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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Research and story by: David L. Egerton