|Pennsylvania, Ohio, Delaware||Enlisted 12049051 / Officer O-1176533|
|U.S. Army||Battery “D,”462nd Parachute Field Artillery Battalion|
|Pacific||Battle of Corregidor (1945)|
|Awards||Military Occupational Specialty (Presumed)|
|Purple Heart||1195 (airborne field artillery unit commander)|
Early Life & Family
Robert Gage Allen was born in Donora, Pennsylvania, on December 10, 1923. He was the eldest child of Clarence Boyden Allen (1897–1937) and Marjorie Gage Allen (née Marjorie Chase Gage, later Marjorie Gage Butterfield, 1899–1957). When Allen was born, his family was residing at 619 Chestnut Street in Donora. He had a younger sister, Joan Allen (later Lovelace, 1927–2022), and a younger brother, Chase Allen (1931– ). He went by Bob (or Al to some of his fellow officers in the service).
At the time of the census on April 2, 1930, Allen’s father was working as a foreman at a blast furnace. According to Allen’s nephew, the family moved to 1261 Country Club Drive in nearby Monongahela around 1932. Allen was only 13 when his father died of influenza on February 20, 1937.
Following Clarence Allen’s death, his family briefly moved in with Marjorie Allen’s parents at 3041 East Overlook Road in Cleveland Heights, Ohio, and then to a nearby apartment at 2431 Overlook Road. The family subsequently moved to Delaware in 1939. Allen began attending Newark High School during his sophomore year (as did another future paratrooper destined to lose his life during World War II, Private John W. O’Daniel, Jr.). Allen’s mother got a job teaching science and mathematics at Wilmington Friends School.
Chase Allen recalled that the family briefly lived in an apartment on Main Street in Newark (possibly at the old Newark Opera House) before moving to another nearby. The Allen family was recorded on the census on April 10, 1940, living in a small apartment building at 24 Center Street in Newark, Delaware. One of his neighbors, living at 32 Center Street, was a young man named Roland Pusey Jackson. Jackson, a future Newark High School physical education teacher and Marine Corps rifleman, was destined to die on Iwo Jima five days after Allen parachuted onto Corregidor.
On September 30, 1940, Marjorie Allen bought land on Dallam Road near Old Oak Road on the west side of Newark. That same year, she had a home built on the parcel, soon assigned the address of 215 Dallam Road.
According to the 1942 Newark High School yearbook,
Bob came to us in the 10th grade and soon made many friends. Whenever there’s ice, you’re sure to see Bob cutting figure eights. It is whispered in Economics class that Robert is secretly under the employ of the Pittsburgh Chamber of Commerce.
The yearbook added that Allen was a member of the Dramatic Society in 1939, 1940, and 1942, and in the school band in 1939 and 1940. Curiously enough, the future paratrooper was voted “Laziest” member of the Class of 1942!
When Allen registered for the draft on June 30, 1942, shortly after graduating from Newark High School, he was living at 215 Dallam Road and working for William P. Short in Bethany Beach, Delaware. The registrar described Allen as standing six feet, four inches tall and weighing 165 lbs., with brown hair and brown eyes. He was Protestant according to his military paperwork.
Military Training & Service in the Pacific Theater
Allen volunteered for the U.S. Army in Camden, New Jersey, on July 10, 1942. After basic training, Allen attended Officers Candidate Class 49-43 at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, from November 5, 1942 – January 28, 1943. Upon graduation, he was commissioned as a 2nd lieutenant in the Field Artillery Branch. He subsequently attended the Parachute School at Fort Benning, Georgia. While stationed at Benning, Allen met Ruth Dorothy McRae, a cashier living in Columbus, Georgia. They married in Phenix City, Alabama, on September 10, 1943.
On January 27, 1944, 2nd Lieutenant Allen began keeping a diary. Though his entries were brief, they reveal that he was already a member of his final unit, the 462nd Parachute Field Artillery Battalion, when he began writing. The unit had been activated at Camp Mackall, North Carolina, on June 16, 1943. Lieutenant Allen was the youngest officer in his battalion.
Allen’s entries in early 1944 mention spending some days at nearby Fort Bragg and Charlotte, North Carolina. His leisure activities included playing poker, listening to the radio, watching movies, and writing letters. He mentioned that he tried twice to telephone home before he shipped out to the Pacific Theater but was unable to get through. Although the entries were mostly devoted to events rather than introspection, on February 3, 1944, Lieutenant Allen reflected on his rushed marriage: “The more I think of my situation, the more I realize what I great mistake I made.”
