In Memory of
Army Air Force 2 Lt.
Robert Eugene Bigelow
Colome, South Dakota
Tripp County
March 6, 1920 -- April 2, 1944
Missing in Action on a Bombing Mission in Austria

Robert Eugene Bigelow

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 Methodist Church. 

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 Corps.
Your husband was reported missing in action since 2 April 1944 over Austria and
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 captured
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 Air Medal

Robert Bigelow, Jr. and mother receiving Robert’s Air Medal

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.