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Robert James Nespor Jr

Military

1st Lt. Robert James Nespor, Jr. was a B-24D command bomber pilot in the 9th Air Force, the 98th Bombardment Group, "The Pyramiders", and the 330th Bombing Squadron. For the huge mission to bomb the oil refineries at Ploesti, Romania, on Operation Tidal Wave on 1 August 1943. Lt. Nespor was assigned as a replacement pilot, along with Lt. John Clark Riley, his replacement copilot from the 93rd Bomb Group, along with a replacement crew, also from the 93rd Bomb Group, to fly Lt. John S. Young's regular airplane, the B-24D Liberator, 'KICKAPOO' in place of Lt. Young and his regularly assigned crew. Nespor was an original member of the 98th Bombardment Group, but did not complete his tour at the same time as many of the original 98th Bomb Group airmen, as he had been grounded for a period of time with dysentery. Lt. John Young, 'KICKAPOO''s regular pilot, and his crew had been reassigned by the 98th's Group Leader, Col. John R. Kane, to fly with him in his element lead B-24, 'Hail Columbia'. This late crew change saved the lives of Lt.Young and his crew. But it cost the lives of Lt. Nespor, his copilot, Lt. Riley, and all but two of their replacement crew.
The morning of Sunday, Aug 1, 1943, on the morning of the Ploesti mission, with Lt. Nespor at the controls, at 0750 hours, as he was making his takeoff run, 'Kickapoo' had a complete #4 engine failure and fire. Nespor and his copilot, Lt. John C. Riley, pushed their stricken B-24 into a shallow climb, turned out over the sea, jettisoned their bombs, and began a long curving sweep out of the bomber formation to the right. Although on fire and burning, Nespor thought he could make it back to the Berca or the Benina airstrip and save his valuable airplane. As he started his first approach back to the runway, the field was still a swirling fog of red dust stirred up by the prop wash of the last planes that took off, and Nespor was turned away by the tower to circle around for a second visual approach. He was trying to make that approach back to the runway when he lost power from his remaining engines, on short final, and descended into a hard landing. Nespor and 'Kickapoo' hit the runway, bounced twenty feet into the air, hit again, skidded down the extreme left edge of the runway, and smashed their left wing into a concrete telephone pole, cartwheeling 'Kickapoo', which came apart and exploded in flames, ultimately, killing Lt. Nespor, John Riley, his copilot, and all but two of the rest of their crewmen. Eight of the ten man crew were KIA. Nespor and Riley could have crash landed 'KICKAPOO' on the beach or in the shallow water just off the beach after jettisoning their bombs over the water, but elected to try to try to save their airplane after they had been cleared by the tower to return for a second landing attempt. Lt. Nespor, Lt. John Riley, and all but two of their replacement crewmen were the very first casualties of Operation Tidal Wave. They died in place of the men they exchanged places with, Lt. Johnny Young and his usual crew on his plane, 'KICKAPOO'.

For his flying leadership and his sacrifice on the Ploesti mission, Lt. Nespor was posthumously awarded the Purple heart and another Oak Leaf Cluster to his Distinguished Flying Cross.

Lt. Robert James Nespor was only 22 years old when he gave his life for freedom and his country.

Replacement Crew - B24D - 'KICKAPOO' - Tidal Wave - August 1, 1943
1st/Lt. Robert J. Nespor - Pilot
2/Lt. Thurman L. Ward - Bombardier
2nd/Lt. John C. Riley - Co Pilot
T/Sgt. Vaun D. Wenrick - Engineer
S/Sgt. Eugene R. Garner - Gunner
T/Sgt. Armand R. Massart - Radio Op.
S/Sgt.Edwin J. Sliwa - Gunner
S/Sgt. George Warren Lawlor - Gunner
S/Sgt. John D'Amour - Gunner

Service

People

  • John D'Amour

    Military | Staff Sergeant | Gunner | 93rd Bomb Group
    Crew member of B-24 liberator 41-11768 'Kickapoo' of 344th BS, 98th BG, 9th AF. Crashed shortly after take-off for the 1-Aug-43 low-level Ploesti, Romania mission. She lost an engine just after getting airborne and then caught fire while banking back...

