Robert “Rosie” Rosenthal is one of the most decorated Airmen of World War II. Fresh out of law school, he enlisted in the US Army on 8 December 1941 as an air cadet. He earned his wings in September 1942, and was assigned to train personnel in air-to-air gunnery at Fort Meyers, Florida. In August 1943, Rosenthal joined the 100th Bomb Group, the famous “Bloody 100th,” as a pilot. On the morning of 10 October, Royal Flush , piloted by “Rosie,” along with 19 other B-17s from the 100th, set out for a bombing mission over Munster, Germany. Seven aircraft aborted enroute or shortly after reaching the coast of Holland. The first signs of trouble came after their fighter escort turned for home-9 minutes flying time from Munster-and the replacement escort, having been delayed by ground fog, failed to show up.
By the time the escort arrived for the return trip, the 100th had virtually disappeared from the sky, having been overwhelmed by over 200 enemy aircraft. Of the 13 100th Bomb Group B-17s that reached the initial point, 12 were lost to flak and enemy fighters. Only Rosenthal’s Royal Flush remained, and although seriously damaged with one engine knocked out, Royal Flush successfully bombed her objective. Heading for home, the aircraft became the object of a series of concentrated fighter attacks. With an almost completely destroyed oxygen system, a rocket hole in the right wing and several injured crew members, Royal Flush’s crew was still able to shoot down three enemy fighters. After successfully escaping enemy fighter and air defenses but unable to maintain altitude, Royal Flush’s crew threw all moveable equipment overboard, enabling Rosenthal to bring the aircraft home; the sole survivor from the 100th.
During the war, Rosenthal was shot down twice and successfully evaded capture. Following his second shoot down, while serving as command pilot for the 3d Bomb Division on a raid over Berlin, he was rescued by advancing Soviet troops and made his way to Moscow before being returned to the 100th. Rosenthal returned to the US in May 1945, and was assigned to fly B-29s until the end of World War II. Lt Col Rosenthal was one of the outstanding heroes of the Eighth Air Force and one of the most decorated, earning the Distinguished Service Cross, two Silver Stars, two Distinguished Flying Crosses, two Purple Hearts, nine Air Medals, the British Distinguished Flying Cross, and the French Croix de Guerre. After the war ended, he returned to his law firm and was later recruited as an assistant to the US Prosecutor for the Nuremberg trials. Mr. Rosenthal currently lives in New York with his wife Phillis and is retired.