- Posted May 25, 2009 by
Bladenboro, North Carolina
This iReport is part of an assignment:
Remembering the fallen
WWII Hero - 2nd Lt. Robert V. Mercer - Pilote - KIA Jan 28, 1945 - Kain, Belgium
MERCER Robert - Belgian MEMORIAL and American HEADSTONE ..2-1.jpg Robert Mercer was killed in action on January 28, 1945 when the B-17 he was piloting was crippled by flack over Germany and crashed in a village in Belgium while attempting to get back to an airfield in northern France. After stabilizing the aircraft long enough for his crew to parachute to safety, he chose to remain with the plane to try to prevent catastrophe to the people in the village below. Eye witnesses on the ground reported that the fiery bomber was coming from the overcast sky directly towards a row of apartments, a church, and the village school. At the last moment, the plane veered sharply to the left and crashed into a large garden area about 100 meters from the church and 50 meters from the school. They are convinced that the pilot's actions prevented heavy devastation and loss of life for the villagers. Last year, the city of Tournai held a memorial ceremony to place a monument at the church to commemorate his actions while those who remembered the crash were still living to tell their story for the benefit of future generations. Lt. Mercer's remains had been buried in France, but were returned to his family in 1947 where they were buried in the family plot at Singletary Cemetery in Butters, N.C. When word of the ceremony in Belgium came back to the people in Bladenboro, NC they realized that there had been no acknowledgement of his sacrificial actions or his military service by the local community. His grave is marked with a simple footstone. The local VFW has prepared a headstone for his gravesite and the family will gather to dedicate the new monument and share memories of Bob with all generations. A memorial ceremony occurred May 17, at the Bladenboro Historical Building in Bladenboro, NC in lieu of Singletary Cemetary at 4:00 P.M due to heavy rain. Instead the presentation began with a full military color guard, a bugler and a military detail to fold and present the flag and spent cartridges to the oldest surviving family member, Louise Mercer Toumbacaris of Whitestone, NY, surrounded by approximately 100 family members. The second part of the ceremony proceeded inside with the unveiling of a formal portrait by Bruce Skidmore of Charleston, SC , covered by the flag of Belgium, and the presentation of a large military wreath by the oldest members of the Mercer family; followed by 2 smaller red-white-blue wreaths to represent 2 following generations and a smaller bunch of red-white-blue flowers tied with ribbon laid at the foot of the portrait by the youngest of the Mercer generation. Our family and Uncle Bob would be honored to have CNN remember him, and his service to our country and world. The follow is information from our friend and liaison in Tournai Belgium, Jacques DE CEUNINCK re a memorial service in Kain Belgium on May 23rd. “I am very moved to read your e-mail and to see the pictures. Thanks to have think at our Belgian flag. I am very impatient to see other pictures and read other information on Bladenboro museum and its Robert Mercer's display. In Kain in front of Bob's Memorial - next saterday 23rd May : a short ceremony. With my grand-son LUCAS - almost 4 years and young boy of the nursery school ( avoided by Bob during his last seconds of his life ! ) and with some friends of the "Société Royale Philanthropique des Médaillés et Décorés de Belgique" - founded in 1865 by Leopold the first, our King " I'll lay a vase with red, white and blue artificial flowers. This short ceremony ( memorial inauguration anniversary - 22nd May ) will be commemorated each year on the nearest Saterday of 22nd May. Best wishes to you Jacques” Our family and Uncle Bob would by honored to have CNN remembering him, and his service to our country and world. More information on Uncle Bob’s story may be found via Google. See Tom’s War by James Hammond and there is also book written in honor of Uncle Bob 100% in French by Mr. DE Ceuninck.