  • Eugene Garner

    Military | Staff Sergeant | Gunner | 93rd Bomb Group
    Crew member B-24 liberator 41-11768 'Kickapoo' of 344th BS, 98th BG, 9th AF. Crashed shortly after take-off for the August 1, 43 low-level Ploesti, Romania mission. She lost an engine just after getting airborne and then caught fire while banking back...

  • Ronald Helder

    Military | Second Lieutenant | B-24D Co-Pilot | 389th Bomb Group
    2nd Lt. Ronald Lee Helder was a B-24 pilot in the 8th Air Force, the 389th Bomb Group, and the 564th Bombing Squadron in WWII. He flew as Co-pilot with his friend, Command Pilot Lt. Lloyd H. Hughes, in the B-24D Lt. Helder called, 'Ole Kickapoo',...

  • Lloyd Hughes

    Military | Second Lieutenant | B-24 Command Pilot | 389th Bomb Group
    ...

  • John Kane

    Military | Colonel | Commanding Officer, Command Pilot | 98th Bomb Group
    John Riley Kane (January 5, 1907 – May 29, 1996) was a colonel in the United States Army Air Corps and later the United States Air Force. He received the U.S. military's highest decoration, the Congressional Medal of Honor in World War II, for his...

  • George Lawlor

    Military | Staff Sergeant | Waist gunner | 93rd Bomb Group
    Crew member B-24 liberator 41-11768 'Kickapoo' of 344th BS, 98th BG, 9th AF. Crashed shortly after take-off for the August 1, 43 low-level Ploesti, Romania mission. She lost an engine just after getting airborne and then caught fire while banking back...

  • Royden LeBrecht

    Military | Captain | B-24 Command Pilot | 98th Bomb Group
    Lt. Royden Louis LeBrecht was a B-24 Command pilot of the B-24D, #4111761, The 'Squaw' in North Africa in 1942-43. Lt. Lebrecht flew on Operation Tidal Wave, the Aug 1 1943 Ploesti raid, with the 9th Air Force, the 98th Bombardment Group, and the 344th...

  • Samuel Neeley

    Military | First Lieutenant | B-24D Command Pilot | 98th Bomb Group
    Pilot Lt. Sam Neeley flew his B-24D, named, 'Raunchy' on "Operation Tidal Wave", the famous bombing raid to destroy the German held oil refineries at Ploesti, Romania, one of the most desperate and daring bombing raids of WWII. ...

  • Russell Polivka

    Military | Second Lieutenant | Navigator | 93rd Bomb Group
    Navigator B-24 liberator 41-11768 'Kickapoo' of 344th BS, 98th BG, 9th AF. Crashed shortly after take-off for the August 1, 43 low-level Ploesti, Romania mission. She lost an engine just after getting airborne and then caught fire while banking back...

  • John Riley

    Military | Second Lieutenant | Co-Pilot | 93rd Bomb Group
    Lt. John Clark Riley was a B-24 pilot in the 9th Air Force, the 93rd Bomb Group, and the 330th Bomb Squadron at Benghazi, Libya, in the Mediterranean theater during WWII. Riley and his crew from the 93rd Bomb Group were placed on temporary duty with...

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Units served with

  • 8th Air Force

    8th Air Force


    Eighth Air Force Bomber Command became the Eighth Air Force on February 1944, it oversaw bombardment of strategic targets in Europe until 1945. ...

  • 9th Air Force
  • 98th Bomb Group

    98th Bomb Group

    Group
    The 98th trained for bombardment missions with B-24 Liberators during the first half of 1942. ...

  • 330th Bomb Squadron
  • 344th Bomb Squadron

    344th Bomb Squadron

    Squadron
    The 344th Bombing Squadron was first activated at MacDill Field, Florida as one of the original three squadrons assigned to the 98th Bombardment Group. The 344th soon moved to Barksdale Field, Louisiana, where it began to train as a Consolidated B-24...

Aircraft

  • 41-24226 'Joisey Bounce' - 'Utah Man'

    B-24 Liberator
    The B-24D 'Joisey Bounce' was assigned to Pilot Col. Walter T. Stewart of the 330 Bomb Squadron, 93rd Bomb Group, 8th Air Force, for the famous mission to bomb the oil refineries at Ploesti, Romania, Aug 1,1943. Col. Stewart changed his assigned plane...

