93-year-old Robert Farwell of Bakersfield, CA appears on the July 6, 2013 edition of Hometown Heroes, remembering his experiences in aviation. Farwell grew up in Duluth, MN, the youngest of four brothers. His military experience began at the age of 16, when he lied about his age to get into the National Guard in 1936. He obtained a pilot’s license before joining the U.S. Army Air Corps in October, 1940. It was the USAAC that first brought Farwell to California, and while stationed in Bakersfield, he met a young lady named Sara Sandrini at a dance. Bob and Sara were married in 1943.
Robert Farwell as a young pilot. For more photos related to Farwell and his service, visit the Hometown Heroes facebook page.
Farwell flew every model of the B-17 Flying Fortress, and spent the early years of America’s involvement in the war training bomber pilots. He estimates that he trained at least 200 young men who went over to bomb the enemy. In 1944, he was sent overseas to join the 306th Bomb Group. Flying with the 368th squadron, Major Farwell was told that he would take over as squadron commander after completing five missions. His fifth mission targeted clean coal and hydrogen facilities in Ruhland, Germany, and as soon as fighter escort left the squadron, Farwell saw four German FW-190 fighters headed his way. You’ll hear Farwell describe how the events unfolded, how he was the last to bail out of the “Belle of the Brawl” and how all but one member of his crew survived. The co-pilot, 2nd Lt. William D. “Bill” Markle, died because he had apparently undone the leg straps on his parachute for comfort reasons in flight. Farwell and the other survivors became prisoners of war. Follow this link for another account of that September 12, 1944 mission. Within a week of his capture, Farwell sent this postcard home to his wife:
Farwell would spend the next eight months as a prisoner of war, most of that time at Stalag Luft I in Barth, Germany. You’ll hear him remember what he and the other prisoners were given to eat, and why he still feels reverence and gratitude for the American Red Cross. Farwell’s military story extends far beyond World War II, and the time on this program didn’t quite allow us to get to his liberation from Stalag Luft I. We’ll get to that and the rest of his story on the next edition of Hometown Heroes.
Robert Farwell with his son, Chris. At age 93, Bob still plays golf twice a week.
If you happen across the guy on the right swinging his clubs on the links in Bakersfield, please thank him for serving our country.