At the end of February 1944, Lieutenant Allen and his battalion boarded a train at Camp Mackall to head west. He wrote that he arrived at Camp Stoneman, staging area for the San Francisco Port of Embarkation, on March 6, 1944. Lieutenant Allen wrote on March 12, 1944, that his ship passed under the Golden Gate Bridge, which he remarked was “Very Beautiful[.]” He did not write again until March 28, 1944, when his troopship arrived in Brisbane, Australia. The 462nd disembarked and moved to nearby Camp Cable.
Although they spent much of the next few months training, Lieutenant Allen and his comrades enjoyed spending time off duty in nearby Brisbane. 1st Lieutenant James Ridley Thomas (1922–1981) wrote in a letter to Allen’s family: “In Australia Al and I took-off for South Port Beach every week-end we were free. With a Jeep — case of beer — swim suits and a room at the officers rest camp, we managed to have a good holiday.”
Several months after arriving in Australia, the unit shipped out aboard the Dutch ship merchant ship Van Heutsz, bound for Noemfoor in the Dutch East Indies. The island—now known as Numfor, Indonesia—is located off the northwest coast of New Guinea. Lieutenant Thomas later recalled:
From Australia to New Guinea to the Dutch Indies to the Philippines Al and I swam off the side of the transport ships. He was a powerful swimmer and I tried my darndest to match his stroke, but never could quite make it.
Like other field artillery units of the era, the 462nd was equipped with light aircraft for artillery spotting. Lieutenant Allen convinced the unit’s liaison pilots to give him flying lessons. 1st Lieutenant William Ross Little (1915–2001) wrote in a letter to Allen’s family:
We flew together quite a bit in our Cub plane — up until the time I discontinued flying and took up jumping. He was quite enthusiastic about flying and could fly quite well […] If it had been possible I would have let him solo.
At Noemfoor our air strip was right on the water and our little air-section on a sandy beach. Many of the Officers came down and went swimming at “our” beach and Bob came down many times. He enjoyed salt water and sun as much as I did and we spent some enjoyable times there.
Lieutenant Thomas added in his letter: “Had given Al quite a few flying lessons. His take-off and coordination in the air were O.K. but he wasn’t quite up to par on his landings.”
On Noemfoor, the 462nd Parachute Field Artillery Battalion and Company “C” of the 161st Parachute Engineer Battalion were attached to the 503rd Parachute Infantry Regiment to form the 503rd Parachute Infantry Regimental Combat Team (or 503rd R.C.T. for short).
Lieutenant Allen wrote on November 10, 1944, that he had boarded the transport U.S.S. Comet (AP-166). He arrived at Leyte, Philippine Islands, on November 18, 1944, and on another island in the archipelago, Mindoro, on December 15, 1944. Allen recorded the last entry in his diary that day: “Landed on Mindoro no opposition.”
Lieutenant Allen commanded 2nd Machine Gun Platoon, Battery “D,” 462nd Parachute Field Artillery Battalion. Batteries “A,” “B,” and “C” were equipped with 75 mm pack howitzers, while Allen’s Battery “D” was equipped with .50 machine guns (eight per platoon).
On Noemfoor, Leyte, and Mindoro, the 462nd Parachute Field Artillery Battalion saw no action beyond patrolling. That changed in February 1945, when the 503rd R.C.T. was selected for one of the boldest airborne operations ever conducted.
Battle of Corregidor (1945)
Corregidor. In the 1940s, few places evoked as much emotion in the American public as that small island at the mouth of Manila Bay. Nicknamed “The Rock,” Corregidor was famed as the last American bastion in the Philippines. The American defenders at Fort Mills there finally surrendered to Japanese invaders on May 6, 1942, five months into the Pacific War and just one month before the Battle of Midway signaled a reversal in Allied fortunes in the theater. Now, nearly three years later, as the Americans campaigned to recapture the Philippines, Corregidor held greater symbolic than strategic value.
In his book, Triumph in the Philippines, U.S. Army historian Robert Ross Smith observed that “unlike the situation in 1941–42 when MacArthur’s forces held the island as a final fortress, Corregidor had no significant place in Japanese plans for the defense of Luzon.” American planners could simply have bombarded the island by air and sea and then bypassed it, though Smith pointed out that “until the island was secured, the Japanese on Corregidor could harass Allied shipping within Manila Bay and could also use the island as a refuge for escapees from the mainland.”
