Robert K. Batchelder was a native of North Attleboro, Massachusetts and a 1931 graduate of North Attleboro High School. He was an excellent scholar and athlete. Robert entered the Rhode Island State College with the Class of 1935 and enrolled in the Army ROTC program. He was a member of the Phi Mu Delta Fraternity. He attended Rhode Island State College for only one year.
He worked as a jeweler and watchmaker from 1932 to 1942 before joining the Army on 24 June 1942. Following basic training, he became a tail gunner and received his gunnery training at Las Vegas Army Airfield. Immediately following this training, he was assigned as a tail gunner of a B-17 in the 381st Bomber Group, 534th Bomber Squadron stationed at the American Bomber Base at Ridgewell, England.
The 381st Bomber Group operated chiefly against strategic objectives in Europe. Aircraft from the 381st participated in the intense bombing campaign against enemy aircraft factories in early 1944. On 19 April 1944, SGT Batchelder and his crew attacked enemy targets in the Kassel, Germany area. His B-17 aircraft had the mission to bomb the German airfield at Eschwege. SGT Batchelder’s aircraft successfully attacked all assigned targets and came under intense fire from enemy fighter aircraft. His aircraft was severely damaged and crashed near the village of Fretterode, Germany.
Only two crewmembers survived the crash, and they spent the duration of the war in a POW camp. SGT Batchelder was among those who perished in the crash. He was initially listed as Missing in Action. The Army Air Forces later declared SGT Robert K. Batchelder as Killed in Action. SGT Robert K. Batchelder is listed on a plaque which hangs in the University of Rhode Island Memorial Union honoring fallen graduates during World War II.
For his actions, SGT Robert K. Batchelder was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart Medal. His conspicuous gallantry in action was in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Army Air Forces and reflected great credit upon him, his family and the University of Rhode Island.
SGT Robert K. Batchelder’s remains were returned home on 20 December 1949; and he was laid to rest in Mt. Hope Cemetery in North Attleboro, MA with full military honors. He was survived by his wife Marian. Sergeant Robert K. Batchelder is an heroic member of the “Greatest Generation.”