CAPT Jimmy P. Robinson, USAF MIA
November 1, 1952 Operation Ivy,
Enewetak, Marshall Islands
by Andi Wolos, AII POW-MIA
Jimmy Robinson was a Pilot… and a Husband, a Father, an Officer and a Gentleman, an Ex-POW and then one day he went missing.
The case of Captain Jimmy Priestly Robinson is a unique one. A brave, wonderful man, Robinson was lost during the first H-bomb test, known as Operation Ivy, Mike Shot. The case is unique because Jimmy Robinson has never been accounted-for, even though his loss incident was witnessed. His remains have never been recovered, even though the U.S. Government knew exactly where he was lost. His family has received no answers, no effects, nothing, even though he was lost during one of the most witnessed, watched and studied events in our nation's history. No agency, neither DPMO nor the USAF, the White House, or any other USG entity considers itself responsible with respect to providing the family with answers. Jimmy Robinson is simply “lost”… lost to time, lost to National Security and, most sadly, lost to official “bureaucracy.”
On November 1st, 1952, the first H-Bomb test, code-named Operation IVY, Mike Shot, was scheduled for detonation off the tiny atoll of Enewetak (Eniwetok), Marshall Islands. IVY was an atmospheric nuclear weapons test series held in the Atomic Energy Commission's (AEC) Pacific Proving Ground. Joint Task Force 132 (JTF 132) was the organization that conducted the IVY test series. Elements of the four services, the AEC and other Federal government agencies, and civilians from government laboratory organizations and contractors made up this organization. 9,000 people were in the vicinity of Enewetak that day, Jimmy Robinson was part of TG 132.4.
Robinson, an accomplished and war-tested pilot, was assigned to fly an F-84G-5 Cloud Sampler that day. His mission? To fly through the enormous mushroom cloud created by the H-Bomb detonation.
“The Shot, as witnessed aboard the various vessels at sea, is not easily described. Accompanied by a brilliant light, the heat wave was felt immediately at distances of thirty to thirty-five miles. The tremendous fireball, appearing on the horizon like the sun when half-risen, quickly expanded after a momentary hover time and appeared to be approximately a mile in diameter before the cloud-chamber effect and scud clouds partially obscured it from view. A very large cloud- chamber effect was visible shortly after the detonation and a tremendous conventional mushroom-shaped cloud soon appeared, seemingly balanced on a wide, dirty stem.
Apparently, the dirty stem was due to the coral particles, debris, and water which were sucked high into the air. Around the base of the stem, there appeared to be a curtain of water which soon dropped back around the area where the island of Elugelab [Eluklab] had been.”
Robinson, flying Pebble Red Four, flew through the massive cloud, collecting air samples for study. During the mission, Robinson encountered some instability and problems with his navigation equipment but was able to recover. He ran low on fuel and was instructed to fly back to Enewetak. Robinson was in radio contact and reported the atoll in sight, and shortly afterwards reported he could not make the airstrip and would bail out. A support/SAR helicopter was trailing Robinson and his last transmission confirms “I have the helicopter in sight and am bailing out.”
According to the official Operation Ivy After Action Report, “The helicopter pilot observed the F-84G drop its wing tanks and possibly eject the cockpit canopy also. Red 4 then flew into the water in a level glide, seeming to be under positive control. The helicopter arrived over the sinking plane from the approach or west end of Enewetak Island) about 1 minute after it hit the water, at about 1030. The F-84G had flipped over when it hit. The pilot was never found.”
The family of Jimmy Robinson knows what happened that day… but the USG has stonewalled them every inch of the way for over 50 years in their search for his remains and answers.
From November 1st through the 3rd, Jimmy Robinson was Missing. Then he was a confirmed casualty, killed in action. The Atomic testing program continued with Operation Castle, Redwing, King and others. Tens of thousands of veterans who served in the Pacific Proving Ground were polluted and poisoned… and Jimmy Robinson remained missing.
Eventually the USG, having completed their Atomic testing program and having completely laid waste to the Marshall Islands, was tasked with cleaning up the mess. This included removal of sunken craft and buildings, biological clean-up, and an endless housekeeping list to make the islands “inhabitable” before turning them back to the control of the Marshallese people.
