|#1-25 Feb., 1943 - The Enterprise|
BOB FLYNN KILLED ON FRENCH RAID
Popular Blair Boy Is First Blair Casualty Of The War
SON OF MR. AND MRS. R. P. FLYNN
Word was received late Sunday evening of the death of First Lieutenant Robert K. Flynn, well known Blair man who was killed in action in Europe. Bob’s death is the first war casualty from Blair.
Flynn, 27 years of age and a graduate of the Blair High School in 1933, was well known here and had a host of friends whom he made in his dairy and farming activities in this community.
He was born at Ord, Nebraska, moving with his family to Blair in 1931. He was a member of the I.O.O.F. lodge and the First Methodist church in Blair.
The message, which was received by his parents, Mr. and Mrs. R. P. Flynn, shortly after 6:00 p.m. Sunday evening read as follows:
“The Secretary of War desires me to express his deep regret that your son, 1st Lieutenant Robert K. Flynn was killed in action in defense of his country in western European area February 15th. Letter follows.
The Adjutant General.”
Although the Flynns knew that Bob was engaged in bombing operations from a field in England, they had no hint of just where he might have been at the time of the fatal mission. A study of the newspaper reports of the February 15th activities reveals the possibilities that he was engaged in a raid up St. Nazaire, France, although nothing definite is known. He had been overseas since October 1st, 1942. His training, since entering the service on November 9th, 1941, had been fitting him to be a bombardier, although letters to home folks had indicated that he was also doing some piloting.
Bob has a brother, Tom Flynn in the service also. He is stationed at Camp Bowie, Texas where he is connected with the recreational division of the camp.
Other surviving members of his family, besides the parents, Mr. and Mrs. R. P. Flynn, are four brothers and three sisters. The brothers are Adrian and Eugene Flynn, who are at home in Blair; Richard Flynn of Norfolk and Corporal Tom Flynn of Camp Bowie, Texas. The sister: Isabel of Lincoln; Mrs. Dick Lippincott of Blair; and Mrs. Rolland Phillips of Syracuse, Nebraska.
The many friends of the family join in extending their sympathy at the time of this great bereavement. Bob, in the service of his country, as in his activities in Blair, put forth the best he had to carry out the mission assigned him.
Memorial Services Sunday
Memorial services are being planned for Bob Flynn at the Methodist church in Blair next Sunday afternoon at 2:00 p.m. The American Legion will be present in uniform to honor this first Blair casualty of World War II. Services will be in charge of Rev. John P. Brooks.
Under regulations of the war departments, bodies of men killed in action cannot be returned until after the war.
The service will simulate a prewar funeral with the exception that there will be no casket and no burial.
#2-Enterprise 13 May 1943
Letter Tells of Death of Lt. R. Flynn
Tripped Bombs By Hand After Mechanism Shot In Raid
Co-Pilot Tells Of Fatal Flight
A long-awaited letter, bearing details of the heroic death of Lieutenant Robert Kelley Flynn, was received this week by his parents, Mr. and Mrs. R. P. Flynn of Blair. It was written by Lieutenant William D. Hughes co-pilot of the bomber crew in which Lt. Flynn served as bombardier.
Lieutenant Flynn, it will be remembered, lost his life in a bombing raid over France, on February 15. Although Blair relatives had been informed that he had died in order that his companions might live, no details were received through the war department.
The letter written by Lt. Hughes follows:
March 26, 1943
Dear Mr. and Mrs. Flynn:
I received your letter today. I’ve wanted to write you, because I know you’ve wondered how things happened as they did. I’m proud to know that Kelly remembered me to you. He was one of my best friends, in the Army and before, and a fine fellow all the way. And I know that none but his family could feel his loss more deeply than those of us who worked with him.
I know that Intelligence is very brief in the word they send you, so I’ll try to tell you as best I can of the details.
We were working above (censored) on the (censored) of February, and were struck and damaged by anti-aircraft fire and were unable to keep up with the rest of the ships, so had to fall behind and without their protection we were the principal object of fighter fire. Kelly’s bomb release mechanism had been shot out of commission so that he was unable to drop his bombs. Incidentally, Kelly could drop a bomb down a chimney from five miles up – he knew his business. And with the weight of the bombs aboard and two of our engines out and one on fire, which left us with practically no power at all, we lost altitude very fast. Kelly stuck with his gun until the fighters left us alone, and went back to trip the bombs out by hand – and for that we undoubtedly owe him our lives.
