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Lt. Col. Robert B. Westbrook
P-38 Lightning Pilot, Missing In Action (MIA)

Background
Robert B. Westbrook was born in 1917 in San Antonio, TX and grew up in Hollywood, CA. Nicknamed "Bob" and "Westy". He enlisted in the U. S. Army Air Force (USAAF) and was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant with serial number O-424187.

Wartime History
Assigned to the 13th Air Force (13th AF), 347th Fighter Group (347th FG), 339th Fighter Squadron (339th FS) as a P-38 Lightning pilot operating from Fighter 2 (Kukum) on Guadalcanal.

During December of 1943 he shot down six Japanese planes in a three day span over Rabaul.

During 1944, assigned to the 347th Fighter Group (347th FG), Headquarters Squadron.

Westbrook became the highest scoring ace in the 13th Air Force and claimed a total of twenty aerial victories.

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Mission History
On November 22, 1944 took off from Middleburg Airfield piloting P-38J Lightning 44-23394 on a strafing mission over Celebes (Sulawesi). Over the target, this aircraft was shot down strafing a 140' Japanese gunboat in Makassar Harbor on the western side of the island. When this aircraft failed to return it was officially listed as Missing In Action (MIA).

Aerial Victory Claims
Westbrook was officially credited with twenty aerial victories. His first was claimed on January 27, 1943 and his last on October 23, 1944.

Victory Date Location Aircraft Notes on claim
1 01/27/43     First aerial victory claim.
2 02/13/43 Shortland-Buin Zeke Second aerial victory claim.
3 06/07/43     Third aerial victory claim.
4 06/07/43     Fourth aerial victory claim.
5 06/12/43     Fifth aerial victory claim, became an "ace".
6 07/01/43     Sixth aerial victory claim.
7 07/01/43     Seventh aerial victory claim.
8 10/10/43     Eighth aerial victory claim.
9 12/23/43     Ninth aerial victory claim.
10 12/24/43     Tenth aerial victory claim.
11 12/24/43     Eleventh aerial victory claim.
12 12/24/43     Twelfth aerial victory claim.
13 12/25/43     Thirteenth aerial victory claim.
14 12/25/43     Fourteenth aerial victory claim.
15 01/06/44     Fifteenth aerial victory claim.
16 09/25/44     Sixteenth aerial victory claim.
17 09/30/44     Seventeenth aerial victory claim.
18 10/23/44     Eighteenth aerial victory claim.
19 10/23/44     Nineteenth aerial victory claim.
20 10/23/44     Twentieth aerial victory claim.

Memorials
Westbrook was officially declared dead the day of the mission. He is memorialized at Manila American Cemetery on the tablets of the missing. He also has a memorial marker at San Fernando Cemetery #3 in San Antonio, TX.

Westbrook earned the Distinguished Service Cross (DSC), Silver Star with Oak Leaf Cluster, Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) with Oak Leaf Cluster, Air Medal with fifteen Oak Leaf Clusters. He was entitled to the Purple Heart, posthumously.

References
Nebraska State Journal by AP December 20, 1944
"Lt. Col. Robert B. Westbrook, 27, Hollywood, Calif., air ace, with 20 enemy planes definitely to his credit, was killed Nov. 22 while making a strafing run against a gunboat with was escorting two Japanese freighters."
USAF Historical Study No. 85 USAF Credits For The Destruction of Enemy Aircraft, World War II Alphabetical: Westbrook, Robert B. pages 198 (PDF page 205)
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Robert B. Westbrook
FindAGrave - LtCol Robert B Westbrook (photos, tablets of the missing)
FindAGrave - Robert B. "Westy" Westbrook, Jr (memorial marker photo)
Flight Journal "Quadruple PTO Aceā€“KIA Robert 'Westy' Westbrook" by Steve Blake, August 2018 via Pressreader



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