Omro Veterans Memorial

....honor all who served.

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First of all, I would like to say what an honor and a privilege it has been to do the research and report on Robert. It makes him more than just a name on a panel. I almost feel as if I know him. I'm certain that if I had known him, I would have liked him.


I wasn't able to find family still living based on the information that I had, but I hope that, if there is a relative or someone that knew him first-hand, they will add to what I have and offer pictures, or stories of his life.


BORN – June 28, 1924

Enlisted in the U. S. Army Air Corps April 27, 1943

Received Basic Training at Greensboro, North Carolina

Engineering study at Keesler Field, Mississippi

Gunnery training at Fort Meyers, Florida

In March of 1944 he received his wings

Robert was born in Milwaukee, the son of the late Mr & Mrs Edward Karlson.

His mother died when he was 3 years old, and his father passed away when he was 14.

Since 1932 he lived with his aunt and uncle, Mr & Mrs Earl Trotter at Route 1, Omro.

He graduated from Omro High School in 1942. He was a member of Elo Methodist Church. A couple of his classmates described him as very intelligent, handsome, quiet, and a "nice guy".

Robert was a Technical Sergeant in the 493rd Bombardment Group/861st Heavy Bombardment Squadron. His group was named "Helton's Hellcats" after the group's first commanding officer, Col. Elbert Helton. He flew out of Debach Airfield, England.

The 493rd flew a total of 158 missions (46 in B-24 Liberators, and 111 in B-17 Flying Fortresses).

41 aircraft went missing.

234 personnel lost their lives.

Robert left for overseas in September of 1944. As an engineer gunner of a B-17 Flying Fortress, he had 14 missions to his credit.

I found this piece on-line;

An infantryman by the name of Ernie Pyle spent years with the infantry in Africa, Italy and Europe, and wanted to see how the Air Corps men flying long missions in heavy bombers fared. He asked to go on a mission with a B-17 Flying Fortress group. He was welcomed and issued a flying suit, parachute and oxygen mask for the mission. They took off very early, flew across the Mediterranean Sea, bombed the target, flew through heavy flak, and enemy fighters, then struggled back to the base six hours later. When back on the ground he said he never wanted to go through that again. When asked about the difference between combat on the ground and in the air, he said "that in the air there were so many more ways to die than in the infantry." In the ground forces they die:

when hit by a bullet, or by shrapnel from a bomb, a hand grenade or enemy fire,

or when run over by an enemy tank.

A bomber crewman could die:

when a fully loaded plane crashes on take off, or collides with another plane while forming overhead,

from bullets from enemy fighter planes,

when a piece of flak hits a crewman,

a direct flak hit on the plane, and the plane explodes,

an engine fire gets to the gas tank and the plane explodes,

the plane is shot down, crash lands, and the crew are all killed,

when a man bails out,and his chute doesn't open,

when a man bails out, and he drowns in rough seas,

he bails out but gets shot by enemy fighters,

his oxygen mask freezes, and he dies of anoxia.

These are just a few of the dangers an airman had to face. Robert faced them 14 times.

Sergeant Karlson was killed while on a bombing mission over the synthetic oil refineries at Merseberg, Germany. This was the last major oil refinery in operation in Germany. There had been several attempts to destroy it. It was defended by 750 guns.

Robert was reported missing in action, but it was discovered later that he had been killed. He was killed in action on November 25, 1944, at the age of 20.