In Memory of
Army Air Force Sergeant
Robert H. Blaess
Sturgis, South Dakota
Meade County
April 20, 1945
Killed in Plane Crash near Sweetwater, Texas

Robert H. Blaess

Robert H. Blaess was born at Decorah, Iowa, to Henry Blaess. He was raised by his grandparents, Mr. and Mrs. John Blaess. He had a brother, Pershing Blaess Emmons. Robert attended Decorah High School where he was “a basketball star and track man.” Robert “lived in Sturgis for several months and attended the Sturgis high school during his junior year.” His father, Henry, had moved to Sturgis in 1929, and operated an “automobile body and fender shop.”

Robert enlisted in the Army Air Force at Sturgis when he was seventeen in May of 1942, shortly after his father, a WW I veteran, had died of “burns sustained in a gasoline explosion.” He was stationed first at Camp Roberts, California, and then spent two years at Midland, Texas, where he served as an aviation mechanic. In a company made up of 2,000 men, Sergeant Blaess was one of 50 who were awarded “the army good conduct medal at the Midland air field.”

At 6:05 A.M. on Friday, April 20, 1945, twenty-five Army Air Corps officers
and enlisted men left Midland Air Field in a C-47 transport plane en route to
Berry Army Air Field in Nashville, Tennessee…. crash landing message came
from the plane itself at 6:30 A.M.… After the crash, parts of the plane were found
on a straight line almost two miles from the crash site…. It was the opinion of the
regional safety officer that the craft had encountered a thunderstorm with only one
of its two engines running, putting the plane into a roll. The plane’s 4,000 hours of
flight time, mainly spent towing gliders, probably caused a weakness in the tail and
contributed to its disintegration in severe turbulence.

Robert Blaess’ remains were returned to Decorah, Iowa, where funeral and burial services were held. There is a rock-obelisk memorial in honor of the 25 men on a ranch three and one-half miles south of Sweetwater, Texas, built by Richard Gesin, Glenn Wortham, and Pat and Laverne Foy.

This entry was respectfully submitted by Sheila Hansen, Fallen Sons State Coordinator, Spearfish, SD.  Information for this entry was provided by Richard and Doris Blaess, Decorah, Iowa, by the Sweetwater Reporter, the Rapid City Journal, and the Sturgis Tribune.