RobertKirk WWII

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RobertKirk WWII - Before 911 there was Dec. 7, 1941, a day that...
Before 911 there was Dec. 7, 1941, a day that President Franklin D. Roosevelt declared would live in infamy. It plunged the United States into a world war and altered the lives of our citizens, whether they served in uniform or remained at home in support of the war effort. On the following pages, local residents who were children or young adults at the time reflect on the day and how it changed their world. HEiXTRlM BHANC KS: IN TIT HI H OWN WORDS SECTION Wednesday, December 7, 2011 TIIEgtKMTMJC Dec 7, 1941, 1 was a junior at Indiana University and came up from the dining room in the fraternity house and heard on the radio about the attack on Pearl Harbor. I walked back down to the rest of the fellas and said, "Well, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor." Some people asked, "Where is Pearl Harbor?" They found out pretty quick. I can't say I was really shocked because I didn't see how we were ever going to stay out of the war. I guess I was kind of surprised in the way it happened, but not surprised that we got into it, I was in the advanced Reserve Officer Training Corps at the time and was brought Into the Army in July 1943. I always had an interest in the military. My dad, August V. Kirk, served in World War I in the U.S. Army Signal Corps. The neighborhood in which my family lived, a lot were involved in ROTC, and I guess it just washed off on me. I got my degree Dec. 20 1942. I always say that I had my diploma in one hand and my orders to Fort Benning, Ga., in the other. I went into the infantry school as an officer candidate at age 20, finished in April 1943 and was assigned to the new 69th Division, Camp Shelby, Miss., as a second lieutenant platoon leader. In the interim two things happened. I met Margie, a very nice young lady working in the Civil Service, and we married in Bloomington on Nov. 19, 1943. And then I decided I'd rather fly than walk so I applied for pilot training as a student officer. Primary flight training at Bennettsville, S.C., was followed by basic flight training at Sumter, S.C. Both happened in early 1944. Then I went to Turner Field in Albany, Ga., to train oh the B-25, a twin-engine bomber and later at Montgomery, Ala., I transitioned to the B-24. - After I had finished combat crew training at Mountain Home (Idaho) Army Air Base, they called all crews in my group into the auditorium. They shut the doors. They had MPs around. The colonel told a few of us that we would go to Langley Field, Va., for secret training. They told us not to tell anyone about it. In Virginia, we were trained on low-altitude bombing by radar. Neither the Germans nor the Japanese knew we had it. I was the pilot. I had 10 men, a regular B-24 crew, including a co-pilot, navigator, radar operator, gunners, flight engineer, bombardier. Training consisted of going out over the Atlantic and doing ' bombing runs at 400 feet altitude, by night and in inclement weather, to practice battling Japanese ships that would run in darkness. We finished training in May 1943 and went to Hunter Army Airfield in Savannah, Ga. We went through a three-day, hurry-up-get-ready-and-go. We had all our physicals done and put together all our equipment. We went to an orientation one evening. They gave us our maps and our routes and our orders to fly to Karachi (in India at the time) and from there to China. The afternoon before we were to leave, we put all of our flight equipment and personal clothing and equipment in, except for toiletries for the next morning. The next morning after breakfast, a mechanic said our flight had been canceled. We were taken back to Langley Field, Va., sat around there for about two weeks and were transferred to Fort Worth, Texas, to get trained on the B-32 Dominator, which could carry more bombs than the B-29. After training, as we were getting ready to go to another . 'A ROBERT KIRK 89, is a veteran of the U.S. Army, having served as an infantry officer, an Army Air Forces officer and an artillery officer. He was born in Bloomington to August V. and Anna D. Kirk. He served four years on the Columbus City Council, and served as president of the local chamber of commerce and as a deacon and elder of First Presbyterian Church. He remains active at Atterbury Bakalar Air Museum. He married Marjorie A. Pugh on Nov. 19, 1943. They had two sons, Robert E. Kirk Jr., who died in 1988, and John W. Kirk; and three grandchildren. staging area, the war ended. . They had three cracks at me, and none of them happened. I don't know whether they were trying new ideas, whether we were guinea pigs or whether they were testing to see whether these things could be done. My wife could be with me most of the time in the military. I can't say we had a 9-to-5 existence, but we lived a pretty ordinary married life. I always took the philosophy: I went where I was sent. One of the best things about the military is the camaraderie you have with your crew. Everybody was dependent on everybody else. One incident has always stayed with me and probably will until the day I die. It happened in combat crew training in Mountain Home, Idaho. It involved a graduate of the University of Maryland, Gerald Prentice. Just a real nice guy. We were training on B-24S. My crew number was one number before his. So one late afternoon we had an assembly and got briefed on what we were supposed to do that evening. Usually the aircraft commander would stand up and be told by the officer what his crew was going to do that night. And then he assigned an aircraft number listed on a blackboard to the side of the assembly. And the assistant would run a piece of chalk through it. They got down to me and I stood up, and the officer in charge said, "Your group is ahead in time and missions. You'll be on standby tonight." I sat down. Jerry stood up and he got his assignment and he got the aircraft that I would have had. About four hours later we got word that one of our planes had crashed. And it was Jerry and the plane I would have had. He and two of his crew survived it, but six of the crew were killed. I thought about that so many times. If I had ... been flying that airplane would the same thing have happened? He evidently lost two engines. We know that much. What happened after that we don't know. After the war ended I first worked in Indianapolis, then in Bloomington with my dad in the grocery business. Then I worked full time in the Indiana National Guard, in the artillery headquarters, as a liaison pilot. I later went to artillery school in Oklahoma for three months before returning to Bloomington. I came to Columbus in March 1953 with Irwin Union Bank. I retired from the Guard as a major in 1962 after 20 years. At Irwin Union I was in the loan department for years, moved up to vice president, moved into administration as vice president, secretary and auditor before taking early retirement. I don't make any big deal about the Dec. 7 anniversary. I don't think it really had a whole lot of effect on the rest of my life. It's something that happened. I was part of it. I went through it. When it was over I went on to other things. I guess you could say I'm a person who can pretty well roll with a punch. As told to Boris Ladwig. The Republic photo by Joe Harpring

Clipped from
  1. The Republic,
  2. 07 Dec 2011, Wed,
  3. Page 21

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