Major Bob Haston, WW II Hero - The Silver Dollar Story

When the war started, he wanted to sign up immediately but his mother thought he was too young. She told him that if he finished his courses at a local business school she would sign the papers to let him join up. Uncle James, told me that he was very excited to join the Army Air Corp and learn to fly. He started out as a fighter pilot. However, because he was a little bit of a daredevil and performed a risky fly under a bridge maneuver, he was quickly transferred to a bomber squadron. He was happy in this new position and took his responsibilities seriously.

December 27, 1941 - Enlistment of Bob Haston

Aviation Training

Robert Haston joined the Army Air Corp on December 27, 1941. He entered Aviation Cadet Training in August of 1942, graduating from Twin Engine Flying School on April 29, 1943. He completed B-17 Transition to become a pilot at Sebrin, Florida in July, 1943 and after being assigned a crew left Spokane, Washington in 1943 for England where his crew was assigned to the 379th Bomb Group as replacements.

In a 1998 letter, Robert W. Haston (1923–2001), the crew’s pilot, recalled meeting the other nine men in his crew in Ephrata, Washington. Haston continued: “We were transferred to [Geiger Field in] Spokane, Wash. for combat training with the Skaer Provisional Bomb Group. After the training at Spokane, we were transferred by railroad to Grand Island, Nebr.”  It was there that they received a B-17F (serial number 42-31031) fresh from the factory.  Orders for the crew’s overseas journey indicated that they departed Presque Isle Army Air Field, Maine, for England—with an intermediate stop in Iceland—around October 19, 1943. 

2nd Lieutenant Robert W. Haston with his crew in July 1943 during training in Ephrata, Washington.  Standing, from left to right: Gordon D. Fisher, Royce D. Taylor, Robert W. Haston, Harold N. Sheaffer, Foy R. Clingman, Kenneth E. Raak.  Kneeling, from left to right: Thomas Grange, Robert Spisak, Lester B. Adriansen, James W. Bittenback

THe Lucky Silver Dollar

“After finishing combat training in Spokane, Washington, I and my crew were shipped to Grand Island, Nebraska to pick up a brand new B-17 to take into combat in Europe during World War II. While we were in Grand Island going through processing and getting the tail number 42-31031 put on our new plane, the officers of the crew went downtown to have a beer. Back then you could buy a Falstaff beer for just 10 cents. I went over to the bartender and laid down a five dollar bill to buy four beers for me and my friends. From this 40 cent transaction, I received four silver dollars and 60 cents in change. I noticed that one of these silver dollars was minted in 1923, the year I was born. It was September, 1943, one month before I turned 20 so I decided to keep the 1923 coin as a good luck charm. I spent the other silver dollars on more liquid refreshment for me and my friends. We had a good time that day. I have always been glad that I kept the Peace Dollar for good luck, remembering good times spent with good friends.”

More About the Silver Dollar Story Later

“From Grand Island, Nebraska, we went to Rhome, New York for a two day lay over before proceeding to our assignment over seas. While we were in Rhome, I let Shorty Spisak, the ball turret gunner, go home on leave to Endicott, New York, just a short distance from Rhome. The train he was to catch from Endicott to Rhome was delayed, making him a day late getting back from leave. We were really sweating his return. I decided that it would not be wise to let Shorty get in trouble, so I had Ron Roach, the engineer, kick our generator on the number 4 engine. This created a mechanical delay giving us an additional day for Shorty to return. He showed up 10 hours late, we fixed the generator and took off for Presque Isle, Maine. I still wonder what the General would have said if my ball turret gunner had not been on board when we left.” 

I was just 19 years old when I went to fight in World War II. I was young and naive and at that moment I had no idea of the hardships I would soon face.

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One thought on “Major Bob Haston – The Silver Dollar Story

  1. Great story / America’s greatest generation. How many 19 year olds today could be put under the yoke of a plane that size and be responsible for the entire crew, much less fly to Europe?

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