We could see that we’d probably not be able to get the plane as far as the nearest shore, so just before Kelly left his gun we told the crew that they could bail out or ride the plane down, and that the chances looked bad for a crash landing. I imagine that he sized up the probabilities and decided to chance it with his parachute and inflated vest. I’d have done the very same thing had I been in his place. But he didn’t jump until he’d gotten the bombs out of the ship.
We crashed on the beach just south of (censored) and those of us who stayed with the ship – someway – I’ll never understand how – managed to get out of it. We saw the rescue launch out in the bay looking for the three who had parachuted. Kelly was picked up within a few minutes, but could not be saved. He had received a head injury some way – we could not find out nor decide how it happened for sure, but suppose that it occurred while he was leaving the ship, perhaps struck something as he jumped – or it is possible that the parachute harness struck him when the silk jerked open. We don’t know.
Lt. Poole – Kelly probably wrote you of him – was picked up the next day, but the other man has never been found. Kelly lived a short while after he was picked up, but was unconscious until the end. We did not get to see him until the funeral service for him and Lt. Poole on February 20. He is buried in the American Grounds of the Brookwood Cemetery which is about 15 miles southwest of London near Woking.
His personal effects were removed by the time the rest of us returned to the base. They are stored somewhere in London – I do not know just where – and will be sent to you after the ward. We’re all working and hoping and trusting that that day will not be long hence.
If there is anything further that I can tell you I would be very glad to do so. And I hope that I may have the pleasure of meeting you and Mr. Flynn soon.
With very best wishes, Wm. D. Hughes
Pilot Tribune 1 July 1948
Body of Lt. Bob Flynn Home Soon
Local Legion Post Was Renamed To Honor Hero Of European War
The body of the late First Lt. Robert Kelly Flynn arrived from Europe Saturday aboard the U. S. Army Transport Lawrence Victory, which docked in New York. It will be forwarded at a later date to Blair (probably about Aug. 1 or later) through the American Graves Registration Distribution Center in Kansas City.
Lt. Flynn, son of Mr. and Mrs. R. P. Flynn of Blair, was killed when forced to jump from his crippled bomber over the English Channel Feb. 15, 1943. He had made many combat missions over Germany.
Blair’s American Legion Post was renamed from Stanley E. Hain Post to Hain-Flynn Post in honor of Lt. Flynn.
After his death, Lt. Flynn was buried in the American military cemetery south of London.
The Campbell Mortuary will have charge of local arrangements for reburial in Blair Cemetery.
#3-Pilot Tribune 13 Dec. 1945
Veterans Help Drive
Making Their Own Memorial to Bob Flynn, Friends Boost Stadium Fund
Bond Donations Are Showing An Increase
Twenty-six friends and former schoolmates of Robert Kelly Flynn, Blair youth killed in Europe during the war banded together spontaneously this week and purchased 26 Victory bonds in his memory presenting them to the American Legion for inclusion in the current drive to raise $50,000 for a memorial stadium and park to honor this area’s veterans of World War II.
Most of the donors toward the Flynn memorial are themselves veterans of World War II and a committee representing them said in making the donation that the bonds represented their small tribute to their friend. They added that they could imagine no finer way of paying their respects to him than by helping make the proposed memorial a reality. More bonds for the Flynn tribute are still expected from friends who are absent from Blair.
Although they were not soliciting bonds from World War II veterans, inasmuch as the memorial stadium is being erected to honor them, the Legionnaires expressed themselves as deeply moved by the unusual tribute of the local youths to their fallen comrade. Flynn, a lieutenant in the air corps, was killed over Europe Feb. 15, 1943. He was the son of Mr. and Mrs. R. P. Flynn of Blair.
Friends buying bonds in Flynn’s memory were George Campbell, J. H. Campbell, Reed O’Hanlon, Robert E. O’Hanlon, Clark O’Hanlon, jr., Warren Rounds, Gifford Dixon, jr., Robert Sylvis, Frank Wolff, jr., Keith Vinton, Rev. Christensen, Bill Christensen, jr., Robert Christensen, Bill Dean Stewart, Robert McMillan, Everett Lamb, Lewis Murdoch, Emery Hunt, jr., Wayne Steinbaugh, Merton Jensen, Ray C. Hansen C. N. Sutton, jr., Burt Williams, jr., Don Sorensen, Neil Stanley and Don Feer.
