Robert F. (Hooker) Kolstad

Lt. Robert F. ("Hooker") Kolstad, pilot in the U.S. Army Air Corps, has arrived in England, according to word received by his parents, Mr. and Mrs. H. G. Kolstad, Sixth Avenue.

Originally, with the National Guard, Lt. Kolstad was transferred to the Air Corps and took his training in Alabama, Florida, and Georgia and was graduated from the Air School at Spence Field, Moultrie, GA.

Old Friends Meet in Mediterranean Theater of War
Pictured here are Second Lt. Robert F. Kolstad, left, and S/Sgt. John Egan of Eau Claire, WI, meeting for the first time since their high school days together. They attended St. Patrick's High School and were members of the band.

Lt. Kolstad is a USAAF B-17 Flying Fortress pilot and has been awarded the Air Medal with three Bronze Oak Leaf Clusters. 

Sgt. Egan is a radio operator-gunner.

Both are members of the "Red Devil" Flying Fortress Squadron in the Mediterranean Theater.

They recently had a surprise visit from First Lt. Jack Chartier, a pilot in the Troop Carrier Command and an old friend of high school and college days at Eau Claire State Teachers College. Lt. Chartier recently visited friends here.

Lt. Chartier and Lt. Kolstad left Eau Claire together in 1940 with the National Guard.

Lt. 'Hooker' Kolstad Reported Missing in Action, Cables
Lt. Robert F. ("Hooker") Kolstad, pilot and flight leader of an Army Air Corps Flying Fortress, reported missing in action over Italy, after a bombing mission made on January 31, is "all well and safe," according to a censored cable received by his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Hadley F. Kolstad, 117 Sixth Avenue, today.

"Please don't worry. All my love" is the way the cable concludes.

There was nothing to indicate from whence the cable came.

It was on February 29, that Mr. and Mrs. Kolstad were notified their son was missing in action over Italy.

Captain Earl Hammond, who returned from Italy some weeks ago, said that he had heard that Kolstad's plane had not returned, after a bombing flight, but that the report in Italy, at that time, was that the crew of the bomber had been seen bailing out of the plane.

Lt. Robt. F. Kolstad, "Fort" Pilot, Missing in Action
"Hooker" Fails to Return After Raid
Lieutenant Robert F. ("Hooker") Kolstad, U.S. Army Air Force, pilot of a "Fortress," was reported missing in action over Italy, after a bombing mission on January 31, according to a telegram received Tuesday by his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Hadley G. Kolstad, 116 Sixth Avenue, from Washington, D. C. 

The shock of the news was somewhat mitigated today, when the parents learned that Captain Earl Lloyd Hammond, an Army Air Force pilot, just home from Italy, after completing his fiftieth bombing mission, had stated that he had heard of Lieutenant Kolstad being reported missing in action, before he left for home but that the report received there was that the crew of Kolstad's bomber had been seen bailing out after it was put out of combat and that probably the pilot and crew were prisoners of war. 

According to the last letter received from Lieutenant Kolstad by his parents, written under date of January 23, he only had three or four more missions to make before attaining his fiftieth and was already making plans to come home on leave.

According to a letter received by the parents, here, of  Technical Sergeant John D. Egan, in the same squadron as Lieutenant Kolstad, which was written under a later date, the latter had only two more missions to complete at that time in order to make his fiftieth. The mission, therefore, on which he was reported missing, it is presumed, was either the fiftieth or next to the fiftieth.

Lieutenant Kolstad, popularly known as "Hooker," was a graduate of St. Patrick's Grade and High School, here, and was in his last year at the State Teachers College, when he left with Company B, WNG, for Camp Livingston, LA in October 1941. Later, he transferred to the Army Air Service and was commissioned a Second Lieutenant in that service in January 1943. 

He then entered the fighter plane service and later was transferred to the bomber service and became a bomber pilot. He took part in the North African Campaign (Tunisia), in Sicily, and in Italy. 

He has a brother, Lieutenant Howard Kolstad, U.S. Marines, now studying radar at Harvard University. He also has a sister, Joan M. Kolstad, at home. 

Lieutenant Kolstad was acting captain and flight leader in his most recent missions.

Lt. R. Kolstad Tells of Escape from Nazi Lines
Safe at American Base In Italy
Lieutenant Robert F. (Hooker) Kolstad gives a vivid account of being shot down in Nazi-occupied territory and his escape to freedom in a six-page letter received by his mother here, today. 

Lieutenant Kolstad, now in a hospital for a physical check-up at his base in Italy, is the son of Mr. and Mrs. Hadley G. Kolstad, 117 Sixth Avenue.

A Flying Fortress pilot, he was shot down on January 31 over Italy, reported as missing in action February 29, and reported safe March 30. 

