Today’s #VeteranOfTheDay is Air Force Veteran Robert Sharp, who flew bombing missions in France and Germany during World War II.
As a child, Robert Sharp joined his school’s drum and bugle corps. He enjoyed the experience and later became part of the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) during high school. He became second lieutenant of the ROTC second platoon and served as a member on the officer’s saber team. In his free time, Sharp took a vocational class to learn how to repair aircraft sheet metal.
While attending college at the University of Utah, he got a job in sheet metal repair at nearby Hill Field in Ogden. When World War II started, Sharp joined as a pilot. “I always liked to drive fast and enjoyed pushing my 1935 Ford Coupe to its limits,” he said in a 2017 article from Desert News. “Flying a fighter plane seemed like the ultimate in speed and more fun than marching, camping out and getting shot at on the front lines.”
Sharp went to basic training at Luke Field in Glendale, Arizona, before taking on additional training at Harding Field in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. It was during this time that he met his fellow pilots and close friends, Jerry Kelly and Don Evans. When Sharp was assigned training duty due to his skills as a sharpshooter, he requested to join his comrades on the front lines. He was assigned to the 368th Fighter Group and made part of the 397th Fighter Squadron.
In July 1944, Sharp’s unit deployed to Scotland and then sent to France in the fall. Sharp’s squadron saw its first mission that September. Flying a P-47 Mustang, he provided aerial support for ground forces by bombing targets. “The Army would call in a target, and we would strafe the woods or shoot up a tank or cars on the road or whatever was moving, people included,” he recalled. “It was a nasty situation. We’d do what was necessary.” Sharp flew 78 successful combat missions in Europe.
After the war, Sharp returned to Utah and finished his studies at the University of Utah. He later moved to California to accept a job at Lockheed Martin, where he worked on data analysis of planes like the SR-71 Blackbird and Lockheed L-1011 TriStar. He joined the Utah Air National Guard while completing his degree and later the California Air National Guard. Sharp retired from Lockheed Martin in 1988.
Sharp ended his military service as a lieutenant colonel. During his service, he received the Distinguished Flying Cross and an Air Medal with 10 oak leaf clusters.
In his retirement, Sharp enjoys spending time with his extended family. He and his wife Jackie have three children, 13 grandchildren, 30 great-grandchildren and one great-great-grandchild. His wartime experiences were later chronicled in the book Missing: A World War II Story of Love, Friendships, Courage and Survival by Kenneth D. Evans, son of his friend Don Evans.
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Writer: Sarah Concepcion
Editors: Katherine Berman
Researcher: Carl Wesseln
Graphic Designer: Katie Rahill