Robert Lee Wingfield

Robert Wingfield Robert Wingfield

Robert Lee Wingfield, 779th

16 November 2012

Robert Lee Wingfield flew a B-24 Liberator for 50 combat sorties over Europe during World War II, none more harrowing than his second mission, on 2 May 1944.

On that bombing run he was at about 22,000 feet, about seven minutes away from the target in Parma, Italy, when his plane and another B-24 collided.  The collision impaled the right rudder of the other B-24 onto the nose turret of his aircraft, "Big Fat Mama."  A combination of skill and luck allowed Mr. Wingfield to save his aircraft and fly it - with the other plane’s rudder stuck on its nose - to a safe landing in Corsica.  He lived to complete his tour of duty and a civilian life as a Dallas entrepreneur.

Mr. Wingfield, 94, died 16 November 2012 of natural causes at his Dallas home.

A memorial was held on 7 Decemeber at the Dallas-Fort Worth National Cemetery.

"He was just an incredibly focused individual, who took on projects and followed through on them - things that nobody else would try and attempt," said his son, Robert L. Wingfield Jr. of Dallas.

Mr. Wingfield was born in Arkansas City, Kan., and grew up in the Southwest as his oil well-drilling father moved from location to location.

His family settled in Oklahoma City, where Mr. Wingfield was a track standout in high school.

He attended the University of Southern California on an athletic scholarship but transferred to Oklahoma A&M (now Oklahoma State University).

In 1936, he competed in the Olympic trials, "but he got pneumonia and that was it," said his daughter Elizabeth Wingfield Hutchinson of Dallas.

Mr. Wingfield trained in Louisiana and Georgia before being assigned to fly a B-18 on submarine patrols in the Caribbean and the south Atlantic.  He was then assigned to Havana, Cuba, as a B-25 Mitchell and B-24 Liberator pilot.

In 1944, he was sent to North Africa and Italy with the 464th Bomb Group of the Fifteenth Air Force.

On the day of his midair collision, Mr. Wingfield was a deputy leader of a B-24 formation when the lead plane banked to the right.  Mr. Wingfield moved his plane to assume the lead position and continue on to the target.

His landing at Corsica was filmed by Movietone News, which happened to be documenting another event. Mr. Wingfield’s parents saw the report in a Shreveport, La., theater.

He received the Distinguished Flying Cross and six Air Medals.

In 1945, Mr. Wingfield was assigned to inactive duty.  He married Eileen Murphy in 1946.  Mrs. Wingfield died in 1993.  He was briefly a pilot for what became Trans World Airlines before he and several other veterans started Skyfreight Airlines Inc. in Dallas in 1946.  The company was based at Dallas Love Field, with Mr. Wingfield as president.  His next company sold surplus military aircraft engines to airlines.

After his stint in aircraft parts, he joined his father in the energy business.

Mr. Wingfield is also survived by two other sons, John Wingfield of Dallas and Wade Wingfield of Corrales, N.M.; three other daughters, Vicki Wingfield Bryson of Gruver, Susan Wingfield Olsen of Warner, N.H., and Amy Wingfield Nelson of Dallas; eight grandchildren; and one great-grandchild.

Memorials may be made to the Wounded Warrior Project.