Lieutenant Kolstad said, after being shot down during a bombing mission, he bailed out to save his life and landed in Nazi territory. He escaped capture and went into hiding, working his way back. He will soon be in Eau Claire on leave, he said. 

Considerable hardship was suffered during the experience, and he said that his Infantry days had helped him through the ordeal. He lost 20 pounds on the long trek back and completely wore out his light Oxfords. "My infantry days stood me in good, and I used the things I had learned," he writes. 

"All of the crew bailed out safely.'' He does not tell whether or not they have arrived back at the base.

"My parachute jump was the biggest thrill of all. It didn't open at once, and you can imagine what flashed through my mind," he writes. "I prayed all of the time and never have stopped. I am still praying a prayer of thanks."

Mr. and Mrs. H. G. Kolstad have received word that their son, Captain Howard L. Kolstad, has been awarded his diploma at Harvard University from the School of Radar Engineering, graduating in alternating currents, electronics, and cathode-ray tubes. He is now attending the Massachusetts School of Technology at Boston, MA.

His brother, Captain Robert F. Kolstad, who has returned to the United States after being reported missing in action, is expected home this week.

Captain Robert F. Kolstad, recently returned from overseas, is spending a leave with his parents, Mr. and Mrs. H. G. Kolstad, 117 Sixth Avenue.

Tells of Escape Into Yugoslavia with Aid of Partisans 
After Being Shot Down Behind Enemy Lines in Italian Campaign
The story of his 48th, and last, bombing mission over Italy, in which his bomber was so badly shot up that the crew members and himself had to bail out in enemy-occupied country, and of the subsequent adventures of him and six other members of the ten-man bomber crew  in a heart-breaking trek through enemy-infested, mountainous terrain to find refuge in a partisan camp in Yugoslavia, as told by Captain Robert F. Kolstad of the 15th U.S. Army Air Corps, is a most interesting and exciting one.

Reported missing in action, for several weeks following the raid, which was made on January 31, Captain  Kolstad was believed lost or a German prisoner, until word came through that he was alive and well and would soon be on his way  home.

He is now home, spending a leave with his parents, Mr. and Mrs. H. D. Kolstad,  117 Sixth Avenue. He has been assigned to service in the States for a period of rehabilitation and is under orders to report June 10 to Miami Beach, FL. 

Saw a Lot of Action 
Captain Kolstad has seen a lot of active service since reaching the European Theater of War. First based in North Africa, he took part in the Sicilian and Italian Campaigns, taking part in 48 bombing missions, including his last, in which his bomber was blasted and he and the members of his crew were forced to bail out.

In recognition of his service, he wears a Purple Heart and Air Medal with eight Clusters, the American Defense Ribbon, and the North African Campaign Ribbon with 3 Stars, each representing a major phase of offensive action. 

After his return home this week, for a happy reunion with his parents, Captain Kolstad was invited over to St. Patrick's High School, from which he was graduated a few years ago, by Msgr. C. E. Dowd and, after a visit through the school, Msgr. Dowd took him outside and, there, found St. Patrick's School Band lifted up to serenade him and to go through its maneuvers for his benefit. A few years ago, Captain Kolstad, then popularly known as "Hooker," was the drum major of St. Patrick's Band.

That 48th Mission
That last bombing mission, his 48th, Captain Kolstad said, was the hottest in which he had engaged in all his experience. It was a daylight mission over Udine, in northern Italy, near the Adriatic, and took place an January 31. The flak was something terrific, he said, and the members of the crew and he bailed out in enemy-occupied territory when their bomber was put out of commission. 

It was not until 55 days after this that Captain Kolstad and six other members of the crew of ten were finally back at their base in Italy. Three other members of the crew who bailed out of the bomber were still unaccounted for, Captain Kolstad said. Their final escape was made eastward through northern Italy to, and into, Yugoslavia, assisted by the underground, which finally landed them with the partisan bands in the mountain fastnesses of that country, after many hardships and narrow escapes from capture.

Too Much Flak
He was piloting a 4-engine B-17 bomber, Capain Kolstad said, in the raid over Udine in the January 31 raid,  and they got into trouble, right after they had dumped their bomb load over the airport there. Struck by flak, two of the engines were put out of commission, one propeller ran off, all the oil was lost, and the craft set up a terrific vibration. They were about 21,000 feet up, he said, and it seemed as though the bomber was going to shake to pieces, so violently did it vibrate.

"With only two engines working, we began losing altitude and our speed was cut down, so that we fell out of formation, when the enemy fighter planes set on us. I turned around and started out over the Adriatic but, when one of the disabled engines caught fire and I realized we could not make it, I swung the bomber back into land so that, in bailing out, we'd land on solid ground instead of in the sea. All ten of us jumped and I noticed all the parachutes opened."

