Remembering: S/SGT ROBERT LAVERNE BARR (1918-1945)
20th Army Air Force, WW2-Pacific, B29 Tail Gunner, DFC, Air Medal, Purple Heart, KIA

Robert L Barr

Remembering: S/SGT ROBERT LAVERNE BARR–MZHS “Hero of Air Power”

At 27 years old, S/Sgt Robert L Barr, son of Mett and Viola Jordan Barr of Medix Run, would have been considered an old timer by his other crew members of the B-29 Superfortress called the “Naughty Nancy”. By the summer of 1945, Bob had experienced much of life. He was inducted into the Army Air Forces on October 17, 1942, was married while in the service to Jennie Irwin, had a lovely 18 month old daughter Sandra born after he went overseas, had recently lost his father, and on April 8, 1944 was a B-29 tail gunner with the 444th Bombardment Group of the Pacific’s 20th Army Air Forces.

The 444th bomb group was the first B-29 group formed for the elite 58th Bombardment Wing under (later to be General) Curtis Lemay. The group served in the China-Burma-India and Pacific Ocean Theaters, and was based in Charra and also in Dunkhundi in India. Charra was called “Hells Half Acre” because of its sloping runways and appalling heat. The 444th Bomb Group with Bob’s 677th Bomber Squadron flew supplies over the “Hump” , flying over the eastern end of the Himalayan Mountains to Chinese bases. Bob had seen considerable action and served in many missions in India and China before his unit was transferred to Tinian Island in the Pacific.

Then one year later from its new home base at the West Field Airbase on Tinian Island in the Marianas, the 444th bombardment group, including the B29 “Naughty Nancy” with Staff Sergeant Bob Barr as its tail gunner, initiated several strategic bombardment campaigns directly against the Japanese Home Islands. The 444th received the Distinguished Unit Citation for its actions.

On Friday June 1, 1945, 18 Superfortress B-29s from the 444th Bomb Group took off from their base on Tinian, and began a 3000 mile early morning mission at an altitude of 22,000 feet to targets in the vicinity of Osaka, Japan. As the planes assembled for their bomb run near Osaka, they encountered heavy overcast skies. The “Naughty Nancy”, piloted by Captain BJ Sisson with the 10 aircrew- collided with another B29 (“Big Poison- Second Dose”), exploded, and crashed into the valley from the Gulf. None of the crew of either plane was found. A Japanese report stated that S/Sgt Barr bailed out by parachute, was detained in the village, and was later killed by the central military police. This is the ultimate cruelty of war faced by our servicemen, and their families.

He was survived by his wife Jennie, his seven month old daughter Sandra, his mother, Viola Barr, and three brothers. For his meritorious and exemplary service, the highly decorated S/Sgt Bob Barr was awarded the Air Medal with two oak leaf clusters, the Distinguished Flying Cross, four campaigns stars, the Presidential Citation of Honor, Distinguished Unit Badge with one oak leaf cluster, plus for his ultimate sacrifice- the Purple Heart. A memorial marker was placed in the Benezette Cemetery in his honor. And now the Mt. Zion Historical Society is proudly honoring Robert Barr, a descendent of one of the Valley’s pioneer families, as one of its “Heroes of Air Power”.

“Lest we Forget…”