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.


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.


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]

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  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Smith, Erica (26 September 2009). "Lt. Robert L. Martin shot down, returns 5 weeks later". St.Louis Post-Dispatch. Retrieved 17 February 2015.
  2. 1 2 3 "OTA Robert L. Martin". Retrieved 17 February 2015.
  3. 1 2 3 "Front and Center with John Callaway: Tuskegee Airmen". 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". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 18 February 2015.
  6. <