'Legendary' American pilot remembered through new nose art at Suffolk base

Dan and Sam Rosenthal at the unveiling of the Rosie's Riveters artwork. Inset, Lt. Col. Robert "Rosie" Rosenthal

Dan and Sam Rosenthal at the unveiling of the Rosie's Riveters artwork. Inset, Lt. Col. Robert "Rosie" Rosenthal - Credit: Karen Abeyasekere

A 'legendary' Second World War pilot who was twice shot down has been remembered through nose art on a plane at RAF Mildenhall.

The "Rosie's Riveters" artwork was unveiled on a KC-135 Stratotanker earlier this month, part of the 100th Air Refuelling Wing (ARW), in honour of legendary pilot Lt. Col. Robert "Rosie" Rosenthal.

U.S. Army Air Forces Lt. Col. Robert “Rosie” Rosenthal was a legendary pilot who was assigned to the

U.S. Army Air Forces Lt. Col. Robert “Rosie” Rosenthal - Credit: Karen Abeyasekere/USAF

The former New York City attorney had signed up to the war effort the day after the Pearl Harbour attack, and became part of the Eighth Air Force and the 100th Bomb Group (BG) based at Thorpe Abbotts near Diss.

Rosie flew more than twice the average number of missions for a pilot during the war, getting shot down twice in his 52 missions. His heroics earned him medals including the Distinguished Flying Cross, Purple Heart with cluster, the British Distinguished Flying Cross and the French Croix de Guerre.

U.S. Army Air Forces Lt. Col. Robert “Rosie” Rosenthal, kneeling, second left, and his air and groun

Lt. Col. Robert “Rosie” Rosenthal, kneeling, second left, and his air and ground crew pose for a photo in 1944, at Thorpe Abbotts, Diss, England, in front of the original “Rosie’s Riveters” B-17 Flying Fortress - Credit: Karen Abeyasekere/USAF

He died on April 20, 2007, aged 89.

Rosie's son and grandson Dan and Sam Rosenthal visited Suffolk for the unveiling, who said the honour means a lot to their family.

Dan said: “Thank you for recognizing my dad today. Knowing Rosie as I do, he likely would have said others in the 100th Bomb Group were more deserving and that he was just ‘doing his job. 

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“What made my dad a great leader was his ability to listen and learn from others, and to respect all who served on the base, from the crews who cleaned up the base, to the top brass.

"He recognized that it took everyone to make the missions possible to succeed. He was a great leader and a great man.”

Dan Rosenthal, son of legendary World War II pilot Lt. Col. Robert “Rosie” Rosenthal, speaks at a no

Dan Rosenthal, son of legendary World War II pilot Lt. Col. Robert “Rosie” Rosenthal, speaks at a nose art unveiling ceremony at RAF Mildenhall - Credit: Karen Abeyasekere/USAF

Sam, who was 10 when Rosie died, said he has been researching his grandfather's history and will always remember him for being his best friend.

He said his morality, kindness, empathy, selflessness and bravery were "at his very core".

The 100th Air Refueling Wing’s latest heritage nose art, “Rosie’s Riveters,” is officially unveiled

The 100th Air Refueling Wing’s latest heritage nose art, “Rosie’s Riveters,” designed by Bruce Richardson - Credit: Karen Abeyasekere/USAF

He said: “When I was old enough to search ‘Robert Rosenthal’ online, from the articles I read about him it was initially hard for me to reconcile the funny, loveable grandpa with the storied man profiled on the page.

"But it didn’t take me long to see how the tenets that defined him as a war hero – his morality, kindness, empathy, selflessness and bravery – were who he was at his very core.

“For years it was hard for me to comprehend how the man with the easy laugh, the twinkling eyes, the corny jokes – my best friend during my early years – was no longer around. 

A photo of Lt. Col. Robert “Rosie” Rosenthal, left, Col. Frederick Sutterlin, center, and Maj. Harry

A photo of Lt. Col. Robert “Rosie” Rosenthal, left, Col. Frederick Sutterlin, center, and Maj. Harry Crosby, all 418th Bomb Squadron, 100th Bombardment Group officers - Credit: Karen Abeyasekere/USAF

"Gone was the man who listened to me prattle on about nothing, who laughed at my ‘knock-knock’ jokes and joined in when I sang rounds of nursery rhymes.

"More importantly, I distinctly remember how he engaged with everyone – he remembered people’s names and names of their family members.

"Everyone wanted to be around him, and when they did, I’d grab his hand – because he belonged to me. He was my grandpa.”

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