  • 42-40402 'The Sandman'

    B-24 Liberator
    The B-24D, named 'The Sandman' and flown by Lt. Robert Sternfels in the 9th Air force, the 98th Bomb Group, and the 345th Bomb Squadron, flew on the famous mission to destroy the German held oil refineries at Ploesti, Romania. Lt. Sternfels flew in...

  • 41-24198 'THE VULGAR VIRGIN' - 'Hell From Heaven' - 'Shoot You're Faded'

    B-24 Liberator
    - Not to be confused with #42-30406, 'THE VULGAR VIRGIN' of the 8th Air Force - 93rd Bomb Group - 328th Bomb Squadron - Also flew on the Ploesti mission by Pilot Lt. Claude Turner - Interned Turkey Aug 1, 1943 - Lt. Turner escaped from the Turks and...

  • 41-11768 'KICKAPOO'

    B-24 Liberator
    The B-24D Liberator 41-11768, 'KICKAPOO', was piloted by Lt. John S. Young from Dallas, Texas as part of the 9th Air Force, the 98th Bomb Group, and the 344th Bombing Squadron, which arrived in North Africa in early 1943. This airplane and was Lt...

Missions

  • Operation Tidal Wave

    1 August 1943
    Operation TIDAL WAVE. B24D Liberators attack the oil refineries at Ploesti, Romania. The bombers flew low to avoid radar detection and dropped time delayed bombs. Out of the 177 B-24s that took part in the raid 167 managed to attack their targets. 57 B...

Associated Place

  • Mellaha

    Military site : airfield

  • Berca

    Military site : airfield

  • Lete

    Military site : airfield

Events

Event Location Date
Born Oklahoma, USA 1921

Son of Robert John Sr and Christine [Borek] Nespor.

Lived in Oklahoma, USA 1941
Enlisted Oklahoma 14 July 1941

Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

Assigned Benghazi, Libya 1943

Assigned to 330th BS, 98th BG, 8th AF.

Died Benghazi, Libya 1 August 1943

Reassigned as part of a replacement crew from his own 98th Bomb Group to fly as command pilot for the B-24D 'Kickapoo' behind Element Leader Col. John Kane in the 98th Bomb Group in place of Lt. John S. Young for Operation Tidal Wave. Nespor crashed shortly after take-off for the August 1,1943, low-level mission. Nespor lost the #4 engine just after getting airborne and, then, lost all three of the remaining engines and caught fire while banking back toward the field trying to land. After losing all power on short final approach, the left wing hit a a concrete pole. The plane cart wheeled into the ground in flames killing Lt. Nespor, his copilot Lt. John C. Riley, and all but two of the rest of the replacement crew.

Buried Fort Scott National Cemetery Fort Scott, Bourbon County KS 1948

Re-Interred
Fort Scott National Cemetery
Fort Scott, Bourbon County
Kansas, USA.

Revisions

Date Contributor Update
15 February 2021 08:27:26 Kickapoo Changes to biography
Sources

FindAGrave - 2nd Lt. Robert James Nespor, Jr.

Date Contributor Update
15 February 2021 08:21:03 Kickapoo Changes to biography and awards
Sources

FidAGrave - 2ndLt. Robert J. Nespor, Jr.

Date Contributor Update
04 January 2021 10:54:47 Al_Skiff Changes to service number, biography, events, person associations, unit associations and media associations
Sources

https://www.fold3.com/image/310952932
https://www.fold3.com/record/708267594/u-s-veterans-gravesites-ca-1775-2...
https://www.fold3.com/record/84768778/world-war-ii-army-enlistment-recor...
https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/1030328/robert-j-nespor

Date Contributor Update
28 September 2020 08:22:46 Kickapoo Changes to biography
Sources

Changes to biography : John S. Young, Jr. -- personal archives

Date Contributor Update
12 June 2020 19:00:36 Kickapoo Changes to events
Sources

Black Sunday - Michael Hill ---- John S. Young, Jr. - personal archives

Date Contributor Update
12 June 2020 18:55:19 Kickapoo Changes to biography
Sources

Black Sunday - Michael Hill - Michael Hill ---- John S. Young, Jr. - personal archives

Date Contributor Update
12 June 2020 18:43:14 Kickapoo Changes to biography
Sources

