Robert Parker Rist was born on July 29, 1920 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. In 1926, at age six, his family moved to North Dakota. After graduating from high school there in 1938, he attended the University of North Dakota as a pre-med student, then transferred to the University of Minnesota until he quit college to enlist in the U. S. Army.
On January 20, 1942, he enlisted in the U. S. Army Air Forces (USAAF) as an aviation cadet with serial number 17062563. After graduating flight school he was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant with serial number O-730612 as a fighter pilot flying the P-38 Lightning.
In November 1942 sent overseas to the South Pacific. Assigned to the 13th Air Force, 347th Fighter Group (347th FG), 339th Fighter Squadron (339th FS) operating from Fighter 2 (Kukum) on Guadalcanal. On January 13, 1943 Rist flew his first combat mission. On February 10, 1943 he claimed his first aerial victory claimed to be a "Mitsubishi Ki-21 Sally".
On February 13, 1943 took off from Fighter 2 (Kukum) on Guadalcanal piloting P-38G Lightning on a on an escort mission along with ten P-40s to escort six B-24s flying in two waves for a bombing missions against Japanese ships in the Shortland to Buin area. The escort also included seven P-40 Warhawks from the 44th Fighter Squadron. The weather was good with clear visibility.
Inbound to the target, two P-38s and three P-40s aborted the mission and returned to Guadalcanal, leaving four P-38s and seven P-40s to escort the bombers. Over the target area, the B-24s were attacked by 30 A6M Zeros and 15 float-equipped fighters (A6M2-N Rufes), with heavy flak fired by naval vessels below. B-24D Liberator 41-23975 was hit, its wing and engine on fire and dropped out of formation. Rist escorted it toward Choiseul. Ten to twelve A6M Zeros tried to finish it off. Rist claimed two Zeros, then, out of ammunition, continued to divert the attackers by diving on them.
His efforts enabled B-24D Liberator 41-23975 to fly his damaged B-24 to the north coast of Choiseul to ditch. Finally, Rist was shot down at approximately 12:30pm. Missing Air Crew Report 586 (MACR 586) states: "Last seen by Major Westbrook, 44th FG, with right engine smoking and Zeros on his tail." When this aircraft failed to return it was officially listed as Missing In Action (MIA).
Rist was officially declared dead on December 15, 1945. He earned the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC), Distinguished Service Cross (DSC) and Purple Heart, posthumously. He is memorialized at Manila American Cemetery on the tablets of the missing.
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Robert P. Rist
347th Fighter Group Advanced Echelon APO 709 "Preliminary Intelligence Summary of Operations of Army Fighter Planes at Cactus - December 1, 1942 to February 17, 1943" February 21, 1943
(Page 3) "Date: 2/13 Type: P-38 How Lost: Lost in combat near Bougainville Pilot: Lt. Rist - missing."
Missing Air Crew Report 586 (MACR 586) created September 17, 1943
(Page 2) "6. Aircraft: Type model and serial: P-38G"
Kodochosho, 802 Kōkūtai, February 13, 1943
Kodochosho, 204 Kōkūtai, February 13, 1943
Kodochosho, 252 Kōkūtai, February 13, 1943
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Robert P. Rist
1Lt Robert Parker “Bob” Rist (photo, tablets of the missing photo)
Guadalcanal and the Origins of the 13th Air Force, pages 180-181
Vampire Squadron (1985) by William H. Starke pages 25-26
Air & Space Magazine "Above & Beyond: A Bougainville Mystery by Paul A. Roales, November 2006
HEROS #1 in a series Lt. Robert P. Rist, Minneapolis Minnesota by Paul A. Roales
Thanks to Paul Roales for additional information