Under Enemy Fire
This all happened, Kolstad said,  while they were under enemy fighter attack and, after he bailed out and was parachuting to the mountainous terrain below, somebody from the ground was taking pot shots at him but, luckily, none of. the bullets found their mark. Whoever it was, he said, took several more shots at him after he landed on the ground, so he hid until darkness descended.

It was not until two days later that he made contact with other members of his crew and, eventually, seven of them came together. They continued their overland trek, mostly through mountainous country to, and into, Yugoslavia, assisted by the underground. But, for the first two days, he said, he was alone and, the first day, he had nothing to eat. 

On his second day alone, he went to a farmhouse where he found two Italian girls at home. He managed, through his scant command of Italian and Latin, to make known who he was and that he was hungry. They fixed him up, he said, with eggs, bread, milk and a jug of wine. He learned from the girls that their father, who had served in the Italian Army, was now a prisoner of war in the United States. 

The Italian people, he said, as a rule, especially farmers and peasants, were very friendly to the Americans and most hospitable, as much as their limited means allowed.

Near Capture
It was also while he was still alone that he had a close call from capture, when four truckloads of German soldiers came along the road. He dodged into the bushes and hid himself, he said, when he heard the trucks approaching and, as they passed by, noted they were filled with enemy soldiers, fully armed. He did not think, he said, they were a searching party, but a detachment moving to some designated point.  

Eventually, the seven bomber crew members got into Yugoslavia, with the assistance of the underground, and to the headquarters of one of the partisan chiefs. 

Their journey, all by foot, through the cold, mountainous country, Captain Kolstad said, was one of great hardship, and there were 46 days of it . One of their most harrowing and trying experiences was when they were caught in a terrific snowstorm and blizzard in the wild mountain terrain and had to spend 19 days in a small, one-room mountain cabin, which was snowed in by the blizzard.

"There were 19 of us in that one-room house," Kolstad said, "including the seven members of our bomber crew, our guides, and two families living in the house, The worst part of it came," he said, "when all of the 19 occupants of the refuge came down with dysentery, which lasted many days."

Several Close Calls 
During the two days he was alone, before he succeeded in rejoining the members of the crew, all working eastward toward the Yugoslavian border, he had several narrow escapes from capture. Immediately after landing and releasing himself from his parachute, he was pursued, presumably by enemies, for several shots were fired at him and, for five hours, he lay hidden in a rocky hollow behind some bushes. He remained in concealment until darkness, when he started walking. 

It was during his first two days alone that he came to a river and found all bridges over it guarded by German soldiers. Hiding until night, he cut a long pole, took off his clothes, tying them to the pole; then swam the stream, keeping his bundle of clothing out of the water. 

At another point, while walking along a railroad track, he had come upon, he almost walked into an enemy camp, where the soldiers were evidently billeted in box cars. He circled this point and successfully eluded detection by enemy sentries. 

Soup Twice a Day
During the 19 days in the snowed-in cabin, he said, all they had to eat was soup, served twice a day. During their 46-day trek in the mountain country, they never had much to eat, and often went hungry. 

Originally based in North Africa, Captain Kolstad saw action in Sicily before the Italian Campaign. He engaged in bombing assaults in connection with both the Salerno and Anzio beach landings and took part in the second bombing raid on Rome, during which the Rome rail yards were badly blasted. 

On the return from one of his bombing missions, in which he was engaged, he came back, he said, with his bomber pocked with 200 bullet and flak holes, the aileron control shot off; the tail gun blasted out, but none of the crew hurt, although one had his oxygen mask shot off.

The bombing missions average from 8 to 10 a month, he said, but recently they are coming faster than that. 

There were many other things he could relate of his escape experiences and what they heard, saw, and learned in Yugoslavia, but which he would not mention as they were military secrets. 

Italian Liked Federal Prison, Says Kolstad
Flier Tells of Flight Out of Italy
Many residents of Italy have resided, for a time, in the United States and are quite familiar with some parts of this country, Captain Robert F. (Hooker) Kolstad, of Eau Claire, told Kiwanians at their luncheon in the Hotel Eau Claire, this noon, and some have ideas of this country which are amusing to Americans.

One Italian told Captain Kolstad he had been a member of Al Capone's gang in Chicago and that the two happiest years he spent in America were at the federal penitentiary at Fort Leavenworth. "We had good meals, shows, baseball, and everything," he said. 

A saying that gained wide circulation in Italy was that, in this war, Russia  has given its blood, America its money, and Britain its patience. 

Captain Kolstad, pilot of a Flying Fortress, told his experiences when shot down far behind the German lines in Italy, while on his 48th bombing mission, and of his escape with the aid of Yugoslavian partisans.  