U.S. Sixth Army planners settled on an ambitious plan scheduled for February 16, 1945: an airborne assault on the high ground on the west end of the island, known as Topside, combined with an amphibious assault against the low ground on the east end of the island, nicknamed Bottomside. Without the airborne assault, the infantrymen landing at Bottomside would have come under enfilading fire from Topside. Intelligence reports wildly underestimated the strength of the Japanese garrison as about 850 men, when the actual strength was over 6,000 men.
The airborne plan was extremely risky. The areas of Topside with the fewest obstacles were a pair of fields that, before the war, had been the Fort Mills parade ground and golf course. However, these drop zones were extremely small. The necessary precision ruled out a night operation. Furthermore, Smith explained that
each C-47 could not be over the dropping grounds for more than six seconds. With each man taking a half second to get out of the plane and another twenty-five seconds to reach the ground from the planned drop altitude of 400 feet, the wind would cause each paratrooper to drift about 250 feet westward during his decent. This amount of drift would leave no more than 100 yards of ground distance at each drop zone to allow for human error or sharp changes in the wind’s speed or direction.
Such small drop zones meant that each plane would have to make multiple passes. There were not enough aircraft (or pilots with the training to perform such precision airborne operations) to drop the entire 503rd R.C.T. together. In fact, it would take three trips to airlift the entire regimental combat team. The troops dropped on the first lift would be on their own for hours and the troops dropped on the second and third lifts would not benefit from the element of surprise.
According to the 462nd Parachute Field Artillery Battalion operations plan, “The Battalion was scheduled to drop in three lifts, each lift consisting of one firing battery, one platoon of “D” Battery and elements of Hq. Battery.” 2nd Lieutenant Allen’s platoon was assigned to the second lift. After dropping on Field “A,” the former parade ground, their orders were to support 2nd Battalion of the 503rd Parachute Infantry Regiment and set up defensive positions on the perimeter of the drop zone.
In their book, Vindication on Corregidor – 1945, Paul Whitman and David Metherell wrote that Battery Wheeler “was the initial point for the jumpmasters to commence counting, and even then the strong headwinds blew many jumpers towards the cliffs.”
The Japanese defenders had anticipated an amphibious assault following an intense bombardment from American aircraft and naval gunfire but were caught off guard when the 317th Troop Carrier Group began dropping paratroopers at 0833 hours. Some of the first troops landed away from their drop zone, practically on top of the Japanese commander’s observation post, and killed him after a brief firefight. Though their top leadership was gone, the remaining defenders resisted tenaciously. About two hours later, infantrymen from a reinforced 3rd Battalion, 34th Infantry Regiment began landing at Bottomside. The airborne assault, as planned, “diverted Japanese attention from the amphibious craft moving on Corregidor. Obviously confused by the co-ordinated assault, the Japanese did not know what to do first.”
The C-47s returned to Mindoro to refuel and load the second lift, which arrived above Corregidor at 1240 hours. This time, the Japanese garrison was ready.
From Bottomside, Sergeant Werner H. Schlaupitz (Company “A,” 34th Infantry Regiment) watched the paratroopers jump under fire. “All I have to do is close my eyes and I see them coming down,” he recalled in an interview more than 77 years later. “They were shooting them like fish in a barrel.”
There is contradictory information on whether Lieutenant Allen and his platoon jumped during the first or the second lift. Within months of the battle, three officers wrote letters to his family stating that Allen jumped with the first lift, though a fourth man wrote that Allen jumped during the second lift.
Regardless, Lieutenant Allen’s platoon boarded four of the aircraft assigned to their lift, with 14–15 soldiers on each plane. During the first two passes, the C-47s dropped equipment. Lieutenant Allen likely jumped on the third pass along with three or four of his men.
Unfortunately, the wind carried Lieutenant Allen away from the drop zone to the cliffs near Battery Wheeler, an area filled with enemy soldiers. His parachute caught in a tree and he was shot several times, including a fatal wound to his neck. Had Allen jumped moments later than he did—or if the wind had been a little weaker—he would have landed in the tiny drop zone. If he had jumped a few seconds earlier or the wind had been stronger, Lieutenant Allen would have landed further down the cliffs, on the narrow beach on that side of Corregidor, or in the water offshore, where American patrol torpedo boats were standing by to rescue paratroopers. Indeed, several men from his plane were rescued by boats and eventually returned to duty.
The third lift was cancelled, though the rest of the 503rd Regimental Combat Team arrived the next day by landing craft. Days of fierce fighting resulted in the annihilation of most of the Japanese garrison by February 21, 1945, though mopping up continued for another five days after that.
