Robert M. Webb
By Christine Baldwin, AFRH-W Librarian
Robert M. Webb (exact same name as our new Ombudsman) was born in West Virginia in coal mining country. He is one of 9 children; 7 boys and 2 girls. He excelled in football and baseball during high school. Robert knew he would be drafted into World War II (2 of his brothers had joined the US Air Force, one the US Navy and one the US Marine Corps) , so he took the C-12 test and passed the mental & physical test to join the Navy Air Cadet. When he reported two weeks later for another physical, he didn’t pass because of his eyes. So next, Robert decided to join the US Army. Every branch was now covered by the Webb family. He had his Basic Training at Camp Livingston, LA (the snakiest place in the country)! After three short assignments, Robert was sent overseas. Rumor had it, they would go aboard the QEII, but instead they went on a Merchant Marine ship called the Seacat. As part of a convoy, Robert got to see how treacherous the ocean could be and experienced 100 foot waves during the trip. Robert’s job was to assist with the plumbing and replace pipes that had been corroded by the sea water.
His first station was Le Havre, France and at the tender age of 18, Robert saw the aftermaths of war with masts of ships that had been sunk to railroad rails that looked like spaghetti. His trip was aboard a 40 x 8 train (40 men; 8 horses-though no horses were on board). It was December and very cold; so cold it was hard to sleep. At the French/German border town of Saarbrucken, not a building was standing. Later, Robert attended Military Ski School for two weeks in Garmisch, Germany. His toughest assignment was standing guard to the Nazi War Criminals just outside of Nuremberg. He had orders to shoot anyone who strayed outside the lime border. Robert also worked in SS Trooper Prison Camps along with a Polish company. One of the most interesting assignments Robert had was when he and three other soldiers were sent to a small town. A Polish DP (displaced person) told him about a family that was hiding contraband. When they went through the house and barn they found machine guns hidden under sacks of peas and under the corn shuck mattresses. The Major in charge said that they had been looking for these people a long time and in gratitude let Robert have one of the small motorcycles to take back to camp.
It was while working with the HQ Battery Armored Field Artillery that Robert lost his hearing and was sent home. At Bremerhaven, he along with 7,000 soldiers were waiting for transport. They lived in hangars, slept on cots and had huge lines for chow. It was so large that they could play poker while they stood in line! After the war, Robert got a pre-engineering degree from Charleston University, WV and a Structural Engineering degree from the University of Chicago. He worked until 2000. Robert knew about AFRH and joined us in April of this year.