Robert L Shedden

Robert L Shedden Lt -HS
Robert L Shedden, from the Lawrenceville Prep School Yearbook

Robert L. Shedden was born February 5, 1919 in Glenn Falls, New York.  His father, who practiced law in New York City, was a World War One veteran.   The family can trace their lineage back to Mayflower passenger, John Alden, through his grandmother on his father’s side.  On his mother’s side of the family, his grandparents were the Count and Countess Von Taube of Sweden.

John S Shedden Captain
His father served in World War One.
Countess Hedvig Ulrika Taube 1714 – 11 February 1744, Robert’s ancestor.

The family maintained a home in New York City, but lived first in Pleasantville and then in Chappaqua on Bedford Road.  Robert attended Lawrenceville Prep School in New Jersey and later graduated from Williams College in Massachusetts where his father had also studied.

In 1940, Robert started at Columbia Law School.  But as the war threatened to draw in the United States, his patriotism won over and he volunteered, signing up for the Army Air Force as an Aviation Cadet just three weeks before the attack on Pearl Harbor.

He selected Navigation as his vocation.  Once he passed the rigorous training the Army gave him, he was commissioned a Second Lieutenant, and they pinned the wings of a Navigator on his chest.

Virginia Shaw 2
Miss Virginia Shaw

On May 21, 1942, he married Virginia Shaw of Rye, New York, whom he met at Columbia.  The marriage took place in Georgia.  However, because of her family’s standing, the event made the society pages of the New York Times.

Robert L Shedden Lt - Marriage - Feb 1942
New York Times – Coverage of their wedding.

Very soon after his wedding, Robert was transferred to England and assigned to the 2nd Anti-Submarine Squadron at the Royal Air Force base in St Eval, Cornwall.   These squadrons were tasked with hunting and destroying German U-Boats that were crippling the U.S. troop and supply convoys bound for the European Theater.  It was a very important mission, and every man knew it.

Robert was trained in anti-submarine tactics in B-24 Liberators.   This type of heavy bomber performed a variety of roles, due to its large payload, very long range and advanced radar capabilities.   Not only were they used for escorting ship convoys, but also search and rescue operations, as well as bombing and strafing enemy targets.

B-24
B-24 Liberator configured for Anti-Submarine duty.

It is not known the number of missions in which Robert participated.  However, once a crewman was overseas, the need was so great that there was little time for rest.

Leigh light used for spotting U-boats on the surface at night
Leigh light used for spotting U-boats on the surface at night.

On one mission that took place on January 22, 1943, the Liberator, on which Robert L. Shedden was the navigator, caught fire while still over England.   The plane was diverted to R.A.F. Base Chivenor for an emergency landing.  However, the fire reached the bomb bay and due to the heat, the bombs exploded.  The plane crashed in Devonshire.   Ten other crewmen died along with Robert.  The crash site is less than 50 miles from where the Mayflower Pilgrims set sail on their historic voyage in 1620.  It was only ten months after his wedding day.  He was 23 years old.

Robert L Shedden Lt - Pittsfield Mass Obit
His Obit from Pittsfield Mass. where he went to school.

He is buried at the American Cemetery in Cambridge, England.   He received the Purple Heart and Air Medal for his service.   His name is not listed on the Memorial in Chappaqua.  However, his name is listed on the Veteran’s Memorial in Rye, New York, where his wife’s family lived.

