Biography of Robert J. Kilby, Jr.
731st Sqdn, 452nd Bmb Grp, 2nd Div, 8th A.F., U.S.A.A.F.
Robert J. Kilby, Jr. served in World War Two. Bob Kilby was with the 390th Bomb Group for a few months before reporting to the 452nd Bomb Group. More particularly he was assigned to the 731st Squadron of the 452nd Bomb Group in the 2nd Division, 8th Air Force. The 731st operated from an airfield in England called Deopham Green. Bob was a relief radio operator. He flew on various aircraft when others were sick because of his vast radio experience.
On one of the misstions the unit had lost 14 aircraft that day after launching 33. Later in life One of Bob's friends was famous wild life artist, John Gribbin. John Gribbin doesn't like to paint anything but animals-wildlife but he thought so much of Bob that he presented Bob with a magnificent painting of 14 B-17Gs. The painting is of the Squadron over the North Sea returning to Deopham-Green. John wanted to depict the feeling of relief by the crew members after an intense action. I don't know how he did it - but he did and all you can see are airplanes and sky over the sea. The painting is entitled "452nd Return to Deopham- Green. I have been in aviation all of my adult life and consider it the finest effort of its kind I've ever seen.
452nd Return to Deopham Green, Detail
Copyright John Gribbin, 1998
This image is a bit of detail from the painting, the Flatbush Floogie, a B-17G. Bob was aboard the Wendy Lou on the day the painting depicts. We must guess the one the Wendy Lou is. The full image will soon be available.
The Wendy Lou's pilot was Lt. Darr on that mission. After nearly 11 hours in the air Lt. Darr had to land in heavy rain with a very low ceiling. He accomplished the landing while low on fuel by looking out the cockpit's side window. The rain severely limited visibility through his windshield.
Bob also wrote a poem about the mission represented in the painting, . When Bob wrote he didn't bother with fancy punctuation he just strung the words out. I find the words self punctuating when read aloud. He dedicated the poem attached to TSGT Gibson - his best friend - remember that when you read the last two lines. He entitled the poem "The Illusive Battlefield" and I looked up ellusive and illusive. I think he chose the world illusive because of its special meaning. I did not know of his poetry or cartoons until after his death. I think the poetry was very personal to him.
In 1995 I and Bob went to Tucson and the 390th Bomb Group guys there let us have access to the B17G there (I'll Be Around). Bob sat down in the radio operator's position where he worked when with the 8th.
I cajoled Bob into writing down his wartime memories and a friend of mine is editing them. They totaled 71 pages including the pictures. His last essay is the one regarding the Little Bighorn, linked to below. Bob passed away September 18, 1998. The Little Bighorn essay was the last before his death. Bob was suffering great pain when he wrote it as he had just finished radiation treatment six weeks earlier.
I taped Bob's remarks about his life and answers to my questions from a discussion we had in Tucson. If you would like to hear this tape, click here for side one and here for side two (Two not online yet). It is encoded using real player. If you can not get it to open, try going to www.real.com and downloading the real player basic, they have a free version which you can download though they make the one you pay for more obvious on the website.
I read Bob's poem to my aviation fraternity last night. Many tears. All the guys that hang around the airport miss him.
----- Jim Davis
The Illusive Battlefield, by Robert J. "Bob" Kilby, Jr.
They Did Not All Die At The Little Bighorn, By Robert J. Kilby, Jr.
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