The World War II experience of Robert L. Stone, 1942–1945

Robert L. Stone’s crew, 1945. (The Gilder Lehrman Institute, GLC09620.290)

Lieutenant Robert “Bob” Stone served as a bombardier in the 431st Bomb Squadron (Heavy), 7th United States Army Air Force in the Pacific during World War II. Born on December 19, 1921 in New York City,  Bob was a nineteen-year-old sophomore at Williams College in Massachusetts when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. In a 2006 oral history, Bob recalled listening to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s Day of Infamy speech.

“I was a sophomore at Williams College studying in my room with the radio on (there was no TV in those days) and I heard President Roosevelt announce that the Japs had made a sneak attack dropping tons of bombs on Pearl Harbor where virtually our entire Navy was berthed. The devastation of our navy’s ships plus the enormous loss of American lives upset and angered me so much that I immediately enlisted in the aviation cadets as an entry into the [Army] Air Forces. The unprovoked and dastardly act by the Japanese is something I will never forget!”

By the end of the war, Bob’s two brothers and two stepbrothers had also joined the military.

This series of Spotlights charts several of his most powerful experiences during the war. His letters provide the detailed eyewitness account of one soldier in a way that cannot be captured in a textbook.

  Explore Bob’s letters below
Robert L. Stone in uniform, December 28, 1943. (The Gilder Lehrman Institute, GLC09620.265) Bob Stone joins the Army Air Forces, 1942-1944
Bob Stone's St. Francis Medal carried on every mission.  (The Gilder Lehrman Institute, GLC09620) A frightening mission over Iwo Jima, 1945
Photograph of Barry Marks in Uniform, 1943-1944. (The Gilder Lehrman Institute, GLC09620.350) The Battle of Iwo Jima: A family waits for news, 1945
Franklin D. Roosevelt, by S. N. Swamy, 1938. (The Gilder Lehrman Institute, GLC00162.18) The death of Franklin D. Roosevelt, 1945