IMG_9857
Robert’s name on the World War II memorial in Rye, New York

Research and story by: David L. Egerton

12 thoughts on “Robert L Shedden”

  1. Seems as if two flights are being confused:

    “Lieutenant Robert L. Shedden and the entire crew of his B-24D, serial # 41-24018 were killed, when the plane hit terrain, at Hartland Point in the U.K. on January 22, 1943). Detailed information is available by obtaining the report of the incident MACR 6384. Page 32 of Max Schoenfeld’s book, STALKING THE U-BOAT, published by The Smithsonian, contains the following:

    On January 22, 1943, aircraft S of the 2nd Squadron (S/2) was returning from when bad weather settled in over southwest England. Approaching the coast of England, the plane requested that it be assisted by the 19 Group controller, who was asked to give it homing directions according to established procedures, to enable the plane to find its airfield. Unfortunately, this request was made on the wrong radio frequency, and the group controller declined to respond. Although the controller at St. Eval then attempted to do so, he was too late, as the plane, flying through the pea soup, slammed into the shoreline cliffs about two miles east of Hartland Point, 40 miles up the coast from Newquay, killing the entire crew. The plane hit the Cliffside about 50 feet below its crest.

    In the judgment of the American Unit, this loss was quite unnecessary, and could have been avoided either by the pilot who had adequate fuel, remaining off the coast until he was able to get ground assistance, or if he was going on instruments, to proceed to do so at a safe altitude, or by the exercise of better judgment by the officer in charge of the .19 Group radio station. With some feeling, the loss report observed: The aircraft was obviously in difficulty, consequently it is believed that the 19 Group Station should not have quibbled about a technicality. The report also noted that strong verbal representation has been made to the AOC, 19 Group (that it was essential) that in an emergency, all possible assistance will not be withheld because of a technicality.

    2nd Lieutenant Robert L. Shedden, U. S. Army Air Forces received an Air Medal posthumously. Besides his wife and parents, he was survived by his two sisters Margaret and Jane and his younger brother Capt. Shepard T. Shedden

    Note: Robert L. Shedden crew and aircraft belonged to the US Army Air Corps 2nd Squadron which had been diverted at the last minute to St. Evall, England because of a request of Winston Churchill, to aid the RAF 19th Sub Hunter Group at a critical time in the Battle of the Atlantic. The controller who refused to give radio homing assistance was a member of the RAF’s 19th Group.

    1. The information we have in our veterans’ data base was taken from
      Losses of the 8th and 9th AFs by Bishop and Hey Vol. 1 p. 65.  Following is the excerpt from his record in our data base:
      Killed in a nonoperational as member of antisubmarine squadron.  22 January 1943 B-24 41-24019 crashed in Devonshire.  The plane had been diverted from RAF St Eval to RAF Chivenor, Devonshire.  A/C caught fire and bombs exploded, killing all. 

  2. From: Martin Gedra [mailto:martin.gedra@nara.gov]
    Sent: Thursday, November 3, 2016 2:44 PM
    To: Your Fathers War
    Subject: MACR

    Dear Sirs:

    This email is in reply to your request of 14 October, regarding a Missing Air Crew Report (MACR).

    We searched the MACR index. There is a card in it under Robert L. Shedden, but it notes “NO MACR”. The card includes the service number O-789821, so this is for the individual in question.

    In a few instances, a copy of the MACR was put into an individual’s deceased personnel file (“293 file”). Although there is no guarantee that a MACR is included, you may wish to contact the National Archives at St. Louis, ATTN: RL-SL, P.O. Box 38757, St. Louis, Missouri 63138. It has custody of burial case files (later called the Individual Deceased Personnel Files or IDPFs) from 1915 to 1976. Its email address is stl.archives@nara.gov.

    We regret that we can not be of more assistance.

    Sincerely,

    M. A. GEDRA
    Textual Reference
    National Archives at College Park, MD

    RDT2 17-04310

  3. My name is Taube Shedden Wurst and I am the daughter of Robert’s wife, Virginia, and her second husband, Robert’s brother, Shepard Shedden. This article is wonderful and full of fascinating information! Thank you for that. The information we had concerning the crash was the story that the plane crashed in foul weather when they didn’t get radio help. I would love to hear of any new information that may come up.

    1. Thank you for contacting me. I will follow up on the information you gave me. Apparently the Missing Aircrew Report has not been located by the National Archives. I have a lead on where it may be and I will try to find it. Please contact me again, if you have more information.

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