Robert was born to Robert B and Bertie Gills in April 1918.  To accommodate a growing family his parents bought the handsome house at 102 E Bellefonte in June 1921, although they had to sell it four years later.  Apparently demand for Robert Sr's carpentry skills fluctuated considerably, for they frequently moved from one rented house to another, to Linden Avenue in Rosemont in 1925, then to East Howell in 1927, to East Raymond in 1929, Mt Vernon Avenue in 1931 and finally to 200 East Mt Ida, since demolished, in 1933.  There they stayed for the remainder of Robert's teenage years, while he attended GWHS.  He remained at home, working as a clerk in the census department until the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

On 8 January 1942 he enlisted in the Army Air Corps in Richmond.  He trained as a flight engineer and was apparently very proficient, for he had been promoted four times by early 1943.  He was assigned as the flight engineer for a B-17E heavy bomber that was part of the 64th Bombardment Squadron, sent to the South West Pacific.  The plane, nicknamed 'Honi Kuu Okole' (kiss my rear end in Hawaiian) took off from Dobodura Field in New Guinea in the early morning of 21 May 1943 to bomb one of the Japanese airfields guarding the base at Rabaul.  It was still dark when they arrived and they had the misfortune to be attacked by a brand new type of Japanese night fighter.  Heavily damaged, the B-17 turned back over the sea but only three crewmen managed to parachute out before it crashed into the ocean.  Gills was not one of them.  Since his body was never recovered, he is memorialized on the Tablets of the Missing at the Manila American Cemetery.

World War Two Losses

Robert B Gills Jr