• Robert J. Goebel – Gone West

    Posted on February 28th, 2011 John Dorcey 1 comment

    Today would have been Robert Goebel’s birthday. Mr. Goebel died last Sunday, February 20, just days short of his 88th birthday. Goebel, a member of the greatest generation, was typical of the group. He enlisted on April 4, 1942 as an aviation cadet. Goebel graduated flight training, earning his wings and second lieutenant commission in May 1943. His first assignment, defense of the Panama Canal, would last a scant five months. He flew the Curtiss P-40 Warhawk and Bell P-39 Airacobra while gaining invaluable fighter pilot experience.

    Lt Robert Goebel in his P-51 "Flying Dutchman"

    Robert shared his World War II combat pilot story in the book, Mustang Ace, Memoirs of a P-51 Fighter Pilot. In the book’s forward, Goebel states, “Like the rest of my generation, in combat I did what I had to do, the best way I knew how. There was no hating, no anguish, no sense of guilt. Only of getting the job done.”

    First Lieutenant Robert J. Goebel was awarded the Silver Star on August 18, 1944. The citation reads in part, “Displaying outstanding aggressiveness and courage, with complete disregard for the overwhelming superiority of enemy aircraft, Lieutenant Goebel immediately engaged the hostile ships, and, in the ensuing engagement destroyed two enemy fighters and forced the rest to withdraw, thus saving the life of his comrade. En route to base, though having serious mechanical difficulties, he again intercepted enemy aircraft and accounted for another enemy fighter destroyed.”

    Lt. Robert Goebel, wife June, and son Gary

    He flew 61 combat missions in the North American P-51 Mustang during World War II. He had 11 aerial victories over enemy aircraft. In addition to the Silver Star, Goebel was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross with Silver Oak Leaf Cluster, and the Air Medal with 17 Bronze Oak Leaf Clusters.

    After the war, Goebel attended the University of Wisconsin and earned a bachelor’s degree in physics. He served as commander of the Wisconsin Air National Guard’s 126th Fighter Squadron until being recalled into the Air Force in 1950. Lieutenant Colonel Robert Goebel retired from the USAF in 1966. After retiring from the Air Force, he worked for NASA and the Atomic Energy Commission.

    Robert J. Goebel, 2003

    Goebel was born on February 28, 1923, in Racine, Wisconsin. He was the youngest of seven children. Robert married his high school sweetheart, June Meany, while awaiting orders to San Antonio Aviation Cadet Center. They were married for 64 years. Together they raised nine children. June died March 6, 2006. In addition to their children, he is survived by 27 grandchildren and 37 great-grandchildren.

    Robert was inducted into the Wisconsin Aviation Hall of Fame in 2003.