Second Lieutenant Robert E. Femoyer, USAAF (November 2, 1944)

Robert Edward Femoyer was born on Halloween, October 31, 1921 in Huntington, West Virginia. He was a student at Virginia Tech when he enlisted in the United States Army Air Corps on February 4, 1943.  Femoyer wanted to be a pilot, but didn’t pass the training and was assigned as a gunnery officer and navigator instead.

He was assigned to the 711th Bombardment Squadron of the 447th Bombardment Group (Heavy) of the United States Army Air Forces in late September, 1944. About six weeks later, and just two days after his 23rd birthday, Femoyer’s Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress was smashed by three heavy flak shells over the target in Merseburg, Germany.

The direct hits grievously wounded Femoyer, but he refused pain killers and care, instead insisting to be propped up at his duty station so he might navigate them around other anti-aircraft concentrations and get the aircraft home. Only after the ship was clear over the English Channel did he allow morphine to be administered.

Femoyer died of his wounds shortly after his bomber returned to base. For his courageous self-sacrifice which saved the lives of the rest of his crewmates, he was posthumously decorated with the Medal of Honor.

From Medal of Honor Citations for World War II (A-F):

Medal of Honor ribbon (foreground); World War II European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign ribbon (background)
Medal of Honor ribbon (foreground); World War II European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign ribbon (background)
Photo: Military Times’ Hall of Valor

*FEMOYER, ROBERT E. (Air Mission)

Rank and organization: Second Lieutenant, 711th Bombing Squadron, 447th Bomber Group, U.S. Army Air Corps. Place and date: Over Merseburg, Germany, 2 November 1944. Entered service at: Jacksonville, Fla. G.O. No.: 35, 9 May 1945

Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty near Merseburg, Germany, on 2 November 1944. While on a mission, the bomber, of which 2d Lt. Femoyer was the navigator, was struck by 3 enemy antiaircraft shells. The plane suffered serious damage and 2d Lt. Femoyer was severely wounded in the side and back by shell fragments which penetrated his body. In spite of extreme pain and great loss of blood he refused an offered injection of morphine. He was determined to keep his mental faculties clear in order that he might direct his plane out of danger and so save his comrades. Not being able to arise from the floor, he asked to be propped up in order to enable him to see his charts and instruments. He successfully directed the navigation of his lone bomber for 2 1/2 hours so well it avoided enemy flak and returned to the field without further damage. Only when the plane had arrived in the safe area over the English Channel did he feel that he had accomplished his objective; then, and only then, he permitted an injection of a sedative. He died shortly after being removed from the plane. The heroism and self-sacrifice of 2d Lt. Femoyer are in keeping with the highest traditions of the U.S. Army.

Femoyer’s remains were repatriated to the United States and his adopted home of Jacksonville, Florida. He rests in peace in the Greenlawn Cemetery.

The descendent of the 711th Bombardment Squadron is today known as the 711th Special Operations Squadron and is assigned to the United States Air Force‘s 919th Special Operations Wing. The 447th BG(H) most recently was identified as the 447th Air Expeditionary Group, which was deactivated in Iraq during 2011.

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