Major Melvin Robert Knudson (1917–2008), who had assumed command of the 462nd Parachute Field Artillery Battalion after the previous battalion commander was injured during the jump, wrote in a letter (written on May 25, 1945, while the 462nd was in combat on another island in the Philippines, Negros) that nobody knew of Lieutenant Allen’s fate for several days:
For the first couple of days Bob was reported as missing in action. We then received a report that his identification bracelet had been found & brought in after having been found in a draw in the vicinity of Wheeler Battery. This was the vicinity in which a group of men had been evacuated by P.T. Boats coming up to the cliffs & recovering them. We though Robert may have been one of them. It was impossible to work down into the draws Bob was reported last seen in, because it was securely held by the [Japanese]. We held only the “Top Side” of the Island during those first few days. It was not until the 21st [sic] of February that our troops managed to secure the draws in the vicinity of Wheeler Battery. […]
When Bob was found he was still in his parachute harness, & reported as having been caught in a tree. That is to say his parachute had hung in a tree, suspending him well off the ground & making it extremely difficult for him to release himself from his harness. Based on these facts it was quite obvious that Bob must have been shot & killed the day of the jump. That draw was one of the “hottest” on the island & infested with snipers & emplacements. It was our opinion that Bob had been shot by a sniper. There was no indication that he had been in pain at any time.
Lieutenant Thomas revealed something in his letter that, while surely a common tragedy on the battlefield, was rarely disclosed to families:
We couldn’t get to him! To convince you how the men felt about him—we lost several men trying to cut him loose from his chute. It was on the second day before a man or a group of men got him down. Maybe I shouldn’t tell you all this but it’s an awfully great tribute to any man to have his buddies give their lives to procure his corpse. It’s a tribute seldom received from men under murderous fire.
On February 20, 1945, Lieutenant Allen was buried at the U.S. Armed Forces Cemetery Mariveles No. 1 on the Bataan Peninsula, Luzon. Lieutenant Thomas wrote that he was the only member of the 462nd able to attend the funeral, adding: “After the burial was over I flew low over the spot and gave him my best victory roll that my battered plane could stand. I found time to salute him in the same fashion daily until we were released.”
Lieutenant Allen was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart. The 462nd Parachute Field Artillery Battalion was among several units awarded the Presidential Unit Citation for the collective actions of its soldiers during February 16–28, 1945. The 503rd R.C.T. became known as the Rock Force in honor of their achievements in the Corregidor operation.
Major Knudson concluded his letter to the Allen family in part:
Robert had found his “niche”, as we say, as a leader of a 50 cal. machine gun platoon, and we expected to see him do a wonderful job, & the type of job he was capable of, on that operation. We miss him a great deal on this [next] operation [on Negros, Philippine Islands]. His battery officers, and men of his platoon all would like to have had him with us.
The operation was one that none of us will ever forget, and each & every one of us was extremely proud to be the assault troops. It was costly, and all of us lost some very dear friends, and names that will never be replaced in the hearts of the “old men” of the organization. Bob was one of those men.
Lieutenant Allen’s body was reinterred at the U.S. Armed Forces Cemetery Manila No. 2 on Luzon on December 5, 1945. During the summer of 1948, Lieutenant Allen’s mother wrote the Department of the Army asking for her son to remain buried in the Philippines, explaining: “My son’s wishes both direct from him & reiterated by his buddies was that he remain there.” (Indeed, in his 1945 letter, Lieutenant Thomas stated: “I hope the family will let him stay in that same row of crosses after the war. Every soldier wants it that way!”)
In 1949, 2nd Lieutenant Allen was reburied for the final time at the Fort William McKinley Cemetery, today known as the Manila American Cemetery (Plot D, Row 4, Grave 125). His name is commemorated on the Newark War Memorial at the Academy Building in Newark and on the Rock Force memorial at Topside on Corregidor.
The identification bracelet that Lieutenant Allen was wearing at the time of his death was returned to his family with his other personal effects. His brother, Chase, a Korean War veteran himself, continues to wear that bracelet in his brother’s memory. Chase and his wife named their son Robert Gage Allen. Appropriately enough, he was born on Memorial Day.
Ruth Allen remarried to Thomas Edward Sweeney on May 31, 1946, in Phenix City, Alabama.