Black Sunday - Michael Hill - Michael Hill ---- John S. Young, Jr. - personal archives

Date Contributor Update
12 June 2020 17:59:00 Kickapoo Changes to biography
Sources

Black Sunday - Michael Hill ---- John S. Young, Jr. - personal archives

Date Contributor Update
12 June 2020 16:41:43 Kickapoo Changes to biography
Sources

Black Sunday ~ Michael Hill

Date Contributor Update
28 February 2020 08:54:47 Kickapoo Changes to role, biography and unit associations
Sources

FindAGrave.com ---- Black Sunday - Michael Hill ---- Into The fire - Duane Schultz ---- John S. Young, Jr. - personal archives

Date Contributor Update
28 February 2020 08:43:44 Kickapoo Changes to biography
Sources

FindAGrave.com ---- Black Sunday - Michael Hill ---- Into The fire - Duane Schultz ---- John S. Young, Jr. - personal archives

Date Contributor Update
08 September 2019 07:20:23 Kickapoo Changes to biography
Sources

FindAGrave.com ---- Black Sunday - Michael Hill ---- Into The fire - Duane Schultz ---- John S. Young, Jr. - personal archives

Date Contributor Update
11 August 2019 19:56:48 Kickapoo Changes to biography, person associations and media associations
Sources

FindAGrave.com ---- Black Sunday - Michael Hill ---- Into The fire - Duane Schultz ---- John S. Young, Jr. - personal archives

Date Contributor Update
07 August 2019 08:12:50 Kickapoo Changes to middlename, service number, role, biography, events, unit associations and place associations
Sources

FindAGrave Memorials

Date Contributor Update
06 August 2019 13:18:25 Emily Changes to role, biography, events and unit associations
Sources

Consolidated repetitive biographies of Nespor into one narrative, corrections and further information from Ploesti Roster, Sortie Reports for the Ploesti mission held in Roger Freeman's document collection , in which the circumstances of Nespor's crash are widely reported, and Fortress Ploesti by Jay Stout.

Date Contributor Update
06 August 2019 08:12:12 Kickapoo Changes to role
Sources

Ploesti - Anatomy Of A Disaster - HistoryNet - Gen. Hoyt S. Vandenberg - Black Sunday - Michael Hill

Date Contributor Update
01 March 2019 02:44:00 Kickapoo Changes to biography
Sources

Ploesti - Anatomy Of A Disaster - HistoryNet - Gen. Hoyt S. Vandenberg - Black Sunday - Michael Hill

Date Contributor Update
04 February 2019 10:15:07 Emily Changes to biography
Sources

Transferred information from Media record to biography added by user Kickapoo sourced from Find a Grave

Date Contributor Update
28 January 2019 13:59:18 Kickapoo Changes to biography
Sources

Black Sunday - Michael Hill

Date Contributor Update
15 October 2018 22:57:28 Kickapoo Changes to biography and events
Sources

Black Sunday - Michael Hill

Date Contributor Update
09 August 2018 11:29:36 Kickapoo Changes to biography
Sources

Find A Grave

Date Contributor Update
02 August 2018 08:53:13 general ira snapsorter Changes to biography and person associations
Sources

Merged with duplicate entry to include details from:
- user "Kickapoo" https://www.americanairmuseum.com/user/36739

Date Contributor Update
22 March 2018 09:48:57 Kickapoo Changes to biography and unit associations
Sources

Black Sunday - Ploesti ! by Michael Hill

Date Contributor Update
22 March 2018 09:42:25 Kickapoo Changes to biography
Sources

Black Sunday - Ploest ! by Michael Hill

Date Contributor Update
22 March 2018 09:14:46 Kickapoo Changes to biography
Sources

Black Sunday - Ploesti ! by Michael Hill

Date Contributor Update
08 March 2017 15:08:37 general ira snapsorter Changes to biography, events and unit associations
Sources

Merged with duplicate entry to include details from:
- the records of the National Museum of the Mighty Eighth Air Force, Savannah, Georgia

Date Contributor Update
18 April 2015 14:25:47 Al_Skiff Created entry with surname, middlename, firstname, suffix, nationality, service number, highest rank, role, biography, events, unit associations, aircraft associations and mission associations
Sources

http://usaafdata.com / http://www.findagrave.com

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