Allen, Robert Gage “Rob”

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Robert Gage Allen was born in Donora, Pennsylvania , on 10-12-1923,  the eldest child of Clarence Boyden Allen (1897–1937) and Marjorie Gage Allen (born Marjorie Chase Gage, later Marjorie Gage Butterfield, 1899–1957). When Allen was born, his family was residing at 619 Chestnut Street in Donora. Rob had a younger sister, Joan Allen (later Lovelace, 1927–2022), and a younger brother, Chase Allen (1931– ). Robert went by Bob (or Al to some of his fellow officers in the service). From left to right: John Segar Allen (Robert’s grandfather), Clarence Boyden Allen (Robert’s father), and Robert Gage Allen (Courtesy of Bob Allen).

Allen volunteered for the U.S. Army in Camden, New Jersey, on July 10, 1942.

Lieutenant Allen wearing an A-2 flight jacket decorated with the 462nd Parachute Field Artillery patch under command of Major Arlis E. Kline. (Courtesy of Bob Allen). After basic training, Allen attended Officers Candidate Class 49-43 at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, from November 5, 1942 – January 28, 1943. Upon graduation, he was commissioned as a 2nd lieutenant in the Field Artillery Branch. He subsequently attended the Parachute School at Fort Benning,

Georgia. While stationed at Benning, Allen met Ruth Dorothy McRae, a cashier living in Columbus, Georgia. They married in Phenix City, Alabama, on 10-09-1943.

By 05-11-1943, 2nd Lieutenant Allen was with the 407th Field Artillery Group stationed at Camp Mackall, North Carolina. That day, he transferred to another unit there: Headquarters and Service Battery, 462nd Parachute Field Artillery Battalion. The battalion had been activated at Camp Mackall on 16-06-1943. According to a letter by a comrade, Lieutenant Allen was the youngest officer in his battalion. Allen later transferred to Battery “D.”

On 27-01-1944, 2nd Lieutenant Allen began keeping a diary. His entries in early 1944 mention spending some days at nearby Fort Bragg and Charlotte,

Camp Cable, Australia was a World War II army training base near Logan Village, Queensland, Australia. The base was first known as Camp Tamborine but renamed in honour of Sergeant Gerald O. Cable. Sergeant Gerald O. Cable, Service Company, 126th Infantry, from Michigan. On 25-04-1942, he became the first member of the 32nd Infantry Division to die in World War II when the Liberty ship he was on was torpedoed by a Japanese submarine.

Constructed in 1942 for the United States Army Forces in Australia (USAFIA), initially for the 32nd Infantry “Red Arrow” Division (United States) preparing for the New Guinea campaign, the base was occupied by various units during the war. Part of the base was an area south of the Albert River for the 155th Station Hospital.

North Carolina. Allen’s leisure activities included playing poker, listening to the radio, watching movies, and writing letters. Robert mentioned that he tried twice to telephone home before he shipped out to the Pacific Theater but was unable to get through. Although the entries were mostly devoted to events rather than introspection, on 03-02-1944, Lieutenant Allen reflected on his rushed marriage: “The more I think of my situation, the more I realize what I great mistake I made.”

At the end of February 1944, Lieutenant Allen and his battalion boarded a train at Camp Mackall to head west. He wrote that he arrived at Camp Stoneman, staging area for the San Francisco Port of Embarkation, on 06-03-1944. Lieutenant Allen wrote on 12-03-1944, that his ship passed under the Golden Gate Bridge, which he remarked was “Very Beautiful[” Robert did not write again until 28-03-1944, when his troopship arrived in Brisbane, Australia. The 462nd disembarked and moved to nearby Camp Cable.

Several months after arriving in Australia, the unit shipped out aboard the Dutch ship merchant ship Van Heutsz, bound for Noemfoor in the Dutch East Indies. The island—now known as Numfor, Indonesia—is located off the northwest coast of New Guinea. On Noemfoor, the 462nd Parachute Field Artillery Battalion and Company “C” of the 161st Parachute Engineer Battalion were attached to the 503rd Parachute Infantry Regiment tunder command of Brigadier General George Madison Jones

to  form the 503rd Parachute Infantry Regimental Combat Team (or 503rd R.C.T. for short). Brigadier General Jones survived the war and died age 44 on 16-12-1995, buried on Arlington Cemetery.

Lieutenant Allen commanded 2nd Machine Gun Platoon, Battery “D,” 462nd Parachute Field Artillery Battalion. Batteries “A,” “B,” and “C” were equipped with 75 mm pack howitzers, while Allen’s Battery “D” was equipped with .50 machine guns (eight per platoon).

On Noemfoor, Leyte, and Mindoro, the 462nd Parachute Field Artillery Battalion saw no action beyond patrolling. That changed in February 1945, when the 503rd R.C.T. was selected for one of the boldest airborne operations ever conducted.

