More than 69 years after being shot down on a bombing mission over Germany during WWII, Staff Sgt. Robert “Bobby” E. Howard is returning home to Iowa.
Howard, a 21-year old Moulton, Iowa native serving with the 450th Bomber Squadron, 322nd Bomber Group, Medium, 9th Air Force, U.S. Army Air Corps, was last seen April 16, 1945 as his unit was conducting a bombing mission over northeast Germany. With the flight originating from Le Culot Airfield near Beauvechain, Belgium, the aircraft, a Martin B-26B “Marauder” on which Howard served as an engineer/gunner, was shot down and crashed near Wittenburg, Germany. Only one of the six crewmembers was able to parachute from the aircraft and was taken prisoner by German forces.
Howard and four other crewmembers from the Marauder were officially declared deceased but their remains were never recovered. In 2012, the Joint Prisoner of War/Missing in Action Accounting Command – Central Identification Laboratory (JPAC) received information from German officials of human remains found within a burial site located close to the possible aircraft crash site in Mühlanger, near the city of Lutherstadt-Wittenberg. In July 2012, a JPAC recovery team recovered additional human remains at the site.
In 2014, JPAC’s Research and Analysis Group concluded a historical association drawn from Missing Air Crew Report #14463 and artifacts and human remains recovered at the excavation site. Mitochondrial DNA testing positively identified part of the remains as belonging to Howard.
Robert Howard was born Dec. 19, 1923 in Moulton, Iowa to LaVerne R. and Bernice N. (Zigler) Howard. He graduated from Moravia Public School in Moravia, Iowa in 1941 and participated in marching band, orchestra, concert band, and dramatics.
Howard enlisted in the U.S. Army on March 16, 1943, and transferred into the U.S. Army Air Corps. His military awards and honors include the Purple Heart, Air Medal (with one silver and two bronze Oak Leaf Clusters), Army Good Conduct Medal, American Campaign Medal, European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal (with three bronze service stars), World War II Victory Medal and Enlisted Air Crew Wings.
Howard is survived by brothers Harold and Dennis, both of Des Moines, sisters Evelyn Lewin of Indianola, Janie Ballanger of Coatsville, Mo., and Evelyn June Nace of Tulsa, Okla., and by many nieces, nephews, and extended family members. His parents and a sister, Betty Howard Harvey, are deceased.
A memorial service will be held at the Sunset View Cemetery, Moulton on July 19 at 11 a.m., with full military honors provided by the Iowa National Guard. The cemetery is located north of Moulton, at the northeast corner of Highway 202 and 535th St. The public is welcome to attend the memorial service.
Memorial contributions may be directed to the family.