Last Known Activity
Robert Lewis Bobst was born in Alexander, Iowa on April 6, 1921. He was the son of Fred A. and Katherine Nelson Bobst. He attended St. Charles Elementary School and graduated from Patterson High School. NARA enlistment records could not be located, but given recorded details of his later service, it is likely he joined the military in 1942.
He was given navigator training, and approximately in October, 1943, he graduated and was commissioned. He married Sheryl Junkin on October 3, 1943. He was then sent to an operational training unit for combat crew training and assignment to a combat replacement crew. This crew arrived in England in late 1943, and began flying combat missions with the 715th Bomb Squadron of the 448th Bomb Group from Seething Air Station.
On April 29, 1944, the crew participated in a bombing raid on war facilities near Berlin, Germany. The aircraft was hit by several flak bursts, knocking out three engines. In addition, the nose turret, the top turret, and the tail assembly were damaged. Because of interior damage, the bomb bay doors had to be opened manually.
The pilot hoped to make the return to England, but losing altitude and air speed, he realized this was impossible. He waited until the aircraft approached the Danish island of Bornholm before he rang the bail out bell, giving the crew a chance to parachute on land rather than into the Baltic Sea. All crewmen bailed out, but one parachute did not open and the engineer fell to his death.
Lt Bobst landed on a farm where he was fed and hidden in a haystack. With the help of friendly Danes, he managed to reach the village of Bolshavn where he was furnished false ID and put on a ferry to Sweden. He later returned to England along with five other evadees. Three of the crew were captured.
After the war, Lt Bobst returned to Iowa where he served as an International Harvester dealer for 17 years. He also was employed as an engineer for Iowa Public Television for 20 years. He died from a heart attack while at the Veterans Hospital in Des Moines, Iowa. He was buried in Earlham Cemetery in Madison, Iowa, survived by his wife Sheryl.
USAAC-USAAF Aircraft Inventory Records
USAAF Accident Reports
The aircraft involved in this incident was B-24H # 41-29479, nicknamed "Gypsy Queen," assigned to the 715th Bomb Squadron. Prior to April, 1944, this aircraft was assigned to the 487th Bomb Group, 838th Bomb Squadron, and bore nose art and the name "Big Bad Wolf." (See aircraft photo.)
In some accounts, mostly Danish, this aircraft is referred to as "Gypsy Moth."
Missing Air Crew Report 4488 was issued and identifies the crew as:
2 Lt Orland T. Howard p
F/O Thomas J. Verran c-p
2 Lt Robert L. Bobst nav
2 Lt Laurin M. Derossier
TSgt Harry J. Ambrosini eng/tt gun
TSgt Russell D. Leonard r/o
SSgt Stanley E. Jones nose gun
SSgt William L. Hutchins rwg
SSgt Garold W. Nininger lwg
Sgt Albert L. Heikkila tail gun
Lt Derossier's name is spelled DeRossier in some accounts.
Sgt Ambrosini was KIA; F/O Verran,SSgt Jones, and SSgt Nininger were captured. The others successfully evaded.
In the crew photo, Lt Bobst is in the back row, first on left.