NO. 17918 • 2 December 1926 - 15 October 1985
Died in West Point, NY
Interred in West Point Post Cemetery, West Point, NY
Robert Milton Abelman was born the younger of two sons to Adolph and Irma June Schroeder, nee Petite, in Los Angeles, CA. A few years later, Bob's parents divorced and, in 1938, his mother married Reno businessman Nathan Abelman, who adopted Bob and his brother Bill. Upon adoption, the boys' names were changed to Abelman.
Until the eighth grade, Bob attended public schools in Reno; he then attended the San Rafael Military Academy in California, graduating in 1945. While at San Rafael, he excelled in sports, especially football and boxing.
In 1945, Bob received an alternate appointment to the Naval Academy from Senator Pat McCarran and, in the fall of 1945, attended the Bullis Preparatory School in Maryland, where he again excelled in football. Failing to achieve a principal appointment to the Naval Academy, he then entered Stanford University for the ensuing winter and spring semesters while seeking an appointment to the United States Military Academy. Bob was successful in receiving an appointment to West Point from Senator McCarran and, in July 1946, became a member of the Class of '50.
Football and boxing were Bob's primary athletic interests, and he had hoped to pursue those sports at the Point. As an outstanding boxer, he would have had no trouble in making the West Point boxing team, but before entering the Academy he lost severe nose cartilage. As a boxer, Bob was a little like Jack Dempsey; he knew only one way to box: try to dispatch the opponent as soon as possible. Classmates who boxed Bob in intramurals would no doubt share that assessment.
As a football player, Bob distinguished himself on the Army "A" squad. Despite initial doubts from the coaching staff about his potential as a football player, Bob eventually succeeded in obtaining a place on the first string plebe football squad. The following year, his coaches' confidence in him was further justified when Bob gained a first string halfback position on the Army varsity football team. An encounter with the Tactical Department, however, kept Bob off the team during his third year. Nevertheless, during his First Class year, he again provided sterling help to the team, which had an unbeaten season, including a 38‑0 victory over Navy.
On Graduation Day, Bob got his wish and was commissioned in the United States Air Force. On his elimination from pilot training, he entered navigator‑bombardier training and received his wings in 1951. After Combat Crew Training in 1952, he served a combat tour in Korea with the 95th Bomb Squadron, 17th Bombardment Wing, earning the Distinguished Flying Cross, three Air Medals, the Commendation Ribbon, and an early promotion to captain.
When he returned to the States in 1953, Bob was assigned to Mather Air Force Base, CA, where his combat experience was put to good use in training new navigator‑bombardiers. During 1960‑62, Bob served with the 4039th Strategic Wing of the Strategic Air Command (SAC), earning the Commendation Medal. He then served for three years at the Headquarters of a SAC missile Wing, receiving another Commendation Medal. In 1964, Bob represented SAC at the World's Fair in New York.
During 1966‑69, Bill was assigned to SAC Headquarters at Offutt Air Force Base in Omaha, NE. He was awarded the Meritorious Service Medal for this service. During 1969‑75, he served with NATO as the chief of SHAPE Command and received the Legion of Merit for his performance.
His next assignment, during 1973‑75, was as commander of the Civil Engineering Squadron at F. E. Warren Air Force Base in Cheyenne, WY. There, he was responsible for the maintenance of 200 Minuteman intercontinental ballistic missiles and earned his second Legion of Merit. His final assignment was as the Fifteenth Air Force public information officer at March Air Force Base in Riverside, CA. A third Legion of Merit was award during that tour. In 1979, Bob retired from the Air Force as a colonel.
As Bob noted in the Class 35th Reunion Book, "In 1976, 1 made the best decision of my life and married a redhead, LT Joan Linder, in a lovely Cheyenne wedding." He and Joan settled in Austin, TX, where Bob formed his own company, RAMTEX Enterprises, Inc. In Austin, he also was active as a member of the Elks Lodge and the Austin Eagles Society.
Sadly, while Joan and Bob were attending his 35th Reunion at West Point, he died of cancer at the Army hospita. Bob was buried at the West Point Post Cemetery with family and classmates in attendance. He will be missed by all who knew him.
- His Classmate Thomas C Sharp, Jr. and nephew William Abelman Brinkerhoff