Lt. Colonel Robert Louis Stone: Retired AF pilot who survived 6 months as WWII POW

Hometown Heroes PROFILE

Submitted by Beth Stone Gentry

Robert Louis Stone at the helm of a WWII aircraft.

Robert Louis Stone at the helm of a WWII aircraft.

Few of the WWII ‘s “Greatest Generation” Veterans are still alive today.  Robert Louis Stone is one of those courageous soldiers who is.

Born and raised in the Arcot Community of Clay County, he graduated from Celina High School in 1939 where he played football and remembers scoring many touchdowns on his team. While attending Tennessee Tech University in Cookeville he joined the USAAF (Air Force) and began training to be a pilot.

Bertha Brown Stone, now had two of her sons fighting in WWII, Louis and John T., both of whom had plowed their hillside farm and had pleasant childhoods.

After a hard day’s work on the farm, she would sit on her porch, rocking and hoping she would never see a uniform-clad man climb the steep steps to her porch.

Thankfully that never came to pass, but one day she did receive unsettling news via Western Union–Captain Robert L. Stone ‘s B-24, which he piloted and commanded, had been shot down over Romania and his fate was unknown as of April 5, 1944. The USAAF would contact her upon any new developments.

Captain Stone was a skilled pilot and flew many missions during WWII, but on that day a critical mission was assigned to the “Fighting 451st.”

Germany received 80% of their fuel from refineries and storage facilities at Ploesti, Romania. It had been a target before, but desperately needed to be wiped out.

Captain Stone’s B-24 was the lead plane in the 2nd wave of bombers.  Ascending to an altitude of 22,000 feet, his plane came under heavy fire by unexpected German aircraft.

To his left he could see a large hole in the left wing and was losing altitude, but he was able to keep his plane level because of his skill until he reached his target, dropping the bomb load right on target!

The plane had now been mangled and control was lost. Ten crew members bailed out and Captain Stone jumped through the bomb door, happy to feel the lift as he parachuted to the rooftop of a house in a small Romanian village.

He was immediately captured by the German Occupiers as shrapnel wounds to his left leg went unnoticed. Officers and enlisted soldiers were separated, with two days of interrogation to follow.

From April through August of 1944, Captain Stone was held as a prisoner of war (POW) in Bucharest. In August, Romania had surrendered with their Ploesti refineries shut down.

Another Western Union message soon arrived to Captain Stone’s mother. Her son was alive and safe. Shaken with happiness she knew her son had been brave and courageous and she was proud.

R L Stone

Retired USAAF Lt. Colonel Robert Louis Stone

Robert L. Stone (aka, Stoney, Bob, Bobby Louis, Louis) became Commander of all USAAF troops in Italy, a step to be followed by many more promotions and a career in the USAAF.

He forever loves sharing the story of picking up his brother John T. Stone–who had served in the South Pacific Theatre–in Enid, OK when WWII ended and flying him home (Berry Field) in a large cargo plane–just the two of them.

Besides that, he also tells of the many times when close by he would fly over Celina and tease farmers like Mr. John Mark Hayes while they were on a tractor in their corn fields. They all knew it was Bobby Louis.

Lt. Colonel Robert L. Stone is the son of the late Wade P. Stone and Bertha Brown Stone and brother of the late Marie Stone Holt and the late John T. Stone.  His youngest brother, Billy Stone and wife Shelba live in Hermitage Springs.

He retired  to Austin, TX where he and his wife Jeri still reside. He has two children, Ronnie Stone and Margaret (Meg) Moore.  He travels here often and is especially fond of visiting friends and family in Clay County and enjoys going to Arcot Church of Christ with his nephew Steve Holt.

He is also very pleased to have Stone Lynn, his great-great nephew called “Stoney.”  My Uncle Louis is truly symbolic of the many Clay Countians who fought hard to win WWII.  Lest not to forget, but to appreciate ALL veterans.