Meder, Robert John “Bob”.

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Meder, Robert John “Bob”  born on 23-08-1917, in Cleveland, Ohio. He was among the earliest groups to enlist, more than a year ahead of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Robert joined the Army Air Corps in 1940 as war loomed for the US on 22-11-1940 and was commissioned a 2d Lieutenant and awarded his pilot wings on 12-07-1941. His first assignment was as a B-25 Mitchell pilot with the 95th Bomb Squadron of the 17th Bomb Group at Pendleton Army Airfield, Oregon, from July 1941 until he was selected for the Doolittle Mission  in February 1942. On 18-04-1942, after months of bad news on the war in the Pacific, the US public was stunned to learn that 16 American B-25 bombers, led by Lieutenant. Colonel James Harold “Jimmy” Doolittle, had successfully bombed Tokyo and a number of other Japanese cities. The B-25s had taken off from the aircraft carrier, USS Hornet, and flown over Japan to bomb strategic targets. Following the bombing made famous by the 1944 book and film, “Thirty Seconds over Tokyo” the raiders flew on to China rather than return to the USS Hornet. Short of fuel, most of the planes crashed far short of the friendly Chinese airfields they were to find, ending up inside Japanese lines, and 8 crewmen (2 men had died when their planes crashed) were captured by the Japanese. Initially the Japanese jailed the flyers, torturing them for information. Confined and poorly fed, the men contracted dysentery and beriberi. After interrogation, the men were sent to Tokyo, Japan for further interrogation, then returned to Shanghai, China where they were again imprisoned. Crew No. 6 (Plane #40-2298, target Tokyo): 95th Bombardment Squadron, Lt. Dean E. Hallmark, pilot; Lt. Robert J. Meder, copilot; Lt. Chase J. Nielsen, navigator; Sgt. William J. Dieter, bombardier; Sgt. Donald E. Fitzmaurice, flight engineer/gunner.

The crew, which ran out of gas four minutes before landfall, was flying too low to use their parachutes. Crashing into the ocean, Meder and two other men on the crew miraculously survived only to bury two of their fallen comrades on the beach where they washed ashore.

The survivors encountered Chinese guerillas when they reached the mainland. Although the Chinese attempted to smuggle the Americans to safety, the three men were captured by the Japanese and taken to Shanghai.

Held in solitary confinement, Meder and the other American prisoners were threatened and tortured by the Japanese but resisted weeks of interrogation. A new law passed by the government in Tokyo sentenced all bombers to death, and the eight Raiders faced a tribunal and sentencing.

On 14-10-1942, Japanese officers gave the crews a mock trial, and although never told of the charges against them, they were quickly found guilty and sentenced to death. 2nd Lieutenant. Dean Edward Hallmark, 2nd Lieutenat. William Glove Farrow, and Sergeant. Harold Althouse “Skinny” Spatz were selected for execution, while the Japanese gave “mercy” to the others by commuting their sentences to life in prison. The three men were executed in Shanghai’s Public Cemetery No. 1, in accordance with Japanese military tradition: they were forced to their knees, blindfolded with their arms tied behind them, then shot simultaneously by three soldiers with rifles in the center of their foreheads. Following their execution, the bodies were cremated and the ashes buried in the cemetery.

Death and burial ground of Meder, Robert John “Bob”.

  Four crewmen survived the war, but 2nd Lieutenant “Bob” Meder, age 28, died in captivity in December 1943 in Nanking POW Camp, and his body was cremated. After the war, the remains were recovered and buried in Arlington National Cemetery, Section 12, Grave 159.. In February 1946, four Japanese officers were tried for their mistreatment of the Doolittle aircrews and sentenced to five years imprisonment.  Eight (8) American’s were captured and imprisoned by the Japanese, off these only four (4) or 50% would survive that imprisonment and return to their families in America at the end of the war

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