“Thank you for your service” were not just words, but a heartfelt emotion that filled the Mount Pleasant Lions Club on Tuesday night, April 3. The special guest speaker was 95-year-old Russell Robinson, a World War II fighter pilot who lives in the Mount Pleasant area.
Born in 1923, Robinson attended Andrew Lewis High School. He joined the Army Air Corps in January 1943. He shared stories with the Lions from his training days when he was learning to fly B-24 bombers (the Liberator). Robinson flew 34 bombing missions over Germany. His last mission was over Hitler’s hideaway. Perhaps the most famous person he flew with was Jimmy Stewart and they flew some of the most critical missions.
Theirs were 10-man crews and missions lasting six to eight hours. Air temperatures could range from 30 to 60 degrees below zero, heavy fog was common, and bomb loads could exceed five tons with more than 2,000 gallons of fuel.
Hypothermia was common; Robinson shared one of those personal experiences when his electric suit stopped working and he was literally freezing to death while flying.
He served for three years, and then attended Roanoke College. From 1958 to 1965 he served in the National Guard. Robinson also shared his experiences in helicopter training in Texas.
After returning to the area. Robinson began Arrowhead Drafting Services. He had greenhouses and pursued his hobby of photography. His photos can be seen in the clubhouse at the Ballyhack Golf Course. A man of many talents, Robinson makes and frames his pictures for display.
Once a pilot, always a pilot. Robinson talked about planes he has flown out of the regional airport and a make-shift landing strip that was used for a time at Randal and Pitzer Roads.
At age 95, Robinson lives independently, loves visitors, and still drives. He has two sons.