This was not the only assistance for the stadium fund from veterans of this war. Walter Gollehon, former Blairite, made a special trip from Lincoln to Blair recently to donate a $25 bond to the cause, stating that he thought this was the finest thing the people of Blair could possibly have done to honor their servicemen.
Drive Prospects Good
Other bond donations are coming in steadily, and the fund for the stadium and park is now at about the half-way point.
A complete list of donors is to be published when the campaign is completed. Those wishing to donate bonds to the memorial can contact any Blair Legionnaire or see George T. Hedelund at the Washington County bank.
#4-Pilot Tribune 25 Feb 1943
(Photo) (Caption: Lieutenant Robert Kelly Flynn 1915-1943: “Greater love hat no man…”
LT. ROBERT FLYNN
Blair Boy Dies in Europe
Air Force Officer Was Recently Cited
Community is Stunned Sunday as Word of Young Man’s death Follows Announcement That He Had Won Medal for Air Action
Coming so suddenly and unexpectedly that it stunned not only the member of his family but the entire community as well, a message was received Sunday evening by Mr. and Mrs. R. P. Flynn of north of Blair that their son, Lieutenant Robert Kelly Flynn, 27, had been killed in action “in the western European area.”
The telegram followed by only four days receipt of word that Lieutenant Flynn an officer in the U.S. air corps operating from Britain had recently received an air medal for meritorious work in action against the Nazis.
Signed “Adjutant General,” this telegram was received by the Flynns:
“The Secretary of war desires me to express his deep regret that your son, First Lieutenant Robert Kelly Flynn, was killed in action in defense of his country in the western European area February 15th. Letter follows:”
There were no other details.
Word of Lieutenant Flynn’s death spread quickly, and his hundreds of friends and acquaintances – he was one of the city’s most popular young men – were shocked and saddened.
Most of them had still been talking of the honor he so recently won when word of his death was received.
Was on Big Raids
Although Lieutenant Flynn had been prevented by censorship regulations from revealing his activities, his parents had discovered by comparing dates on his most recent letters, that he had taken part in some of the most daring and successful raids thus far staged on the big German industrial cities.
That he had a premonition of death is seen in his latest letters, in which he stated that he had been “lucky” so far and that he hoped his luck would hold out. The general tone of the letters indicated, his parents said, that he was not unprepared for death at any moment.
MEMORIAL RITES WILL BE SUNDAY
Memorial services for Lieutenant Robert K. Flynn will be held at 2 p.m. Sunday at First Methodist church, it is announced. Friends of Lieutenant Flynn and war veterans will conduct the services.
#5-Pilot Tribune 4 March 1943
Throng at Funeral for Lt. Flynn
Church Crowded At Sunday Memorial To Blair Airman Killed In War
First Methodist church was filled to overflowing at 2 p.m. Sunday as memorial services were conducted to honor the memory of Lieutenant Robert Kelly Flynn, 27-year-old Blairite who was killed in the European war theatre as an American airman.
Lieutenant Flynn, son of Mr. and Mrs. R. P. Flynn, was reported killed in action February 15.
Local war veterans opened the Sunday services, advancing the colors to a place of honor, where upon the entire assemblage joined in singing “The Star Spangled Banner,” with Mrs. Geraldine Stewart furnishing piano accompaniment.
Commander Reed O’Hanlon, sr., of Stanley E. Hain post No. 154, American Legion, who presided at the rites, spoke briefly, lauding Lieutenant Flynn for his heroic career. He then introduced the Rev. John P. Brooks, pastor of First Methodist, who delivered the eulogy. The Blair high school quartet, Martin Kuhr, jr., Warren Jenkins, Nels Carlsen and Philip Larsen, then sang, “Abide with me,” and Gifford L. Dixon sang the official song of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, “Sleep, Soldier Boy” – a tribute to Lieutenant Flynn from that organization.
Besides the veterans, members of the local I.O.O.F. lodge, of which Lieutenant Flynn was a member, attended in a group. Also present in uniform were members of the Blair wing of the Civil Air Patrol.
Whether Lieutenant Flynn’s body was returned to England or whether his plane and crew were lost over enemy territory was not immediately known. The Blairite had been trained as a bombardier, although an Associated Press dispatch last Wednesday telling of his medal referred to him as a co-pilot.
The death message was the first knowledge the Flynns had that their son had been promoted to the rank of first lieutenant.
Here Most of His Life
Robert Flynn was born at Ord, Nebraska, September 3, 1915, but had spent most of his life here, he family coming to Blair in the late 1920s.
He attended the local schools, and was graduated from Blair high school in 1933, after having taken a prominent part in high school activities for four years.
