Robert A. Williams

NO. 17795  •  20 Jul 1926 - 1 Oct 1952

Killed in Air Accident in South Korea - Remains not recovered

The small village of Celina, TX, located north of Dallas, had a population increase of one as Mr. and Mrs. Joe Lee Williams welcomed their second child, Robert Allen Williams, into their household. At an early age, Bob was entertained by riding in the family buggy, delivering food and cool drinks to the workers in the field. At the age of five, he learned to drive the buggy and then learned to ride the horse. He dreamed of becoming a cowboy when he grew up.

And grow up Bob did. His family moved to Malvern, AR, where his father operated a hardware store. Bob displayed his independence when he ran away from home to a nearby farm that had horses in pursuit of his desire to be a cowboy. He was returned to his family but his independent spirit remained with him throughout his life.

Bob attended Malvern High School, where he was active in student government and athletics, earning letters in track and gymnastics. While in high school, he developed an interest in attending West Point and with sought an opportunity to do so by attending Marion Institute. He eventually earned an appointment to the Academy in July 1945. After successfully completing "Beast Barracks," Bob was ready for the academic challenge and despite his best effort, was un-able to master the rules of analytic geometry and was and "turned back."

His indomitable spirit led him to try one more time for re-admission to the Academy by attending Sullivan’s Preparatory School in Washington, DC, for further academic tutoring. While there, he befriended two "ex" plebes, William G. Fuller and Gene A. Dennis, who experienced the same setback, and coincidently became his roommates during all four years at the Academy. Their friendship lasted throughout their careers.

As a cadet, Bob compiled an envious record. He achieved the rank of cadet lieutenant, became intercollegiate gymnastic champion in the "flying rings," and earned fourth place in that event in the National Gymnastic Championship, for which he was awarded his Major "A."

The future held much promise for Bob when he entered Basic Flight Training at Randolph AFB, TX. At the outset, flying seemed natural to him, almost like riding a horse. He was one of a few to solo early, a happy event. That accomplishment was overshadowed by another event, however, when he was introduced to Miss Peggy Jackson by Bill Fuller's fiance, Miss Lee Grebe. A wonderful courtship began, followed by marriage to Peggy. When assigned to advanced jet fighter training at Williams AFB, Bob joined both his roommates, who were taking the same training. His world now was perfect - Bob was with those he loved, embarking on a career he loved. He was even happier after experiencing the thrill of his first jet flight in the T-33 jet trainer. He knew he had made the correct career and life choices.

Bob soon learned that the T-33 aircraft was a different machine from the T-6 basic trainer. The transition proved to be a challenge, as he had difficulty staying abreast with the others in meeting the standards. Consequently, he was moved back to another group for additional training. Bob finally graduated from the advanced flight training and Peggy pinned the wings of an Air Force pilot on to his uniform.

After graduation, the Williams family traveled to Luke AFB, AZ, where Bob entered the F-84 Combat Crew Training Course and joined his two roommates who were nearing completion of their training. That reunion ended when they departed for their assignments to Johnson AFB in Japan. The additional flying time and experience Bob acquired at Williams AFB proved beneficial as he became the top student pilot in aerial gunnery. From there, he followed his roommates to Johnson AFB, arriving in time to bid them farewell as they departed to join F-84 units in Korea.

After completing indoctrination training at Johnson, Bob was assigned to the 474th Fighter Bomber Group, an F-84 unit in Korea, where he was reunited with Gene A. Dennis. His first few weeks in Korea were spent undergoing theatre indoctrination learning the rules of engagement, the procedure involved understanding the tactical air control system, plus training flights to the tactical gunnery range. All were necessary steps before flying combat missions. Bob was cleared to fly combat and scheduled to fly a combat familiarization flight in the number four aircraft in a flight of four aircraft.

Shortly after takeoff and during the climb to altitude, the flight experienced weather conditions. When the flight broke into the clear, Bob's aircraft was not sighted nor did he check in by radio. The other flight members never sighted his aircraft during the flight through weather or join up. Subsequent search flights over the area were unable to locate the downed aircraft or pilot.

It was assumed Bob experienced vertigo during the climb through the weather and was unable to stay with the flight during instrument conditions, lost control, and crashed. He was declared killed in air accident 1 Oct 1952. His widow, Peggy, survives Bob.

His will be done. "Be thou at peace."

- Classmate and wingman Bill Curry