The Three Cornered Kid
By Arthur B. Robertson, Jr. (776) as told to his son, the original "Three Cornered Kid"
I would like to share several war stories that were told me by my father
Lt. Col. Arthur B. Robertson, Jr. He was stationed at Panatella AAB, Italy, May 44 to Feb. 45 with the 15th
AF, 464th BG, 776 & 777 Sqds.
Dad was born in 1914 and his life long love with flying started at a young age
hearing about the WWI brand new phenomena of "fighter pilots," and the exploits of barnstormers,
Richenbacker, Lindburg, Earhart, etc. He got in trouble at school in Ashland, Ohio making paper airplanes and
testing them by flying them out the open classroom windows. Dad got his pilot's licence in 193? flying a Luscomb
at Deland, Florida. He got the student name "Crash" when he groundlooped his plane on his
first solo landing.
A.B. Robertson's 776th crew|
with the Three Cornered Kid.
He entered the USAAF in the summer of 41 and did primary and basic flying
(and met my mother) at Curtis Field, Brady, Texas. He got his wings in the AT-6 at Brooks Field, San Antonio,
Texas. in Oct. 41.
Dad was assigned to anti-submarine patrol duty with the 66th Obs GP, 118th
Obs. Sqd. at Charleston, So. Carolina from Dec. 41 July 42 flying the 0-52, P-46 and P-47. From Aug.
42 to Oct. 43 with the 45th BG, 433 Sqd. and 26th Anti-Sub W, 10th AS Sqd. at Galveston, Texas. There he
flew the B-34, B-18 and the "new" B-24. He said, "I flew ASP for two full years and I never saw
one sub!" He didn't sink a sub but he got valuable stick time and was promoted to Captain. Military flying
is risky business war zone or not he lost several buddies to engine trouble, weather, navigation
errors and to overbold pilots (flying under bridges, turning too low over water, and "grandstanding").
Dad pranged one himself belly landed a nav errored, fuel starved B-34.
The Big Jump
After being transferred from antisub duty at Galveston, Texas in Oct.
43 and going through training with the newly formed 15th Air Force at Pocatello, Idaho, Dad’s group, the 464th
BG "swung the compass" at Lincoln, Nebraska and left there with their new B-24Hs on 29 Feb. 1943
for their new "home" in Italy. I was in Lincoln as a 9 monthold baby with my mother and
grandparents as they watched the departing Group fly over their hotel.
The Group had to fly to North Africa first because Europe and the Mediterranean
were still Hitler’s "playground" and there were no airfields built in southern Italy yet (the Germans
still controlled Italy from Rome north). They flew to Miami Beach, Florida, first, then a hop over the Caribbean
down to Belen, Brazil to top off with every drop of 100 octane they could squeeze into their fuel tanks. At least
one A/C was lost during this flight, fate of the crew unknown.
The crews had been assigned their aircraft at Pocatello (Dad’s was B-24H-16-FO,
serial number 42-52453). They would be bonded together from there on out as long as both could last.
It was at Belen that Capt. Robertson (Dad) found a local painter and had the nose art put on the aircraft. They named
it the "Three Cornered Kid" (three crewmembers had newborns me; Li'l Rob and Li'l Griff of the
Co-pilot, Lt. Paul Griffin and Li'l ?, unborn of the navigator Lt. Walter Rose). The artwork was a baby being held
up by a winged diaper and about to drop a bomb. Dad said he thought that Belen was also where he pickedup
malaria by sleeping outside in an open cot.
The one shotdead stick trip across the Atlantic was the cause of a
lot of "nail biting." They went one at a time, Dad was sweating it out and hoped his navigator knew
what he was doing. From Dad’s flight records, I think this flight was on March 3rd and took 11 hours the
last 2 in darkness. Much to everyone’s relief the crew finally saw land. Dad said, "I couldn’t believe it, we
not only found land, not only found North Africa, not only found Oran in northwest Africa, but ole Rose brought
us right down main street, right over the very top of the airfield’s control shack! I never sweated out nav problems
again or even questioned Rose after that."
The Mystery Messerschmitt
Dad and the growing 15th AF were assembling and training in Ouada, Africa
while waiting for air bases to be built in Italy. The convoy that was bringing the ground echelon and supplies for
the new air force had to run the U-boat gauntlet in the Atlantic and U-boats and the Luftwaffe in the Mediterranean.
They were attacked in the Mediterranean by the Luftwaffe’s Me-109s and Ju-87s. Several ships were lost with
their cargo of valuable parts and supplies. The Group had to live on powdered eggs and marmalade for a long
time. Dad always said that was why he hated marmalade he never ate it again for the rest of his life.
He said fresh eggs were a great delicacy at that time and the Arabs would sell them to the troops for $1
One day a scouting party came back with the news that they had discovered
an abandoned Messerschmitt 109 out in the sand dunes. It looked like the pilot had successfully landed it after
running out of gas. It was sitting there, on its wheels, in perfect condition and no one to be seen anywhere. The
next day a salvage party was put together to bring it back to base. When the party arrived at the site it
was gone! It had competely vanished, no one ever found out what happened to it. Did the pilot return with gas
and vamoose? How did he find friendly natives, how did he get gas and how did he transport it to the plane?
The Cow That Jumped Over the Alps
"464th Airdrops Food Package to Nazis!" You wouldn’t
believe that the USAAF would be aiding the Nazis would you? Wellllll...they didn’t, but they helped out for their
own morale anyway they could both officially and "off the record."
Dad always loved telling this story. One day as the Group positioned itself
for the final bomb run to target (I wish I could remember which target I think it was Vienna), all was well.
Dad was watching the aircraft in front of him (the bombardier controls the plane on the final bomb run). Much to
the disbelief and amusement of Dad and everyone else when the call came out for "Bombs Away,"
instead of bombs falling out of the bomb bay they were watching a dead cow fell out! Dad didn’t
give me the plane or crew ID. I have always wondered how they got "ole Bessie" up in the bomb
rack? Did they get in trouble for it? Wonder what the Germans thought?! Gives a whole new meaning to
"Bombs Away." It also set the bar for stress relieving pranks. It was quite the story around
Pantanella for some time.
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Published with the permission of A. B. Robertson III.