Following his graduation, he assisted his father in farming for a number of years, then founded and operated the Early dawn dairy, selling the business as he prepared to enlist in the air corps. To prepare himself for qualification as an aviation trainee, he daily drove to the University of Omaha to attend night school – after already working, usually ten to 12 hours a day in conducting the affairs of his dairy.
In the fall of 1941 he began training in Arizona and New Mexico, and was commissioned a bombardier, with the rating of second lieutenant, last July 24. He was in Blair briefly while enroute to Oklahoma City. It was his last visit with family and friends here. He was sent overseas several months ago.
Lieutenant Flynn is survived by his parents; four brothers, Richard Flynn of Norfolk, Corporal Tom Flynn of Camp bowie, Texas, and Adrian and Eugene Flynn, at home; and three sisters, Mrs. Richard Lippincott (Ruth) of Blair, Mrs. Roland B. Phillips (Margaret) of Syracuse, and Miss Isabel Flynn, who has been attending school in Lincoln.
#6-Pilot Tribune 11 March 1943
Purple Heart to Lt. Flynn
Award Is Announced; Learn Lt. Flynn Would Have Returned Soon
Adjutant General J. A. Ulio of Washington, D. C., announced this week that the Purple Heart decoration has been awarded posthumously to Lieutenant Robert Kelly Flynn, son of Mr. and Mrs. R. P. Flynn of Blair.
Lieutenant Flynn, 27, member of the U.S. air forces was killed in action February 15 during a raid over Europe. An engraved certificate relating to this award will be forwarded to the parents of the young man at a later date, and the decoration will be forwarded within the next week or ten days.
The Purple Heart was originally established by General George Washington in 1782, and was revived in 1932 out of respect to his memory. It is awarded to persons who, while serving in any capacity with the army of the United States, are wounded in action against an enemy of the United States, or are killed in action, or who died as a direct result of wounds received in action.
Would Have Returned
Mr. and Mrs. Flynn this week received a letter from their son, written February 14 in England, the day before he was killed. In his message, Lieutenant Flynn stated he had just been informed that he and fellow aviators were to be returned to the United States this summer and would remain here for the duration of the war.
The Flynns also received two previously written letters during the past week. Lieutenant Flynn told of his promotion to first lieutenant, and mentioned several relatives and friends from whom he had received recent letters.
#7-26 Aug., 1948 - The Enterprise - First Lieutenant Robert K. Flynn - World War II
MILITARY RITES TODAY FOR LT. FLYNN
Legion, VFW, Entire City Honor War Hero.
WAS CITY’S FIRST WAR DEAD
The body of First Lieutenant Robert K. Flynn, the first Blair casualty of World War II, was reburied this afternoon at the Blair Cemetery as full military funeral rites were accorded by the American Legion Hain-Flynn Post.
Funeral services were held from the Blair Methodist church at 2:30 p.m. with the Rev. S. L. McCaig officiating. Arrangements were in charge of the Campbell Mortuary.
Lt. Flynn, son of Mr. and Mrs. R. P. Flynn of Blair, was killed in action on February 15, 1943 when forced to jump from his bomber over the English Channel. He had been engaged in bombing operations from a field in England.
At the time of his death, Lt. Flynn was 27 years old. He was born at Ord, Nebraska, moving with his family to Blair in 1931 and graduating from Blair High School in 1933. He was a member of the I.O.O.F. lodge and the First Methodist Church in Blair.
Surviving Lt. Flynn, besides his parents, are four brothers, Adrian and Eugene of Blair, Richard of Norfolk, Tom of Blair; three sisters, Isabel of Lincoln, Mrs. Dick Lippincott of Blair, Mrs. Rolland Phillips of Syracuse.
The Blair American Legion Post was renamed the Hain-Flynn Post from the Stanley E. Hain Post in honor of Lt. Flynn.
Pallbearers included Don Sorensen, John Andreasen, Keith Vinton, Reed O’Hanlon, Jr., Ray Hansen, Bill Wilson, Bert McMillan and Bob O’Hanlan.
Note: There is a copy of Pg 71 of the February 1943 Operational Diary that details the operation and mentions Lt. Flynn.
Note: Buried in Blair Cemetery, Blk 109 Lot 2 Gr 6. Find a Grave #80064158.
~~~ Obituary courtesy of the Washington County Genealogical Society. Newspaper clippings on file in the Blair Public Library at Blair, Nebraska.~~~