Robert G. Emmens
|Robert G. Emmens|
Colonel Robert G. Emmens, 1956
|Born||22 July 1914
|Died||2 April 1992 (aged 87)
|Service/branch|| United States Army Air Forces
United States Air Force
|Years of service||1937-1965|
|Battles/wars|| World War II
1942 Doolittle Raid
|Awards||Distinguished Flying Cross, and Chinese Army, Navy, Air Corps Medal, Class A, 1st Grade, and the Japanese Order of the Sacred Treasure|
Emmens graduated from Medford High School, Medford, Oregon in 1931. He then attended University of Oregon, 1931 - 1934. Emmens entered the United States Army Air Corps on February 23, 1937 at Vancouver Barracks, Washington. Graduated from Flying Training School with a rating of pilot, February, 1938. Assigned to 17th Bomb Group at March Field, California.
As a first lieutenant, Emmens joined the Tokyo mission just before the mission. he was a co-pilot on one of the 16 B-25 Mitchell bombers under the command of Colonel James H. Doolittle that were left the carrier USS Hornet (CV-8) to carry out the Tokyo raid on April 18, 1942. Emmens B-25 was Serial 40-2242 and was Takeoff #8.
All of those 16 crews except Lieutenant Emmens's either crashed on the China coast or bailed out. His B-25 was consuming fuel at a much higher rate than planned on the mission, possibly due to incorrect engine carburetor settings. As a result, after attacking the target successfully in Japan, the plane turned north and touched down in a large field 40 miles north of Vladivostok in the Soviet Union. Doolittle had specifically told the Raiders not to fly to Russia.
The Soviet Union, which was not then at war with Japan, held the crewmen captive for 13 months. Colonel Emmens later wrote a book about his experience as a captive, "Guests of the Kremlin." After landing in Vladivostok, Emmens wrote that the Soviets held its five crewmen in several locations in the Soviet Union. Limited to the same diet as the besieged Soviet people, mostly black bread and cabbage, the five crew members suffered malnutrition, dysentery and other medical problems. Rather than wait until the end of the war under deplorable conditions, the crew of resolved to escape. While held in Ashkhabad, near the Persian border - thousands of miles from Vladivostok - they found a sympathetic Soviet officer. The man introduced them to an Afghani smuggler who supplied the officers with better food and other black market items. Crewmen paid the smuggler $250 - won in a poker game the night before the mission by the pilot, Ski York - to lead them to a British embassy in Iran. The five, with the help of British diplomats in Mashhad, made their way to India and got a flight to the United States.
The B-25 aircraft was kept by the Soviets, and was scrapped in 1950s.
After his return to the United States, Emmens attended and graduated from the Army Command and Staff School, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. Before retiring in 1965 he served in Europe and in Japan on Intelligence assignments. In June 1955 Colonel Emmens was assigned to supervise the construction efforts at Myrtle Beach Air Force Base, South Carolina, assuming the role of Liaison Officer with both Ninth Air Force and HQ, Tactical Air Command. During his supervision, construction was performed at a rapid pace. He later served as the commander of the 342d Fighter Day Wing, the first host unit at Myrtle Beach AFB, and later as vice-commander of the 354th Fighter-Day Wing, which replaced the 342d FDW as the base's permanent host unit.
After his retirement, Robert Emmens returned to Medford, Oregon, his hometown, and worked as a stockbroker and in real estate. Colonel Emmens is interred at the I.O.O.F. Eastwood Cemetery in Medford and is a stop along the popular free public tour of the historic site which is managed by the City of Medford Parks and Recreation Department.
- Guests of the Kremlin (1949) ISBN 0-923891-81-1