A Son's Remembrance Letter

Wilbur A. Rohrbach, B-17 Crew Chief, 601st Squadron

By James A. Rohrbach

I’ve been meaning to write the 398th Bomb Group Memorial Association for the past year as my father passed away on December 2, 2001.  My father, Wilbur A. Rohrbach was a B-17 crew chief in the 601st Squadron.  He was going on 84 years of age and died of heart failure.  Through the years he always discussed his experiences both stateside and in England during World War II with me.  Dad had enlisted before December 7, 1941 as he completed an aircraft mechanics school at LaGuardia Airport in November 1941. He graduated from the Perry Institute on August 30, 1942 and by June 1943 was promoted to Master Sergeant.  He and my mother were married on January 22, 1943. They stayed together in Rapid City, SD from June 1943 until April 1944.  During that time he trained those being drafted into service as B-17 mechanics.

In April 1944 he went to England as part of the 398th Bomb Group as a B-17 crew chief.  Dad’s first aircraft as crew chief was the Black Widow.  He never told me that, nor did he ever tell me that his first plane was shot down and the crew was missing.  His second aircraft made a forced landing in Belgium after fifteen missions and was salvaged.  His third plane was blown up by flak, but the crew bailed out.  His fourth and final plane had a lot of battle damage from time to time, and flew its last mission on April 18, 1945.  Dad was recommended for a Bronze Star as the planes he was responsible for flew 104 missions without a mechanical abort.  I thought you would like to know of my Dad’s record for historical purposes.

I am very proud of my father.  He served his country well, returned home like all the other veterans, worked hard through life and enjoyed his retirement years.  I was at his side the night he passed away and know his years with the B-17 were the most exciting of his life.  Please keep sending the Flak News to me as I am enclosing a check for the newsletter and extra for your memorial fund. 

James A. Rohrbach


Transcribed from a letter sent to Wally Blackwell in January 2002.


Personal History Information
  1. Veteran: Wilbur A. Rohrbach
  2. Crew Chief, 601st Squadron
  3. Date of Personal History: January 2002
  4. Author: James A. Rohrbach
  5. Submitted to 398th Web Pages by: Wally Blackwell