Smidt, Robert

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Last Rank
Flight Officer
Last Service Branch
Last Primary MOS
AAF MOS 1058-Pilot, Two-Engine Fighter
Last MOS Group
Aviation (Enlisted)
Primary Unit
1943-Present, POW/MIA
Service Years
1940 - 1943


Flight Officer

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State of Birth
Year of Birth
This Military Service Page was created/owned by SP 4 Robert Craft to remember Smidt, Robert.

If you knew or served with this Soldier and have additional information or photos to support this Page, please leave a message for the Page Administrator(s) HERE.
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Meritorious Unit Commendation 1944-1961

 Unofficial Badges 

 Additional Information
Last Known Activity
FO Robert (Bobby) Smidt disappeared over the Mediterranean Sea in August 1943.  Bobby was piloting one of the P-38 Lightnings from the 96th fighter Squadron that was escorting B-25 bombers from the 310th Bombardment Group on the way to bomb Salerne, Italy.  One of the bombers went down in the Mediterranean and Bobby was circling over a rubber dingy that the bomber crew was in.  No one knew whether Bobby was low on fuel and left or just crashed in the sea.  Read some of the documents posted for more details.

Robert Smidt actually had the rank of Flight Officer.  This is what Wikipedia says about Flight Officers in World War II:

United States Army

U.S. Army Air Force Flight Officer Rank Insignia as used during World War II.

Flight Officer was a United States Army Air Forces rank used by the Army Air Forces during World War II, from 1942 to 1945. The rank is equivalent to Warrant Officer Junior Grade which is today's Warrant Officer (NATO grade: W-1). Enlisted and aviation cadet trainees who successfully passed air qualification training were appointed as Flight Officers and served as rated pilots, navigators, flight engineers, bombardiers and glider pilots. At the end of WWII, the Army Air Forces discontinued the use of the rank of Flight Officer. All of the service's Flight Officers had either been promoted to commissioned officer ranks during the course of the war or discharged.

Other Comments:
Since creating this profile, I have contacted the P-38 pilot who was leading the P-38's that were escorting the bombers (he also completed the Missing Air Crew Report) and one of the surviving members of the bomber crew. 

The leader of the P-38's emailed me this message:

On August 19 1943, I led a flight of P38s in a 96th Squadron formation on a Bomber Escort mission to lower Italy.


As I did not have a regular flight with the same pilots each time, I don’t remember who was in my flight, but I don’t recall having to back off on any maneuvers because one or more couldn’t keep up.


After the target and crossing the coast of Italy, I saw a B25 land in the water and the crew get into a rubber life raft.  I drank enough water out of my canteen so it would float and dropped it to them  I started circling to keep them in sight while expecting the air rescue plane to show up.  Clayton Tillapagh saw us and flew high cover.  After some time, Clay and I decided the rescue plane was not coming and we each sent our second element to Palermo to gas up and try to get him to come.  Clay and I stayed until we had to leave to get gas and we went to Palermo.


We were able to convince the rescue pilot we could cover him and we went back to where we had left the life raft, but we were not able to find it.  We learned much later the crew had been picked up by an Italian Hospital ship very soon after we left them.  We went back to Palermo and spent the night before returning to Grombalia.  Landing at Palermo in a valley, on a runway that did not have runway lights, on a dark night is something I would rather not do again.


I am assuming Smidt was in my second element and after leaving to get help, I never saw him again nor ever heard why he ended up missing.


In retrospect, it never entered my young mind to ask if everyone knew their way home.
1st Lt Alan R Kennedy



I talked to SSgt Lamar Rodgers, Aerial Gunner, the bomber crew member on the telephone and he told me that a P-38 had circled them for 4 hours before it left.  One P-38 flew over them at about 40 feet and dropped a water canteen.  He said he remembered that day like it was yesterday.  They had spent the night in the dingy and turned on their emergency radio that transmitted an SOS in the morning.  The Germans were on them within 30 minutes of turning on the radio.  The six crew members spent 21 months in German POW camps and were released at the end of the war.  As of 2-13-2011, there are only two surviving members of the bomber crew; Lamar F Rodgers and the pilot Ralph R Goss.

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US Army Air Force (USAAF)USAAF 4th Army Air ForceUSAAF 15th Army Air ForcePOW/MIA
  1940-1943, US Army Air Force (USAAF)
  1942-1943, AAF MOS 1056, 328th Fighter Group/326th Fighter Squadron
  1943-1943, AAF MOS 1058, 82nd Fighter Group/96th Fighter Squandron
  1943-Present, POW/MIA
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  1943-1943 World War II
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