World War II Fighter Ace to attend AF Ball

27th Fighter Wing Historian

Robert J. Goebel, the youngest of seven children, was born in Racine, Wis., in 1923.
He entered the service as an Aviation Cadet at age 19 in 1942 and began his military career at the San Antonio Aviation Cadet Center. After completing pre-flight training, he was sent to the Primary Flight School at Corsicana, Texas and began his flying career in the Fairchild PT-19. Basic flying and training followed at Majors Field, Greenville, Texas, with the BT-13 and advanced training was completed at Moore Field, McAllen, Texas, in the AT-6.
After graduating in May 1943, his first assignment was to Panama, where he flew the P-39s and P-40s in defense of the Panama Canal. He returned to the ZI (Zone of the Interior) in December 1943 and was immediately shipped out to North Africa. After docking at Oran, Algeria, he was moved to Telergma, where he was checked out in the Spitfire in preparation for joining the 31st Fighter Group, one of two American Spitfire groups operating in the Mediterranean area. However, when he finally joined the group at Castel Volturno, Italy, on April 1, 1944, it was in the process of re-equipping with the Mustang, moving to the Foggia side of Italy and changing from close support of the front lines to heavy bomber escort as part of the 15th Air Force.
He flew a total of 61 long range missions from San Severo, Italy, with the 31st FG in support of the bomber offensive of Southern Europe, including a shuttle run to Russia and 16 trips to the Ploesti oil fields. In the course of his combat tour, he destroyed 11 enemy fighters in the air. Although he led his squadron into combat seven times and led the entire group of 48 aircraft twice, he was still only 21 years old when he completed his tour and returned to the United States.
His decorations include the Silver Star, the Distinguished Flying Cross with one oak leaf cluster, the Air Medal with 17 oak leaf clusters, and the Presidential Unit Citation with one oak leaf cluster.
He left the Service in 1946 to attend the University of Wisconsin and earned a bachelor’s degree in physics in 1948. After serving in the Wisconsin Air National Guard as Commander of the 126th Figther Squadron for two years, he returned to active duty in the spring of 1950.
After various assignments in Atomic Energy and Space
Programs, he retired from the
Air Force in 1966.
Decorations: Silver Star, Distinguished Flying Cross with one cluster and Air Medal with 17 clusters.
Mr. Goebel, along with two other World War II fighter aces, will be featured guests at Cannon Air Force Base’s AF Ball 16 Sept.