Robert C. Bridges Sr., of Phoenix, Arizona
passed away January 13, 2005; born in South Deerfield,
Massachusetts April 13, 1920. He is survived by his wife of 59
years Ilene, a sister Harriet, 4 children Robert Jr., Elise,
Eugene and Susan, 8 grandchildren and 2 great-grandsons. Memorial
services for Robert Bridges will be held at Christ Church of the
Ascension 4015 East Lincoln Drive Paradise Valley, AZ 85253.
Services are to take place in the chapel at
10:30 am on Saturday,
January 22, 2005. In lieu of flowers contributions may be made to
the Hospice of the Valley.
Robert "Bob" Bridges was a Life
Member of the Stalag XVII-B (often referred to as "Stalag 17"). Bob
was a crew member on a B-17 during WWII, with the 8th Air Force
Strategic Air Command in England.
He was shot down and wounded in 1943
over Germany. He was a POW in Stalag XVII-B in Krems, Austria
until April 1945 when all prisoners from that camp were forced
marched across Austria, and finally liberated by General Pattern's
3rd Army. At that time of the war, U.S. heavy bombers were not
only flying mission during daylight hours, and without fighter
escort, but often out gunned by swarms of Nazi fighter planes, and
heavy Flack from the ground. Bob often said, "I was never on a
mission when we did not lose a plane. Our losses were sometimes
The facts now show us why so many
airmen were killed, or taken prisoner during that early period of
the war. At that time 25 missions were a "Tour." and qualified you
to go home, however during that period an airman's chances were
70% that he would either be killed or taken prisoner - before
he ever completed 25 missions.
Bob and his beautiful new bride, Ilene
Comments: During the summer of 1942, three New
Englanders (all Red Sox Fans) met at the U.S. Air Corps Gunnery
training school at Tyndal Field in Florida, "Bob" Bridges, Roy
Livingstone, and Fred Newcomb. We bunked in the same barracks, had
about the same training schedule, and sort of watched out for each
other when on those 24-hour passes...Several weeks later we were
told we were heading to Wichita, Kansas. a "dry" state. "Hey," Fred
said, "This is a chance for us to make some money. Let's buy a few
bottles of Rye or Scotch, or something before we leave, then we
can sell it to the guys in Wichita for a nice profit. Watch say?"
(Please understand our pay in those days was still only $21.00 a
month)...Anyway, we pooled what money we had left, and bought a
few bottles of "Seagram's 7," and some Rye, and Gin. When we
got on the train, the M.E.'s were all over the place, and we were
told we could not take any hard stuff across the state line. "WOW!
And we've got all our money was tied up in that darn booze!" said
Bridges. Then, I'll have to admit that I came up with the next
bright idea..."Hey, see that water faucet. It's filled with ice. Why
not put these bottles on top of the ice? The M.E.'s won't look there." So
we stored our investments on top of the ice...Sure, enough, when
they came in and started frisking around, checking our B-4 bags,
etc. They walked right past the tall water tank.
When we reached our
destination, and the M.E.'s left the train, we returned to the
water faucet, the ice had melted, and our bottles had sunk to the
bottom of the tank, and we didn't have time to find a way to
somehow et them out - because the train was pulling out of the
The three of us were flat
broke for almost a month.
Bob, Fred, and Roy managed to survive the combat, but
eventually each were shot down. Fred Newcomb (Died 2001)went down on the first Bremen
raid over Germany, as did Roy Livingstone (April 17, 1943) Bob
Bridges was shot down a few months later. They all ended up in Stalag XVII-B
Bob Bridges Crew in Mobile, Alabama February 20, 1943: Back
Row: L-R: Sgt. Robert Noll, Radio Operator; 2nd Lt.Paul Blank,
Navigator; 1st Lt. John Van Wie, Pilot; 2nd Lt. James Walsh,
Front Row: T/Sgt, Albert Hlebasko, Engineer; S/Sgt. Robert
Bridges, Tail Gunner (Before he had the rest of his stripes put
on) S/Sgt. Eugene Morton, Ball Turret; S.Sgt Ben Spring, Waist
Meet the Bridges' Family
- (1). Ashli & Dirk's Wedding - Erika, Elise, Eric, Ashli,
Dirk, Ian, and Ilene Bridges (2). Newest members
family: Brodie, Topper, Aster, and Cayleigh in foreground. - (3) Bath
time. Erika and Scott(5) "I'm Cole Cieplik.
I'm kinda new
to this family. That's my mommy and daddy on your left. I saw
my Great Grandfather just before
he went away.
Often, I look back to those exciting, but often dreadful,
days when we were in combat. I remember many close friends
who never returned from a raid. I think about my own crew
who died on our last mission, Lt. Bjornsgaard, Sgts. Giraud,
Sanders, Bottomley, and Davis. I remember how Bob Hansen and
I escaped from a prison train, only six weeks after we were
shot down, only to be recaptured fourteen days later...and
those endless days and nights in solitary confinement...the
747days, in Stalags VII-A and XVII-B...The cold, hunger,
lice, infections, and disease. I remember how Bob Bridges'
hand was partly paralyzed from flack...For months we were
still digging out pieces of shrapnel...Since the war, Bob
and I corresponded by letters and telephone. In 2001, we
arranged a meeting at our EXPOW Convention in Tucson, AZ.
Robert Bridges was one of the most honest and sincere
friends I have ever had, and a very brave and patriotic