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Robert James Nespor Jr

Military

1st Lt. Robert James Nespor, Jr. was a B-24D bomber command pilot in the 9th Air Force, the 98th Bombardment Group, "The Pyramiders", and the 330th Bombing Squadron, based at Benghazi, Libya, in North Africa. He was assigned to fly on the huge mission, Operation Tidal Wave, to bomb the oil refineries at Ploesti, Romania, on 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, with a replacement crew, to fly his friend, 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 Commander, Col. John R. Kane, to fly with him in his lead ship, the B-24D, 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.
At just after 0750 hours on the morning of the Ploesti mission, Lt. Nespor and John Riley, were at the controls of Kickapoo. As they were making their takeoff run, Kickapoo, had a complete number 4 engine failure and fire. The two pilots pulled their stricken B-24D 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 Lete 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 planes taking 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 began losing power from his remaining engines, 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 crashed their left wing into a concrete pole, cartwheeling, Kickapoo, which came apart and exploded in flames, ultimately, killing Lt. Nespor, John Riley, 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 and his crew were posthumously awarded the Purple heart and Oak Leaf Clusters to their Distinguished Flying Cross medals.

Lt. Robert James Nespor was only 22 years old when he gave his life for freedom and his country. 1 Aug 1943.

Replacement Crew - B-24D - 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

Crash Report :
- "Lt. Robert J. Nespor – A B-24 bomber pilot in the 344th Bomb Squadron, the 98th Bomb Group, and the 9th Air Force, flew on Operation Tidal Wave, Aug 1, 1943, Lt. Nespor was assigned to fly Lt. John Young’s regular airplane, Kickapoo, as command pilot with a replacement crew partly from the 376th Bomb Group. The first abort came ten minutes after takeoff – at 07:50 – when Lt. Robert Nespor's number four engine failed and caught on fire. Nespor thought he could make it back to the Benina strip, but the field was still a swirling fog of red dust stirred up by the prop wash of the last planes that took off, which caused the tower to order him to go around for another try. On his second try, Nespor lost power on his remaining engines. Kickapoo sank and hit the runway, bounced and hit again, skidding down the extreme edge of the field, hitting a concrete telephone pole with it's wing and exploded in flames. Eight of the ten men were killed, burned in the flames of the fire. Eleven planes in all aborted the mission. "

Service

People

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    Military | First Lieutenant | B-24 Command Pilot | 98th Bomb Group
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  • John D'Amour

    Military | Staff Sergeant | Gunner | 93rd Bomb Group
    Crew member of B-24 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 toward the...

  • Eugene Garner

    Military | Staff Sergeant | Gunner | 93rd Bomb Group
    Crew member SSgt. Eugene Robert Garner flew on Operation Tidal wave and was one of two survivors of the crash of the B-24D, KICKAPOO, on takeoff for the Ploesti mission. He was assigned as part of a replacement crew for the B-24D, KICKAPOO, from the...

  • Ronald Helder

    Military | Second Lieutenant | B-24D Co-Pilot | 389th Bomb Group
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  • Lloyd Hughes

    Military | Second Lieutenant | B-24 Command Pilot | 389th Bomb Group
    Lloyd Herbert Hughes Jr., better known to his friends, as "Pete," flew his fifth mission, as pilot of a B-24D Liberator bomber in an attack against the Axis oil refineries in Ploesti, Romania. He was killed August 1, 1943 when his plane was severely...

  • John Kane

    Military | Colonel | B-24 Bomb Group Commanding Officer / B-24 Command Pilot | 98th Bomb Group
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  • 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-24D command pilot in the 9th Air force, the 98th Bomb Group, and the 344th Bomb Squadron. He flew his B-24D, he named, The Squaw, on Operation Tidal Wave, the large mission to destroy the German held oil refineries at...

  • James Lindsey

    Military | Flight Officer | B-24D Co-Pilot | 98th Bomb Group
    James Rex Lindsey ...

  • Armand Massart

    Military | Technical Sergeant | B-24 Radio Operator | 93rd Bomb Group
    Tech Sergeant Armand Massart was a radio operator (RO) assigned (TDY) to the 9th Air Force, the 98th Bomb Group, and the 344th Bomb Squadron for Operation Tidal Wave to Ploesti, Romania. He was one of the replacement crewmembers assigned to the B-24D,...

Show more

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. ...

  • 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

  • 42-40402 The Sandman

    B-24 Liberator
    The B-24D Liberator bomber, named, The Sandman, was flown by Lt. Robert Sternfels and his copilot, Lt. Barney Jackson, in the 9th Air Force, the 98th Bomb Group, and the 345th Bomb Squadron, on Operation Tidal Wave, the famous mission to destroy the...

  • 41-24198 The Vulgar Virgin - Hell From Heaven - Shoot You're Faded

    B-24 Liberator
    - The B-24D, 41-24198, named, The Vulgar Virgin, flown by Capt. Wallace Taylor, in the 9th AF, the 98th BG, and the 344th BS, based in Benghazi, Libya, should not be confused with Lt. Claude A. Turner's B-24D, 42-40608, also named, The Vulgar Virgin...

  • 41-11819 Raunchy

    B-24 Liberator
    The B-24D Liberator, Raunchy, 41-11819, was in the 344th Bomb Squadron, the 98th Bomb Group, and the 9th Air Force, based at Benghazi, Libya, North Africa, in early 1943. ...

  • 41-11768 Kickapoo

    B-24 Liberator
    The B-24D Liberator, 41-11768, named, 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 was...

Missions

  • Operation Tidal Wave

    1 August 1943
    Operation TIDAL WAVE. B-24D 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...

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
21 October 2021 20:05:52 Kickapoo Changes to nickname, biography and unit associations
Sources

Spelling and detail changes for accuracy. - Kickapoo

Date Contributor Update
01 October 2021 14:28:16 Kickapoo Changes to biography
Sources

Details added. - Kickapoo

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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