War II just the beginning for pilot
Robert Kaplan 49
remembers the moment when Uncle Sam called him to serve in World
I was sitting
at a drawing board at Eastman Kodak when the telegram came,
he recalls. Months before he had signed up for pilot training
in the Army Air Corps, so about 12 hours later he was on a train
for pre-flight school at Maxwell Field, Ala. He finished his pilot
training at the twin engine school at Freeman Field in Seymour,
Kaplan '49 was a B-24 bomber pilot in World War II.
Kaplan was assigned
to B-24s (the Liberator bombers) and was sent to China
to serve with the famous Flying Tigers of the 14th Air Force under
Gen. Claire Chenault. His crews motto was Home Alive
in 45. There was some doubt this would be possible,
as his unit was sustaining very heavy casualties.
On their 46th mission,
their plane was severely damaged by enemy fire over Hong Kong.
Kaplan and his crew were able to nurse the plane along on three
engines until they ran out of fuel.
We were forced
to bail out about 50 miles from our base in Changtu, says
Kaplan. We walked 40 miles before we were picked up about
10 miles from base. The Chinese helped us, and the whole crew
10 guys survived. We carried the tail gunner, who
broke his ankle when we bailed out.
The exploit earned
Kaplan a Distinguished Flying Cross. That was our last mission.
After the war, Kaplan
returned to Kodak and graduated from RIT. He left the company
about a decade later and went to work for the chemical division
of W. R. Grace & Co. in Boston, then moved back to Rochester
to work for Stromberg Carlson in the early 60s. He worked
for Itek, Bausch & Lomb and other companies in Rochester and
Buffalo. Kaplan was awarded 14 patents before leaving the engineering
field to become a manufacturers representative handling
sales of steel and other product lines.
He and his wife, Diane,
now live in Buffalo and Florida. They have three grown children.
Kaplan says he gradually retired from his work. It
took a little longer for the World War II flyer to leave the sky
he gave up his pilots license just about three years
Veterans of World
War II are honored each year at the Golden Circle Luncheon, part
of RIT Alumni Weekend.