Robert Ellsworth Boernke
Robert was a second generation American born 16 JAN 1921 in Osseo, WI. His paternal grandparents were born in Germany and Wales. His maternal grandparents were born in Sweden and Michigan. He graduated high school in Woodville, WI and attended River Falls State Teachers College for one year (1938-1939). After that he worked as a caretaker for the Chicago, St. Paul, Minneapolis, and Omaha Railway. His father, William, would work for the same company for almost fifty years before retiring.
With his draft number approaching, he enlisted in the Air Corps 25 Sept 1942. Military records show him at five feet five inches and 126 pounds. In May 1943 he was accepted for pilot training and earned his wings at Eagle Pass Field, TX in March 1944. Robert received orders to the CBI theater and left the US 02 AUG 1944 and joined the 118th while they were in Kweilin (21June-14Sept 1944). 23 Dec 1944 had the 118th heading to Hankow-Wuchang to skip bomb the ferry installations. Takeoff was 1045 and the target area was reached at 1222. After a successful mission, the planes, with the exception of Boernke, returned to Suichwan at 1405. Boernke became lost on the return trip and his last communication was with fighter control at Suichwan. Word got back to the squadron that he bailed out 25 miles east of Suichwan.
His actual location was about 160 miles ESE of Suichwan along the Nanping-Changting Highway. Apparently he was following the highway back to base. Most likely, with fuel running low, Boernke attempted a low level bailout. His chute failed to fill and he was killed at 1610 hours. Farmers found his body and buried him near the town of Dutou (10 miles SW of Yong'an, Fujian). Army personnel recovered his body and he was returned to the US for burial in his home town.
His father was the railroad depot agent and telegrapher. One of his duties was receiving the death notices for the servicemen that died. This is how the family learned of Robert's death.