He went to the European Theater of War about a year ago, spent two months in England, and then flew a P-39 fighter plane to Africa. He requested transfer to bombing planes and was assigned to a B-17 and bombed France, Germany, Austria, Greece, Italy, and other parts of  Axis Europe from Africa and, later, from air fields in Italy. 

He told of winter hardships in mountain regions on a long trek back to safety, guided by partisan soldiers--a journey that took 55 days. Seven members of his crew were saved in this way, he said, although all had lost considerable weight and were pretty well worn out and half sick.

He had high praise for the partisans, who risked their lives to help the Americans and expressed hope that the United States can do something to help these people "get back on their feet," after the war is over.

Captain William Thompson, a veteran of 50 bombing missions in the African and Italian Theaters, was a guest of the club. Thompson was once shot down over Sicily. Another Army Air Forces guest was Lieutenant William Pire,  who was with his father, Irwin J. Pire. 

A boost, presented by Dr. J. H. Ohm, went to E. R. Nelson.

Mission 138 Official Reports
January 31, 1944

Blanchard-Kolstad Wedding


Charles Richards' book
The Second Was First

'Hooker' Kolstad - man of many talents by Sports Editor Ron Buckli
A man of many talents, he is best remembered for his versatility on football game day.

"He would play the first half; then change uniforms and lead the band as drum major at halftime," recalled Howard "Chick" Kolstad. "Then he would change again and come out and play the second half."

Kolstad was speaking of younger brother Bob "Hooker" Kolstad, who carried the baton for the Blugold Football Team and the band in his collegiate days. 

Hooker followed Chick to what is now UW-Eau Claire from St. Patrick's High School in the late 1930s. 

Chick, who later coached at Regis High School and became legendary as a State Hall of Fame Coach, played from 1936 through 1938 and Hooker in 1938 and 1939. 

"He was a good halfback--primarily a football-basketball athlete,'' Chick said. "He also played some softball and, in later years, played a lot of golf." 

The Kolstads were city natives, growing up on the Westside. Chick, after retiring as football coach at St. Norbert College, lives in West DePere. In 1987, he was named a charter member of the Regis Athletic Hall of Fame. Hooker, a career serviceman, died March 20, at age 71, near San Antonio, Texas.

Hooker joined the National Guard in 1940 and was a top Sergeant when the 32nd Division was called to active duty in Louisiana at the outset of World War II. He played quarterback on the division football team and was named MVP.

He later served as a fighter-bomber pilot over Europe in the U.S. Army Air Corps. On one mission, he was shot down over Italy, escaped to Yugoslavia, and was freed through the underground there. During his escape, he spent 19 days in a cave with Marshall Tito, who later came to political power in Yugoslavia. 

After the war, Hooker was involved in the Bikini Atom Bomb Experiment. "He died of leukemia," Chick said, "and it is believed that he contacted it flying through a radioactive cloud during the bomb experiment." 

Hooker retired as a Lieutenant Colonel, got his Master's at the University of Wisconsin, and served 10 years as City Planner in Kenosha, before moving to the San Antonio area.

Chick was a highly successful coach at Mondovi and Regis, before taking the St. Norbert job in 1961. His Rambler teams were 63-20 in football and 105-50 in basketball. He took seven teams to the Catholic School State Basketball Tournament, and the 1952 team took the title. 

Although he retired from St. Norbert with a 91-51-5 record in the early 1980s, he remains active, helping son John, who is coach at Green Bay East. East ended Manitowoc's 35-game football winning streak last year and just missed gaining a berth in the WIAA state playoffs. 

St. Pat's was a two-year school when Chick attended. He spent his last two years at Eau Claire Senior High School, attracting attention as an outstanding athlete. Hooker spent all four years at St. Pat's, which had expanded by then. 

"He (Hooker) was a good guy," Chick said. "He was my brother--I'm just making a statement."

Robert Kolstad
SAN ANTONIO, Texas Robert F. Kolstad, 71, a former resident of Eau Claire, died Tuesday at Brooks Army Medical Center, Fort Sam Houston, San Antonio. 

He was born in Eau Claire and married Beverly Blanchard on June 6, 1944 in Chippewa Falls. He joined the National Guard in Eau Claire in 1940; later serving in the U.S. Army Air Corps. He retired in 1969 and later became the Director of City Planning in Kenosha. He retired from that job in 1979 and moved to a suburb of San Antonio. 

Survivors include his wife; two sons, James of Kansas City, MO and  Thomas of New York City; two daughters, Suzanne Donnell of Boliver, MO and Barbara Kolstad of Madison; a brother, Howard Kolstad of  West DePere; a sister, Joan Kolstad of Phoenix, AZ; and three grandchildren.

Services were held Thursday at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic Church in Selma, Texas, with burial with full military honors at Fort Sam Houston Cemetery. 

The family prefers memorials to The Children's Fund, Our Lady of Perpetual Help, Selma, Texas, 78218.