Robert L. Harter
Robert Locke Harter Jr. was born to Robert and Gertrude Harter of Cleveland, Ohio on 22 November 1917. Like his brother Martin, Robert would attend St. Andrew’s College for one school year, playing for the 1st Rugby and 1st Basketball teams, before attending Annapolis Prep School.
He joined the Army Air Force in
the spring of 1944 and was initially sent to Ellington Field in Texas and
later at Tonopah, Nevada and Langley Field, Virginia. He finished his training in April
1945 and was sent to the Pacific Theatre where he joined the 868 Bombardment
Squadron (Heavy) as a B-24J Liberator pilot. On June 20, 1945 he was tasked
with conducting a photoreconnaissance of several Japanese Airdromes on Celebes
Island. While en route to the Mandai Airdrome, he broke formation with his
wingman and began flying in the opposite direction eventually disappearing
from site. Harter had been in regular radio contact with his wingman until he
broke formation. A wide scale search was launched the following day, but it
turned up empty handed. Harter’s B-24J had disappeared without a trace.
After the war, Australian
and Dutch War Graves Commission officials interviewed Indonesian civilians in
the area and they claimed to have seen a 4-engined aircraft-flying north and
dumping equipment. It raised the possibility that they had experienced
mechanical difficulties and later crashed at sea. To this day no trace of his
B-24 or crew has ever been found. Robert left behind a wife, Mary and daughter
Lee. He was awarded the Air Medal and Purple Heart.
In August 1947 his father, Robert, wrote the school: