USAAF B-17’S in Java – Part 12: The loss of Major Stanley K. Robinson



Once captured by the enemy, a secret airfield will become a fearful liability”,  the Royal Dutch Navy had predicted not so long ago. And the capture of the secret airfield Kendari II (in Celebes or Sulawesi) proved how true their dire prediction was.

A Japanese assault force landed on the beaches near Kendari II (or K-2) in Celebes at 04.30 in the morning of January 24, 1942. Supported by fighters from distant Menado, they overwhelmed the Dutch defenses and by the end of the day, the airfield was in Japanese hands, captured completely intact and operational.

The Imperial Japanese Navy’s 21st Air Flotilla lost no time to send a force of 30 Mitsubishi A6M Zeroes to K-2. They arrived the very next day and the presence of these formidable fighters would have disastrous consequences for the US bomber crews.


On January 29, a flight of 5 B-17’s was tasked with another bombing mission against Balikpapan, and Major Robinson decided to lead them [1]. It would be his fifth consecutive mission that week. It was also against orders. When Lt. Col Eugene Eubank heard about the number of missions Robinson had flown, he had ordered him temporarily grounded.
But the order did not stick. Of the four crews of the 7th BG that would fly this mission, only one had some operational experience. The other crews were ‘raw’. Two of them had arrived just two days earlier and the third had only arrived that same day,

Learning this, Robinson decided to defy all authority and to lead the mission that took off around 07.30. They reached the target area around 12.00 and immediately ran into stiff fighter opposition from Kendari. Three of the bombers dropped their loads, but Robinson’s bombs would not release, so he overflew the target and reversed course.
But when he started his second run, the lone bomber was almost immediately attacked by a large number of Zeroes [2].  Being wise by now to the deadly sting in the tail of the B-17E, the Japanese fighters concentrated their attack on the cockpit area and riddled it with bullets and cannon shells. The bomber was seen to pitch up uncontrollably, stagger and then turn over into a steep dive that sent it crashing violently into the Java sea. No parachutes were seen and there were no survivors in the water.

The 7th Bomb Group had lost its CO.

Robinson Obituary Life Mag_Mar_16_42

Robinson’s obituary in Life Magazine

[1] Robinson (41-2476), Mathewson (41-245)5, Cox (41-2478), Skiles (41-2454) and Habberstad (41-2427).

[2] Some sources state as many as 30.




About Kingsleyr

Thank you for visiting my blog! The posts you find here are a direct result of my research into aviation and military history. I use the information I gather as a foundation and background for my books. You may call the genre historical fiction, a story woven into a background of solid and verifiable historical facts. However, the period and region I have chosen to write about (late 1930's - 1950's in South-East Asia) are jam-packed with interesting information and anecdotes. If I'd used them all I would swamp the stories. So this blog is the next best thing. It is an "overflow area" in which I can publish whatever I think will interest you. And from the reactions I get, I deduce I am on the right track. A lot will be about aviation in the former Dutch East Indies. This, because my series of books ("The Java Gold") follows a young Dutch pilot in his struggle to survive the Pacific War and its aftermath. But there's more in the world and you'll find descriptions of cities, naval operations and what not published on this blog. Something about myself; I am a Dutch-Canadian author, living in, and working out of the magical city of Amsterdam. My lifelong interest in history and aviation, especially WW2, has led me to write articles and books on these subjects. I hope you'll enjoy them!
This entry was posted in Boeing B-17 in Java, Boeing B-17 Pacific War, Pacific War, US Army in Java 1941, USAAF Java, WW2 Pacific and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to USAAF B-17’S in Java – Part 12: The loss of Major Stanley K. Robinson

  1. GP Cox says:

    Welcome home! You’ve made a grand entrance with a fantastic post!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Laurence Smelser says:

    Upon Robinson’s loss, Major Straubel took command of he 7th, but was himself lost on 3 February 30 miles west of Surabaya when his B-18 was shot down by Japanese Fighters. (Robert F. Dorr’s book on the 7th Bombardment Group/Wing 1918-1995)

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Kingsleyr says:

    Thanks Larry
    I have been very quiet for a ling time . Personal reasons stopped me from working on my blog. I’ll be in touch!


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