Although honored on Newark’s memorial, for unknown reasons, Lieutenant Allen’s name was omitted from the memorial at Veterans Memorial Park in New Castle and in the Delaware Memorial Volume. That is even though he was listed among fallen New Castle County soldiers on the official U.S. Army casualty list compiled in 1946, a list that the State of Delaware Public Archives Commission consulted before finalizing the list of Delaware fallen.
Special thanks to Lieutenant Allen’s nephew, Bob Allen, for contributing photos and his uncle’s diary. Thanks also go out to Lieutenant Allen’s brother, Chase Allen, and Werner Schlaupitz for contributing their memories, and to the Newark History Museum for scans from the Newark High School yearbook. Last but not least, let me express my appreciation to Paul Whitman of Corregidor.org for information and photos of the Rock Force.
“1940s Class Rosters.” Artillery OCS Alumni website. http://artilleryocsalumni.com/rosters/classrosters40s.pdf
Allen, Bob. Email correspondence July 15–26, 2022.
Allen, Robert G. “Service Diary.” Unpublished journal January 27, 1944 – December 15, 1944. Courtesy of Bob Allen.
Carter, Jack D. “Battalion History 1 January 1945 to 21 December 1945.” Headquarters 462d Parachute Field Artillery Battalion, December 21, 1945. World War II Operations Reports, 1940–48. Record Group 407, Records of the Adjutant General’s Office. National Archives at College Park, Maryland.
“General Orders No. 53.” War Department, July 8, 1945. World War II Operations Reports, 1940–48. Record Group 407, Records of the Adjutant General’s Office. National Archives at College Park, Maryland.
Gibson, “Hoot.” “A Synoptic History of the 462d PFA Bn.” Corregidor.org website https://corregidor.org/462/history_462_synoptic.htm
Headstone Inscription and Interment Records for U.S. Military Cemeteries on Foreign Soil, 1942–1949. Record Group 117, Records of the American Battle Monuments Commission, 1918–c. 1995. National Archives at Washington, D.C. https://www.ancestry.com/imageviewer/collections/9170/images/42861_647350_0535-00924
Kline, Arlis E. “FO #2.” February 14, 1945. World War II Operations Reports, 1940–48. Record Group 407, Records of the Adjutant General’s Office. National Archives at College Park, Maryland.
Krawen 1942. Courtesy of the Newark History Museum.
“Part Taken by 462d Parachute Field Artillery Battalion in the Corregidor, P.I. Operation from 16 February 1945 Thru 2 March 1945.” World War II Operations Reports, 1940–48. Record Group 407, Records of the Adjutant General’s Office. National Archives at College Park, Maryland.
Pennsylvania Death Certificates, 1906-1967. Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. https://www.ancestry.com/imageviewer/collections/5164/images/42342_2421401696_0552-02430
“Robert G. Allen.” Corregidor.org website. https://corregidor.org/taps/htm/allen.htm
Robert Gage Allen Individual Deceased Personnel File. National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis, Missouri. Courtesy of John Eakin.
“S-3 Journal, HHQ Journal, D, E & F Co Histories.” February 16, 1945. https://corregidor.org/BEA503/portal/Portal%20-%2016%20Feb.htm
Schlaupitz, Werner H. Interview in Dover, Delaware, on July 19, 2022.
Smith, Robert Ross. Triumph in the Philippines. Originally published in 1963, republished by the Center of Military History, United States Army, 1993. https://history.army.mil/html/books/005/5-10-1/CMH_Pub_5-10-1.pdf
United States of America, Bureau of the Census. Fifteenth Census of the United States, 1930. National Archives at Washington, D.C. https://www.ancestry.com/imageviewer/collections/6224/images/4639499_00013
United States of America, Bureau of the Census. Sixteenth Census of the United States, 1940. National Archives at Washington, D.C. https://www.ancestry.com/imageviewer/collections/2442/images/m-t0627-00546-00187
Whitman, Paul and Metherell, David. Vindication on Corregidor – 1945. PX Publications, 2020.
World War II Army Enlistment Records. Record Group 64, Records of the National Archives and Records Administration. National Archives at College Park, Maryland. https://aad.archives.gov/aad/record-detail.jsp?dt=893&mtch=1&cat=all&tf=F&q=12049051&bc=&rpp=10&pg=1&rid=518030
WWII Draft Registration Cards for Delaware, 10/16/1940–3/31/1947. Record Group 147, Records of the Selective Service System. National Archives at St. Louis, Missouri. https://www.ancestry.com/imageviewer/collections/2238/images/44003_05_00001-01400
Last updated on September 7, 2022
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