Got a chance to hang out with Sam Robertson yesterday morning. He's the soon to be 97 year old former ball turret gunner from a B17 during WWII. That's Haywood Fellows standing next to him. "Mr Robertson and I...we have an understanding." he said. Mr Robertson graduated from Duke in 1939 and went to work for Liggett before getting drafted as an "old man" in 1943. Training as a pilot he almost crashed his biplane on his first solo flight, but due to the fact that there were too many pilots and navigators he became a gunner...because those jobs were available.
I first met Sam while riding my bicycle with a friend on Memorial Day. We headed to our favorite destination in Clayton, NC...the local coffee shop. While we were there a gentleman told us we should head across the street to Robertson Mule Company to see all the old wagons, carts, and tractors that Sam had collected and restored. Sam was very willing to share his stories about his 20 missions over Europe ...the last two of which were humanitarian food drops into Holland where starvation claimed the lives of over 18000 people in the winter of 1945/46. To this day, the people of Holland still talk about Sam's flights and the food drops that probably saved many lives. Sam remembers the message in flowers shown below and I with the help of a high school friend whose brother lives in Holland obtained a copy of the picture that memorializes their gratitude. Sam appreciated the print I made him. I could have stayed all day listening to his stories, but at least I got a chance to hear some of them.