U.S. Sixth Army planners settled on an ambitious plan scheduled for 16-02-1945: an airborne assault on the high ground on the west end of the island, known as Topside, combined with an amphibious assault against the low ground on the east end of the island, nicknamed Bottomside. Without the airborne assault, the infantrymen landing at Bottomside would have come under enfilading fire from Topside. Intelligence reports wildly underestimated the strength of the Japanese garrison as about 850 men, when the actual strength was over 6,000 men.

The airborne plan was extremely risky. The areas of Topside with the fewest obstacles were a pair of fields that, before the war, had been the Fort Mills parade ground and golf course. However, these drop zones were extremely small. The necessary precision ruled out a night operation.

According to the 462nd Parachute Field Artillery Battalion operations plan, “The Battalion was scheduled to drop in three lifts, each lift consisting of one firing battery, one platoon of “D” Battery and elements of Hq. Battery.” 2nd Lieutenant Allen’s platoon was assigned to the second lift. After dropping on Field “A,” the former parade ground, their orders were to support 2nd Battalion of the 503rd Parachute Infantry Regiment and set up defensive positions on the perimeter of the drop zone.  The Japanese defenders had anticipated an amphibious assault following an intense bombardment from American aircraft and naval gunfire but were caught off guard when the 317th Troop Carrier Group began dropping paratroopers at 0833 hours. Some of the first troops landed away from their drop zone, practically on top of the Japanese commander’s observation post, and killed him after a brief firefight. Though their top leadership was gone, the remaining defenders resisted tenaciously. About two hours later, infantrymen from a reinforced 3rd Battalion, 34th Infantry Regiment began landing at Bottomside. The airborne assault, as planned, “diverted Japanese attention from the amphibious craft moving on Corregidor. Obviously confused by the co-ordinated assault, the Japanese did not know what to do first.”

From Bottomside, Sergeant Werner Herman Schlaupitz (Company “A,” 34th Infantry Regiment) watched the paratroopers jump under fire. “All I have to do is close my eyes and I see them coming down,” he recalled in an interview more than 77 years later. “They were shooting them like fish in a barrel.”

There is contradictory information on whether Lieutenant Allen and his platoon jumped during the first or the second lift. Within months of the battle, three officers wrote letters to his family stating that Allen jumped with the first lift, though a fourth man wrote that Allen jumped during the second lift. Regardless, Lieutenant Allen’s platoon boarded four of the aircraft assigned to their lift, with 14–15 soldiers on each plane. During the first two passes, the C-47s dropped equipment. Lieutenant Allen likely jumped on the third pass along with three or four of his men.

Unfortunately, the wind carried Lieutenant Allen away from the drop zone to the cliffs near Battery Wheeler, an area filled with enemy soldiers. His parachute caught in a tree and he was shot several times, including a fatal wound to his neck. Had Allen jumped moments later than he did—or if the wind had been a little weaker—he would have landed in the tiny drop zone. If he had jumped a few seconds earlier or the wind had been stronger, Lieutenant Allen would have landed further down the cliffs, on the narrow beach on that side of Corregidor, or in the water offshore, where American patrol torpedo boats were standing by to rescue paratroopers. Indeed, several men from his plane were rescued by boats and eventually returned to duty.

Major Melvin Robert Knudson (1917–2008), who had assumed command of the 462nd Parachute Field Artillery Battalion after the previous battalion commander was injured during the jump, wrote in a letter (written on 25-05-1945, while the 462nd was in combat on another island in the Philippines, Negros) that nobody knew of Lieutenant Allen’s fate for several days: When Bob was found he was still in his parachute harness, & reported as having been caught in a tree. That is to say his parachute had hung in a tree, suspending him well off the ground & making it extremely difficult for him to release himself from his harness. Based on these facts it was quite obvious that Bob must have been shot & killed the day of the jump. That draw was one of the “hottest” on the island & infested with snipers & emplacements. It was our opinion that Bob had been shot by a sniper. There was no indication that he had been in pain at any time.

Death and burial ground of Allen, Robert Gage “Rob”.

 

On 20-02-1945, Lieutenant Allen was buried at the U.S. Armed Forces Cemetery Mariveles No. 1 on the Bataan Peninsula, Luzon. Lieutenant Thomas wrote that he was the only member of the 462nd able to attend the funeral, adding: “After the burial was over I flew low over the spot and gave him my best victory roll that my battered plane could stand. I found time to salute him in the same fashion daily until we were released.”

Lieutenant Allen was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart. The 462nd Parachute Field Artillery Battalion was among several units awarded the Presidential Unit Citation for the collective actions of its soldiers during February 16–28, 1945. The 503rd R.C.T. became known as the Rock Force in honor of their achievements in the Corregidor operation.

Robert Alen was buried at the U.S. Armed Forces Cemetery Mariveles No. 1 on the Bataan Peninsula, Luzon. Allen’s body was reinterred at the U.S. Armed Forces Cemetery Manila No. 2 on Luzon on 05-12-1945. Section D ~ Row 4 ~ Grave 125. Robert’s brother Chase Allen visited his brother’s grave in the Philippines c. 1969

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