Was Jimmy Robsinon's craft ever recovered… either after the loss or years later when the USG was cleaning up its mess? The family was told that divers did investigate the wreckage. Were Robinson's remains ever recovered? Clearly the fact that he was the first Atomic loss made him a valuable asset to the various Atomic Agencies, scientists and physicists. As he had flown directly into the cloud, and other Pebble Red members were known to have had exposure, recovering Jimmy Robinson should have been a priority.
No one was saying. National Security precluded any answers. It took 50 years for the USG to finally allow the family to even have a Memorial Service at Arlington and present his widow with a flag. But that was the limit of what the USG would give the family.
Today, the family is between a rock and a hard place. His daughter, Rebecca “Becky” Miller, a tireless, wonderful lady who works for Atomic Veterans is told he is not a Cold War case… DPMO will not help, it is not their problem. The USAF considers his a training casualty. The DOE – Department of Energy – has classified everything. Jimmy P. Robinson remains lost because, according to his government, there was no hostile action, there was no enemy.
In reality, Jimmy Robinson remains lost because his own government, one he served so honorably, was wounded for, fought war for, was captured for, has chosen to abandon him.
DEPARTMENT OF THE AIR FORCE
Office of the Chief of Staff
United States Air Force
December 11, 1952
My Dear Mrs. Robinson:
It was with deep regret that I learned of the untimely death of your husband, Captain Jimmy P. Robinson.
Captain Robinson's military record was excellent and his many fine qualities were a source of inspiration to all who knew him. His loss will be keenly felt by those associated with him in the extremely important mission in which he was engaged at the time of his death. The significance of his contribution to the success of that mission will be measured by their increased devotion to the task remaining to be done.
Mr. Gordon Dean, Chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission, has asked me to convey his sympathy to you, personally and in behalf of Captain Robinson's friends in the Commission who share your great loss.
My heartfelt sympathy is extended to you, and I hope that pride in the memory of your husband's achievements will bring some measure of comfort to you and the other members of the family.
HOYT S. VANDENBERG
Chief of Staff, United States Air Force
HEADQUARTERSJOINT TASK FORCE 132
Office of the Commander
Kirtland Air Force Base
Albuquerque, New Mexico.
December 1, 1952
Dear Mrs. Robinson:
I am forwarding for your information the final report on the search that was conducted for your husband's airplane. It was out hope that if we could locate the plane, we would be able to recover his body. It is with great reluctance, however, that I must inform you that the search was unsuccessful, and has now been discontinued.
If there is anything further in which I can be of assistance to you, please do not hesitate to call on me.
You may be interested to know I am recommending that Captain Robinson be awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross posthumously.
Frederic E. Glantzberg
Brigadier General, U. S. A. F.
Commander, Joint Task Force 132
1360TH AIR BASE GROUP
AIR PHOTOGRAPHIC AND CHARTING SERVICE(MATS)
UNITED STATES AIR FORCE
ORLANDO, AIR FORCE BASE, FLORIDA
16 October, 1953
Mrs. Jimmy P. Robinson
The Department of the Air Force has asked me to present to you the Distinguished Flying Cross, which the President of the United States has awarded, posthumously, to your husband, Captain Jimmy P. Robinson, USAF, for heroism while participating in aerial flight.
This medal is awarded only to those who have distinguished themselves by extraordinary devotion to duty combined with a personal disregard for one's own safety.
At your convenience, I would like very much to present this medal to you at Orlando Air Force Base. If you find it inconvenient to come here, I will, of course, arrange for you to receive it at Sanford.
I shall appreciate very much your advising me whether or not you will be able to come to Orlando, and if so, the date of your arrival.
In the meantime, if I can be of service to you. I shall deem it an honor to assist you in every way possible.
WILLARD V. BROWN
Colonel, U.S. Air Force
ROBINSON, JIMMY PRIESTLY
CPT US AIR FORCE
WORLD WAR II
- DATE OF BIRTH: 06/09/1924
- DATE OF DEATH: 11/01/1952
- BURIED AT: SECTION MC SITE 32-L
ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY
Michael Robert Patterson was born in Arlington and is the son of a former officer of the US Army. So it was no wonder that sooner or later his interests drew him to American history and especially to American military history. Many of his articles can be found on renowned portals like the New York Times, Washingtonpost or Wikipedia.
Reviewed by: Michael Howard