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Robert Hale


Date and Place of Birth: December 11, 1915 Natick, MA
Date and Place of Death:    October 24, 1943 Rabaul, New Guinea
Baseball Experience: Semi-Pro
Position: Pitcher
Rank: Second Lieutenant
Military Unit: 8th Bomb Squadron, 3rd Bomb Group USAAF
Area Served: Pacific Theater of Operations

"I often wondered whether he would be a pilot or a baseball player when he got out of the service"
Barbara Collins

Robert L. Hale was born in Natick, Massachusetts on December 11, 1915. He attended Natick High School where he captained the football team in 1932.

Hale's family moved to Rowley, Massachusetts during his teenage years and he attended Cushing Academy, a prep school in Ashburnham, where he starred in baseball, basketball and football. Hale scored a touchdown in a game against Williston Academy which earned him a kiss from film star and Cushing alumna Bette Davis. "My brother was very shy," explained Hale's brother, Barbara Collins, in an interview with Newburyport Daily News writer Victor Tine in 2009. "He ran into the locker room to get away, but they made him come out."

Hale went on to Holy Cross College in Worcester and Rhode Island State College (now the University of Rhode Island) where he continued to be an athletic star. A hard-throwing left-handed pitcher, Hale played some semi-pro baseball along the way and was a standout with the Rowley Rams.

Robert Hale entered military service in 1942 and trained as a bomber pilot with the Army Air Force. He was commissioned a second lieutenant at Blytheville Advanced Flying School in Arkansas in January 1943, and was stationed in South Carolina at Greenville and Columbia.

Second Lieutenant Hale was sent to the Pacific as a squadron leader with the 8th Bomb Squadron, 3rd Bomb Group in July 1943 and began flying combat missions in a North American B-25 Mitchell the following month.

On October 24, 1943, Robert Hale was co-pilot on a bombing run against Japanese targets at Rabaul in New Guinea. With First Lieutenant Robert Miller at the controls and crew members Joseph Berube and Glendon Harris on board, they took off from Oro Bay Airfield but were attacked by Japanese fighters on the way to the target. Witnesses in the bombing formation saw Hale's plane hit. The right wing came off and the plane crashed on the island. There were no survivors.

Japanese occupation of the crash site area continued for a further two years, but in 1946, Australian war graves teams located a crash site with partial remains which they believed to be American. These unidentified remains were buried at an American Cemetery in New Guinea in September 1947. These remains were exhumed in 1949 and reburied, still as unknowns, at Manila American Cemetery at Fort Bonifacio in the Philippines.

Fifty years later, the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC), which investigates and recovers Americans killed in past conflicts, was investigating crash sites in New Guinea when they found the site where Hale's B-25 had crashed in 1943. A careful excavation of the area uncovered further human remains and these were sent to the agency's Central Identification Laboratory in Hawaii. The remains buried in the Philippines were then exhumed and sent to Hawaii where, with DNA samples from surviving family members, identification of the four fliers finally confirmed in May 2006.

With Robert Hale's remains now identified, the Army gave the family the option of having him buried at Arlington National Cemetery, but the family chose to have him buried in the family plot in Main Street Cemetery in Rowley. "I can't really take in the fact that they found his remains after 63 years," said Barbara Collins. "I'm very, very happy."

78,000 service personnel from World War II are still classified as missing.

Some of the information contained in this biography was obtained from Victor Tine's article for the Newburyport Daily News.

Date Added June 4, 2012 Updated July 11, 2013

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