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WWII pilot survived crash in Germany

October 25, 2011|By Katherine Yamada
  • Captain Robert G. Reeder, a bomber pilot in the 8th Air Force during World War II, flew many bombing mission over Germany. (Courtesy of the Special Collections Department of the Glendale Public Library)
Captain Robert G. Reeder, a bomber pilot in the 8th Air…

Captain Robert G. Reeder was one of the many local men who were inducted into the military during World War II.

Reeder, an employee of the Packer Studebaker dealership here in town, was one of the first Packer employees to join the service, following the lead of dealership owner, Donald H. Packer, who, in 1940, enlisted in the coast artillery corps. (Packer had also served in that capacity during World War I.)

Reeder was a member of the 8th Air Force, a United States Army Air Forces team that conducted aerial bombardment missions against Nazi-occupied Europe and became the greatest air armada in history, according to the Mighty Eighth Air Force Museum website. “By mid-1944, the 8th AF had reached a total strength of more than 200,000 people. At its peak, it could dispatch more than 2,000 four-engine bombers and 1,000 fighters on a single mission. For these reasons, the 8th AF became known as the ‘Mighty Eighth.’”

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As the pilot of a B-17, Reeder saw action during 25 missions over Germany, then came back to the states for a short furlough late in 1944.

He returned for another tour of duty in December of that year. In March, 1945, on the 10th mission of his second tour, he was shot down near Wittenberg, Germany. He survived the crash and was taken to a local hospital before being transferred to a hospital in Berlin.

By April of that year, Russian troops were outside Berlin, building up their resources before beginning an attack against the Germans which lasted several days.

Russian forces soon surrounded the city. Nazi Germany’s leader, Adolph Hitler, killed himself on April 30 and city leaders surrendered on May 2. When Soviet soldiers entered the city, ransacking and looting were widespread, according to the World War II Multimedia Database.

Reeder was still hospitalized when the Russians entered Berlin. The Russians released him in early May and he received treatment from American medics. He returned home on furlough to visit his friends and family in Burbank, saying that, after 41/2 years of Army life, he welcomed his return to civilian status, as noted in an unidentified newspaper on file in Special Collections.

While here, he was honored by Packer employees at a dinner at the Kopper Kettle. Reeder related his experiences after he was shot down and of his two months in German hospitals.

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