World War II Honor Roll

Robert J. Donaldson

Staff Sergeant, U.S. Army Air Force


528th Bomber Squadron
380th Bombardment Group, Heavy

Entered the Service from: New Jersey
Died: February 19, 1943
Buried at: First United Methodist Cemetery
                  Williamstown NJ

STAFF SERGEANT ROBERT JAMES DONALDSON JR. was born on August 30, 1922 to Robert J. and Mary Donaldson. His early years were spent in Collingdale PA. When the census was taken in April of 1930 the family lived at 130 Cherry Street in Collingdale, the elder Donaldson supporting his family working in a wire factory. Besides Robert Jr., who was the oldest child, the family included a brother, Charles, and sisters Mary and Lillian. Also living on Cherry Street were his mother's parents, Edmond and Mary Williamson, and an aunt, Lena Williamson.

A high school graduate, Robert Donaldson Jr. went to Philadelphia and enlisted in the Army Air Corps on January 7, 1942. After training as a radio operator he was assigned to a B-24 bomber crew in the 528th Bomber Squadron, 380th Bombardment Group. 

Also in 1942, Robert Donaldson Sr. went into business for himself, founding a business now knows as Robert J. Donaldson, Inc., a company that today specializes in the manufacture of woven wire products.

The February 22, 1943 edition of the Camden Courier-Post reported that Staff Sergeant Donaldson, then of Sicklerville NJ, was killed in when a bomber crashed at Roswell NM. The crash at Roswell occurred on February 19, 1943. Seven other men were killed, including Second Lieutenant Richard L. Morris, of Haddonfield NJ and Second Lieutenant Edward L. Games, of Camden. 

2-12-43A. Roswell, New Mexico.  At 0526 MWT, a Consolidated B-24D crashed eight miles northwest of Roswell, New Mexico, killing eight crewmembers. Engineer SSgt Ralph E. King, Onaway, Michigan, was able to parachute to safety and was uninjured.  Killed in the crash were: 2Lt.Charles C. Wylie, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, pilot; 2Lt.Edward L. Games, Camden, New Jersey, co-pilot; 2Lt. Richard L. Morris, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, bombardier; 2Lt.James E. McMullen, East Point, Georgia, navigator; Sgt. George Dickson, Barnsdall, Oklahoma, assistant engineer; SSgt. Robert I. Donaldson, Collingdale, Pennsylvania, radio operator; Sgt. Lesley W. Stinne, Jr., Louisville, Kentucky, assistant radio operator; Sgt. John J. Yauch, Holliday Cave, West Virginia, gunner. Investigators stated, "The mission started out as a four-airplane formation navigation and bombing mission, take-off at 0100.  They were to fly from Biggs Field to Big Spring, Texas, to Amarillo, Texas, at 12,000 feet indicated en route to Alamogordo Bombing Range, New Mexico, drop ten bombs, and then return to Biggs Field, Texas.  The four airplanes flew in loose formation to Big Spring, Texas; three airplanes then turned toward Amarillo; one airplane became separated and did not regain the formation (Liaison radio went out and he returned to Biggs Field).  After reaching Amarillo, the formation turned toward the Alamogordo Bombing Range and started to climb at about 400 feet a minute.  At 17,000 feet, the three airplanes executed an opening procedure placing the airplanes in an echelon to the right.  The number-two airplane then dropped out of formation due to the failure of one of the crew's oxygen apparatus.  The number-three airplane then started to close on the lead airplane, but encountered engine ice and lost altitude until he was about 1,500 feet below the leader.  The pilot then eliminated the ice.  His altitude at that time was about 20,000 feet.  He then started to close up the formation and was going to take the number-two position.  In doing this he began to over-run the leader, so he maneuvered his airplane so that he would stay in formation.  At about 22,500 feet he noticed the lead airplane lose about 600 to 800 feet and then go down rapidly.  The altitude of the leader just before he lost altitude was approximately 23,500 feet or 24,000 feet,  The next time he looked at the leader's airplane he could see two red lights revolving (no green lights were visible).  The airplane then went out of sight under his (port) wing.  The pilot then started to turn to see where (the subject airplane) was going, instead he saw the sky light up and after turning farther he saw a fire on the ground.  "Investigation revealed that the airplane had entered a spin due to the engines quitting because of severe carburetor ice.  When the airplane began spinning to the ground it suffered the catastrophic structural failure and separation of the tail section and the port wing.  The bomb bay doors were found nearly five miles from the main wreckage.  Most of the wreckage was scattered over a three-mile area.  The airplane had exploded into flames upon impact.  The engineer stated that he could not release his emergency hatch because of extreme g-forces.  He also stated that he was either unconscious or extremely disoriented while the airplane continued to spin to the ground.  When the airplane suddenly stopped spinning, he saw that the bomb doors were apparently open so he jumped out and deployed his parachute once clear of the aircraft.  Investigation of the B-24D type airplane revealed that dangerous flight characteristics were exhibited when the airplane suddenly lost power on one or both port engines.

Robert James Donaldson Jr. was brought home for burial. His parents lived out their lives in Sicklerville, Robert Sr. passing in October of 1978, Mary Donaldson joining her son and husband on October 12, 1988. The Donaldson family still resides in the area, and the family business, Robert J. Donaldson, Inc. is still in operation over 60 years after its founding.    

Camden Courier-Post - February 22, 1943

Camden Courier-Post - February 24, 1943