Robins promotion ceremony unites two generations of Airmen

  • Published
  • By Wayne Crenshaw
  • 78th Air Base Wing Public Affairs
Retired Air Force Maj. William C. Robinson is a highly decorated World War II pilot, but when he spoke to members of the 5th Mob last week at Robins, he primarily wanted to talk about the efforts of another pilot - his wife.

Sitting on the front row as Mr. Robinson spoke to over two hundred Airmen at a promotion ceremony was his wife, Barbara, who also happens to have been a World War II pilot. She was among 1,102 women who flew as Women Airforce Service Pilots, or WASP. Their primary mission was to fly ferrying operations for the military in the States, which freed up male pilots to fly in combat. 

"The real reason I am here is because of my wife," said Mr. Robinson, who was awarded a Distinguished Flying Cross and Air Medal with six oak leaf clusters. "She took me on the second airplane ride I ever had. She claimed I became a cadet just to prove I could do it."

They came to Robins for the promotion ceremony of their granddaughter's husband, Tech. Sgt. Michael Goodman. They "tacked on" his new stripes, punching him on the arm after he donned his jacked.

Mr. Robinson, wearing his old Air Force uniform, spoke to the 5th Mob members about his experiences flying combat missions in the Pacific, but he talked more about his wife and the need to recognize the WASPs. Ms. Robinson is one of only about 300 who are still living. Both are 87.

Mr. Robinson urged the 5th Mobsters to support a bill in Congress, Senate Bill 614, which calls for giving WASPs the Congressional Gold Medal, which is the nation's highest medal for civilians.

"They deserve it," he said. "They didn't think about their lives. These girls had no benefits. They paid their way to training and when they were disbanded they paid their way home."

Although they flew for the military, the WASPs were denied full military status. Despite not flying in combat, Mr. Robinson said, they put themselves at great risk. He noted that many died in training, mostly flying planes that had been used in combat operations. The pilots had to take up collections to buy coffins and send the bodies home, he said.

Col. Jose Rivera, commander of the 5th Mob, told the group after Mr. Robinson's talk that they should take inspiration from the couple's experiences.

"If you ever had a doubt about what service to this country means as we are working out there in Iraq and Afghanistan, if you ever had a doubt of what means to be an American, you need to think about the Robinsons," he said.