were painted crimson red.. Mann nicknamed his own fighter plane "The Iron Lady" after his wife.

Lowell Steward Tuskegee Airmen

Lowell Steward was born in Los Angeles and was a member of the Tuskegee Airmen who flew missions during World War II. For his service, he received the Distinguished Flying Cross and other medals. As a member of the Tuskegee Airmen, he received the Congressional Gold Medal in 2007.

First Lieutenant Shelby F. Westbrook was a Tuskegee Airman active during World War II.

Marion Rodgers

Marion Raymond "Rodge" Rodgers USAAF (1921–2017) was a member of the Tuskegee Airmen, a group of African-American military pilots who fought in World War II and were the first African-American military aviators in the United States armed forces. He reached the rank of lieutenant colonel and served the Air Force for 22 years, commanding the renowned 99th Flying Squadron of "Red Tails" after combat, then working in management for NORAD and NASA. In his nineties, as one of the last surviving members of the Tuskegee Airmen, Rodgers continued to receive media attention as he shared his experiences and was honored at several public events.

Clarence D. Lester

Clarence D. “Lucky” Lester was an African-American fighter pilot in the 332nd Fighter Group, commonly known as the Tuskegee Airmen, during World War II. He was one of the first African-American military aviators in the United States Army Air Corps, the United States Army Air Forces and later the United States Air Force. Lester was one of two pilots who shot down three Focke-Wulf Fw 190 or Messerschmitt Bf 109 on a single mission; the other pilot was Captain Joseph Elsberry. Lester flew a P-51 Mustang nicknamed "Miss Pelt."

John L. Whitehead Jr.

John L. Whitehead Jr. was a Tuskegee airman who served in World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War. He was the first African American to graduate from the U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School, the first to become a jet pilot instructor, and the first to fly the Boeing B-47 Stratojet bomber.

References

  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Smith, Erica (26 September 2009). "Lt. Robert L. Martin shot down, returns 5 weeks later". stltoday.com. St.Louis Post-Dispatch. Retrieved 17 February 2015.
  2. 1 2 3 "OTA Robert L. Martin". taichicago.com. Retrieved 17 February 2015.
  3. 1 2 3 "Front and Center with John Callaway: Tuskegee Airmen". pritzkermilitary.org. 2 October 2008. Retrieved 18 February 2015.
  4. Tuskeegee Airmen, Rockstars of American History: NPR[]
  5. Groark, Virginia (4 February 2000). "Tuskegee Airmen respected on 2 fronts". articles.chicagotribune.com. Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 18 February 2015.
  6. <https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/obituaries/robert-martin-tuskegee-airman-who-flew-63-and-a-half-combat-missions-dies-at-99/2018/08/04/db678df4-9448-11e8-a679-b09212fb69c2_story.html