Robert (Bob) Eugene Field

Corporal Robert E. Field, son of Mr. Andrew H. Field, 627 Fifth Street, has arrived safely somewhere in Italy, according to word received by his father.

He enlisted in the Army Air Corps on October 28, 1942 and received his training at Scott Field, IL; Gowen Field, ID; and Muroc Field, CA.

Corporal Field is radio operator and gunner on a B-24 Liberator.

Sergeant Robert E. Field, 20, 627 Fifth Street, has been awarded the Air Medal "for meritorious achievement in aerial flight, while participating in sustained operational activities against the enemy."

A graduate of Eau Claire High School, Sergeant Field enlisted in the Air Corps on September 29, 1942 and attended radio school at Scott Field, IL and gunnery school at Gowen Field, ID, before becoming left waist gunner on a B-24 Liberator of the Fifteenth Army Air Force in Italy.

Sergeant Robert E. Field, 627 Fifth Street, a left waist gunner-radio operator on a B-24 Liberator bomber, has been awarded the first Oak Leaf Cluster to the Air Medal, it was announced by the Fifteenth Army Air Force.  Sergeant Field entered the Italian Campaign six months ago.

War Prisoners
Sergeant Robert E. Field, son of Andrew Field, 627 Fifth Street, who was previously reported missing in action, is now a prisoner of war in Germany, according to a report from the War Department. Sergeant Field and five other crew members bailed out of their plane while over enemy territory in April, according to the report of the pilot.

He enlisted in the Air Corps on September 28, 1942 and attended radio school at Scott Field, IL; gunnery school at Gowen Field, ID; and flight training at Muroc Field, CA. Sergeant Field was waist gunner and radio operator on a B-24 Liberator.

He went to Italy early last February.

Report Sgt. R. E. Field Missing in Italian Raid
Pilot Writes He Saw Him Bail Out
Andrew M. Field, 627 Fifth Street, has received a telegram from the War Department announcing that his son, Sergeant Robert Eugene Field, waist gunner on a bomber, was missing in action over Italy as of April 23.

The elder Field is hopeful, however, that the boy is alive, for he had previously received a letter from the pilot of the bomber, on which Sergeant Field was serving, stating that six members of the crew bailed out of the disabled bomber and that he saw all parachutes open. He assured Field that he was sure his son was alive, either a prisoner of Germans or in hiding behind the German lines.

Sergeant Field has been in the service for close to two years.

Eau Claire Fliers Coming Home After Being Liberated
Three Eau Claire fliers and a St. Paul Sergeant, formerly of Eau Claire, have been liberated from German prisoner of war camps, according to word received by relatives here. 

They are Captain Thomas R. Litchfield, First Lieutenant Frank W. Ristau, Sergeant Robert Field, all of Eau Claire, and Staff Sergeant Robert Knobel, St. Paul, former Eau Claire resident. 

Captain Litchfield is the son of Mr. and Mrs. T. R. Litchfield, 1411 South Farwell Street. His wife, Harriett, and two-year-old daughter are residing at St. Charles, MN at present. She received a cablegram Tuesday, saying he was safe and well and would return soon. The Captain had over 50 missions completed when he was reported missing over Germany on July 31, 1944 while flying a fighter plane. He was commissioned on July 3, 1942 and went overseas in March 1944. He holds the Air Medal with two Silver and two Bronze Clusters.  

First Lieutenant Ristau is the son of Mr. and Mrs. Frank W. Ristau, Sr., 329 Babcock Street. They received a  telegram from the Adjutant General's Office, stating that he was returned to military control on April 29, 1945. He became a prisoner of the Nazis after be was shot down over France on July 18, 1944 and was at Stalag Luft 3. He was on reconnaissance patrol when reported missing. Commissioned in August 1943, he went overseas in December 1943.

Sergeant Field, radio-gunner on a bomber, is the son of  Andrew Field, 627 Fifth Avenue. He was reported missing over Germany on April 22, 1944, while on a mission from Italy. A cablegram received by his parents Tuesday said that he is well and will be home soon. He entered the service in August 1942 and went overseas in January 1944.

Staff Sergeant Knobel, son of Mr. and Mrs. P. R. Knobel of St. Paul,  former residents here, has been liberated by the British. He was in Brussels at the time he wrote the letter, telling his friends and parents he had been freed. The Sergeant has been a prisoner of the Germans at Stalag Luft 4 since June 22, 1944.

Contributed by Shirley Field 

In October 1942, Bob joined the Army Air Corps and was sent to Milwaukee for physical exam and induction. He was sent from Milwaukee to Biloxi, Mississippi—Kessler Field—for his six weeks basic training. Then he was sent to Scott Field, Belleville, Illinois for training as a radio operator/mechanic. During this time, he had surgery for a hernia and was sent home to Eau Claire for a 21-day recovery period. His at-home time coincided with his high school graduation in June 1943—he was the only man in uniform at that graduation service and did receive his diploma, though he had not attended school since his induction in October 1942. During his time at Scott Field, he was also very ill with scarlet fever.

From Scott Field, he was sent to Boise, Idaho—Gowen Field—where a 10-man crew for B-24s was formed. Here, he received gunnery training. From Boise, he was sent to Muroc Army Air Base in the desert in Southern California. Here, he was given flight training. From Muroc, he was sent to Oakland, California. He spent New Year's Eve 1943 and New Year's Day 1944 in San Francisco. The crew received their B-24 and more training at Hamilton Field.

