In Memory of
Army Air Force 2 Lt.
Robert Eugene Bigelow
Colome, South Dakota
March 6, 1920 -- April 2, 1944
Missing in Action on a Bombing Mission in Austria
Robert Eugene Bigelow, known by family
and friends as Bob, was the second of four children of Ira E. and Rose Bigelow.
Born on March 6, 1920, Robert grew up in Colome, South Dakota, where he went to
grade and high school, graduating in 1937. Bob is remembered as an excellent
student and an all-around athlete. He and his family were members of the Colome
After graduation Bob started college
at the School of Mines in Rapid City, South Dakota. During vacations, Bob
worked at Reptile Gardens in Rapid City. Later he transferred to Yankton
College, where he continued to excel in sports and activities. Bob graduated
from Yankton College in 1941 and then accepted a position as a teacher/coach for
the Hurley Public Schools in Hurley, South Dakota. He later acted as an interim
superintendent in a SD school while waiting to enter Navigation School in the US
Air Force. On December 12, 1942, Bob married Frances Hines from Pierre, SD, who
was a graduate of Yankton College. They had a son, Robert E. Bigelow II, who was
born August 1, 1944, at Pierre.
In February of 1943, Bob Bigelow
entered active service in Tennessee and was trained at Salmon Field, Monroe,
Louisiana. He was then commissioned a second lieutenant navigator on September
4, 1943, in the 743 Bombardier Squadron, 455 Bomb Group.
2nd Lt. Bigelow was sent
overseas in December of 1943. While there, he learned that he was to be a
father. In early April of 1944, his letters started to be returned. The exact
circumstances of Lt. Bigelow’s disappearance and death are unknown to family.
It is believed that Lt. Bigelow’s
plane and crew were deployed to bomb Ploiesti oil fields in Romania when their
plane was shot down. Further details as to Lt. Bigelow’s fate are somewhat
conflicting, deemed “rumors” by family. The War Department sent a letter to Mrs.
Bigelow, dated March 4, 1946, that stated in part:
It is with deep regret that
I am writing to confirm the recent telegram informing
you of the death of your husband, Second Lieutenant Robert E. Bigelow, Air
Your husband was reported missing in action since 2 April 1944 over Austria
subsequently reported a prisoner of war of the German Government. It has now
been officially established that he died while a prisoner of war, according to
German records, on 2 April 1944 in Voitzberg, Austria as a result of wounds
received in action.
Robert E. Bigelow, Second Lieutenant,
743rd Bomber Squadron, 455th Bomber Group, is buried at
Plot D, Row 7, Grave 35, Lorraine American Cemetery, St. Avold, France. He was
awarded the Air Medal and the Purple Heart.
Carolyn Bigelow, Robert’s
sister-in-law, told us:
WW II brought much
disruption to millions of American’s lives.
Robert Bigelow was a recent college graduate and a newly wed. He
was excited about beginning a new life and building a future. Shortly
after being called into active duty, he learned that his wife was pregnant.
His wife suffered through her pregnancy alone, receiving constant dis-
heartening news of her husband’s uncertainty. Eventually she gave birth
to a son, Robert E. Bigelow II and later learned that he would never know
the love of his father.... Robert’s son has grown to be a fine, respectable
businessman and lives in Denver, Colorado.
Robert Bigelow, Jr. and mother receiving Robert’s
Today Lt. Robert Bigelow is survived
by his son, Robert II, who has three children of his own: Robert E. Bigelow III,
Brian Bigelow, and Kristen Bigelow, and their children: Savannah, Kayla, Henry,
Maggie, Hope, Robert, and Samuel.
This entry was respectfully
submitted by Melinda Wells, 8th Grade West, Spearfish Middle School,
Spearfish , South Dakota, November 3, 2000 and revised 2002. Information was
provided by Carolyn Bigelow, wife of Eugene Bigelow (brother of Robert “Bob”
Bigelow), an application for a SD veteran’s bonus payment, newspaper clippings,
and Robert Bigelow II, son of Lt. Robert Bigelow.