Broken Bow Man and Former WWII POW Dies at 97

Broken Bow Man and Former WWII POW Dies at 97
R. Paul Robison September 10, 1922 - May 16, 2020

BROKEN BOW–The public is invited to help pay tribute to a World War II veteran who passed away earlier this week. A private graveside service for R. Paul Robison will be held on Wednesday, May 20, 2020 at 10:30 a.m. at the Broken Bow Township Cemetery.

Friends of the family are asking citizens to line the roadway between Govier Brothers Mortuary (542 S 9th Ave, Broken Bow, NE 68822) and the Broken Bow Cemetery north of Broken Bow on Highway 21 prior to the service. Park and walk to a place on the sidewalk as the procession heads to the cemetery and maybe bring an American flag to show your support for his military service.

A husband, father, grandfather, and great-grandfather, Paul Robison grew up in Broken Bow and later served as a tech sergeant and aerial gunner on a B-17 fighter plane. On the same day as President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s State of the Union Address in 1944, the “Passionate Witch” fighter plane was shot down in Germany during its eighth mission. Robison and fellow crew members were taken as Prisoners of War (POW) and transported to Austria. Robison remained in the prisoner camp for 16 months before being liberated by the American 13th Armored Division in May 1945.

Govier Brothers Mortuary released the following obituary:

R. Paul Robison was born September 10, 1922 to Raymond and Florence (Tappan) Robison. Paul passed away on May 16, 2020 at the Good Samaritan Society in Ravenna, NE.
A private graveside services will be held on May 20, 2020 at 10:30 AM at the Broken Bow Township Cemetery with Military Honors, Pastor Bob Winn officiating.

A visitation will be held on Tuesday, May 19, 2020 from 1:00 TO 7:00 P.M. at Govier Brothers Mortuary in Broken Bow, NE. An online guest book can be signed for words of encouragement or remembrance at www.govierbrothers.com.

Govier Brothers Mortuary will comply with the CDC and State of Nebraska. Govier Brothers Mortuary wants to remind people that no more than 10 people will be allowed in the Funeral Home at one time. We sincerely encourage each person to make your decision whether to attend a viewing based on the best interest of your health and that of your community.

Paul lived most of his life on North 12th Avenue in Broken Bow, NE in three different houses. His ancestors settled Tappan Valley in Custer County in 1879, a fact that he was very proud of. Paul attended Broken Bow High School graduating in 1940. While in high school he worked at the J.C. Penney store and continued working there until he joined the military. After he returned from his service he worked for the U.S. Postal service for 32 years. He then went to work at Security State Bank until it closed. For 36 years, Paul and Ann were janitors at the First Presbyterian Church. Paul knew how to make the floors in the fellowship hall shine!

Paul enlisted in military during WWII, following the path of his father who served in WWI, so it seemed natural to Paul to serve himself. Paul attempted to join the Navy but he failed the entrance exam because he was colorblind. He was then offered entry into the Army Air-Corp. A group of service men were asked if any of them could type. Paul was an excellent typist but he didn’t share that information for fear that he would be stuck in an office and he really want to wear one of those cool boomer jackets and sunglasses. Paul did his basic training and flight training in Leavenworth, KS. His first stop overseas was in England and eventually was based out of a camp in Vienna.

While in the Air-Corp Paul did a multitude of tasks, but his official title became a tech sergeant and aerial gunner in the top turret on a B-17 “The Passionate Witch” fighter plane. On Jan 11, 1944 his plane plummeted out of the sky due to being shot down over Hanover, Germany. It was the eighth mission for the crew. All 10 crew members got out of the plane, however the pilot’s parachute did not open and he was killed. The rest of the crew was taken prisoner and paraded through the nearby German villages.

The POWs were eventually stuffed into a small cattle car and transported to Stalag 17B camp, just outside of Krems, Austria. They had to endure an ungodly amount of filth and were fed minuscule amounts of food. Paul stated that the only thing that helped them get through the duration of their capture was the Red Cross food parcels of Spam, powdered milk, and saltine crackers, otherwise it was rutabaga soup. Paul did not smoke and would trade his cigarette allotment for food too.

Paul had to remain at the camp for sixteen months. Those in the camp were then force to walk a grueling stretch of 287 miles, so the German could escape oncoming Russian air raids. On May 3, 1945, as they reached a forest in Austria, the American 13th Armored Division liberated them. General Eisenhower himself came and shook hands with everyone and questioned them about what had happened.

Paul said that by the grace of God he was able to make it and he was glad to be freed. Paul received a Purple Heart because he received an injury when his plane came down, an Air Medal since he flew over five missions in the war, and a Presidential Unit Citation for being one of the sixty planes that were shot down. Paul was an absolute humble gentleman and his service for our country will forever leave a mark in history. Paul was the last of “The Passionate Witch” crew to pass away.

Paul was united in marriage to Anna Marie Wanitschke on the stormy day of June 20, 1948. The weather may have been stormy but their marriage was not. Paul and Ann were happily married for 67 years prior to Ann’s death on August 29, 2015. This union was blessed with one son, Michael (Mike) Paul Robison on April 6, 1954. Mike married Kris Engel and soon added two more boys to the family, Jeremy Paul and Jacob Michael Robison. You would be hard pressed to find a more dedicated and loving husband, father, grandfather and great-grandfather than Paul. He was an amazing storyteller, loved a good joke and always had a twinkle in his eyes.

Paul is survived by his son Michael and wife Kris of Broken Bow, grandsons Jeremy and fiance’ Gracia Kramer of Lincoln and Jacob Robison of Broken Bow; two great grandchildren Olivia Kramer and Owen Robison of Lincoln; sister-in-law Virginia Bohl of Loup City, Irma Wanitschke of Derby, KS and Donna Wanitschke of Grand Island as well as many other family members and friends. He was preceded in death by his parents and wife Anna Marie Robison.

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