From Hamilton Field, they went to West Palm Beach, FL but left there on January 12,1944 and went to Trinidad, where they waited for repair of damage to their plane, The Joe Bananas. On January 13, they went to Belem, Brazil on the mouth of the Amazon River and from Belem to Natal, Brazil. They left Brazil on January 16 for Dakar, Africa and then, on January 17, they moved to Marakesh, Morocco, Africa and to Oudna Air Base, 20 miles south of Tunis. They lived there in one-man tents.

In February, they moved to Cerignola, Italy, where they lived in six-man tents, and it was from Cerignola that Bob flew 18 missions. His first mission was on February 14th and it was on this first mission that he witnessed the destruction of a plane carrying the men who had been living in the tent next to his.

On April 23, 1944, he was flying his 19th mission, heading for Bad Voslau. They ran into real trouble that day, and the plane was badly damaged by enemy fighters, and the order came to bail out. The ball turret gunner was unable to get out, and the right waist gunner, Frank Coupe, and Bob delayed bailout to assist him. Because of the delay, the plane was very low—about 150 feet, when Frank and Bob could leave the plane. Bob saw church steeples out of the left waist window—they were that low. His chute barely deployed, and Frank's did not open—he was listed as a MIA until March 1945, and his body was not returned to the States until 1948. Fifty years later, Bob received the Distinguished Flying Cross, and it was awarded to Frank posthumously for their actions that day.

Bob landed near a small village in Rabatamasi, Hungary. He was met by a crowd of angry civilians almost immediately, though he feels he blacked out upon hitting ground. He was beaten and taken by fire truck to a small building where he was kept for a short time. Here, he was sentenced to death by a firing squad and spent the night in a cell with lights burning all night. Men came in to denounce Roosevelt and Churchill, spitting on the floor to demonstrate their hatred. In the morning, he was taken from his cell, wondering where he would face the firing squad, however, the military took him by truck to a larger city—possibly Gyor, Hungary—and he was imprisoned there. That evening, one of the guards tried to communicate with him and gave him bread, sausage, and schnaps—the first he had since capture.

Bob spent one night in Gyor and then was taken by train to Budapest. Another prisoner was taken with him and, on arrival in Budapest, they were greeted by an angry mob but shielded by the soldiers who accompanied them. In Budapest, he was put in solitary confinement for longer than he cares to remember. It was not until the middle of May that all of the prisoners there were moved to Stalag Luft 3 in Sagan, in what is now Poland. The biggest problem here and in the entire incarceration was the hunger—never enough to eat and his dreams were of food. He lived in a room with 14 other men.

Bob was held in Sagan until January 1945 when the men were marched out because of the Russian advance. It was bitterly cold—one of the coldest winters in European history. It was a long and tiring march with little food and no proper clothing. They spent one night in a pottery factory, and Bob and others crawled in, as their feet were frozen and they were exhausted.

At Chemnitz, the men were loaded and crowded, 40 into each of 8 boxcars, that took them to Stalag7A, Moosburg, Germany. It was a horrible situation in the boxcars and the men were glad to reach Moosburg. Bob was in Moosburg until he was liberated on April 29, 1945 by General Patten's Army—just a few days over a year since his capture.

It was not until 1985, when he met some of his crew members in Colorado, that he learned what had happened to them that April 23, 1944. Five others were POWS (Bob never saw them in Camp) and four members of the crew stayed with the plane. The pilot managed to get the plane back to safe territory but was unable to land it. The four men bailed out and the plane went down in the Adriatic Sea.

After liberation, he was given the chance to visit London where he had a good time before returning to the States. He was discharged at Randolph Field, Texas.

Contributed by Lee Z. Mathison   Carrollton, Texas     June 9, 2003

I was a member of Lake Street Methodist Church and so was Tom Litchfield. The church has a regular mailing called the Circuit Rider, and they always sent it to service men. I recalled having read in it that Tom had been shot down and was believed to be a POW.

Shortly after entering the Moosburg POW camp as part of the 14th Armored Division, I went to the area housing American prisoners and asked if anyone knew a Tom Litchfield. One of the guys sitting on the floor knew Tom and, within minutes, Tom and I were together. Tom told me that Bob Field and Frank Ristau were also prisoners and, a few minutes later, I was with all three of them. We were all classmates at Eau Claire Senior High School.

Before I found Tom, I had given away to other prisoners anything I had in the jeep that they might want (candy, cigarettes, etc.,) so I returned to our mess sergeant and "restocked," so I could come back and make sure my Eau Claire friends were able to have the pleasure of sharing a "10 in One" ration. This was a box that contained enough for one man for ten days or for ten men for one day. It was something we received toward the end of the war and it contained, by far, the best rations we had. It held lots of "goodies," and my Eau Claire friends enjoyed dividing the "10 in One" three ways.

I saw Tom Litchfield and Bob Field often after the war; unfortunately, Frank Ristau later lost his life in a flight during the Berlin Airlift.

After the war, the 14th Armored Division became officially known as "The Liberators." We have a reunion convention every year. The reunions are held in various cities across the USA. We always contact the POW organization in the area of the convention and invite any POW liberated by us at Moosburg to be our guest at our meetings and dinners. They are invited to share their thoughts if they care to.