FLEMING, ROBERT INGERSOLL,
born December 25, 1918, died in
Miami, October 4, 2007. Paratrooper, 82nd Airborne, went on to Yale ('49),
Oxford, and London Universities. 35 year career working in Africa, primarily
in Ghana and Nigeria.
Leaves behind wife (Peggy) of 65 years, 3 children, 12
grandchildren, 5 great-grandchildren.
Donations can be made in his honor to
Published in The Miami Herald on 10/6/2007.
registered for the draft in New Haven, CT on 16 October 1950.
Bob had enlisted in the Army on July 28, 1941
in Hartford, CT and headed off to basic training and then OCS at Ft. Knox,
Kentucky. He graduated in the top 10% of the class along with his friend,
Frank Paxton, and they wore crossed sabers instead of crossed rifles.
Fleming was assigned as a tank commander in
the 702nd Tank Destroyer Battalion, part of the Second Armor under General
Patton, and went on maneuvers in South Carolina in November of 1941.
It didn't take long for him to realize that being a big guy didn't mix well
with the close quarters of the tanks plus he was all bitten up with
chiggers. So, when a guy came through looking for volunteers for the
paratroops, Bob jumped at it [no pun intended].
Bob was sent to Fort Benning for four weeks
of training in what turned out to be just the third class conducted at
the recently established parachute school. When he completed the
course he was pinned by [then] Colonel Gavin. Now a qualified
parachutist, he was assigned as Operations and Planning Officer in the cadre
forming up the 508 PIR. To increase his personal skills, and to act as
a trainer himself, he was also sent to hand-to-hand combat school at Ft.
During a two-day delay enroute in his way to Camp Blanding, Lt. Fleming returned to his hometown of New Haven, CT
and married his sweetheart Peggy on 17 November 1942.
Once he was at Blanding he was put in charge of physical education
for the unit. His performance in that role was well mentioned in Hank
Lefebvre's tribute for the
50th anniversary of the 508.
The regiment completed basic training and
then moved to Fort Benning for jump school.
It was there that Bob
shattered his leg in a bad landing. He was jumping with a test chute that
had a larger than usual canopy, but the apex hole was not large enough for
the expanse. Consequently it oscillated more and more as he descended,
eventually slamming him sideways onto one of the infamous rocks on the
Benning DZ. His lower leg conformed to the shape of the rock, curving it in
the opposite direction to what nature intended.
He was in hospital for 9
months following an extensive operation in which a stainless steel shank and
bolts were used to fasten the twelve largest pieces back together with the
rest laid in as a jigsaw puzzle. It eventually all grew back together.
No longer suited for parachutist duty, he was
assigned as CO of the MPs in Phenix City (Sin City), Alabama, just across
the river from Ft. Benning, Georgia. Next he was sent to Macon,
Georgia for the training of replacement troop units. His first son Randy, was
born during that period ('44).
In 1945, he was sent to California to prepare
for the invasion of Japan. The Replacement Training Center was south of Fort
Ord, California located near Monterey Bay. There Bob was hospitalized
again, this time due to Coccidioidomycosis, a lung infection sometimes
called San Joaquin fever, valley fever, or desert fever because of its
prevalence in the farming valleys of California.
Bob was appointed to the rank of Captain on
22 February 1946. He continued to serve until being discharged on 7
May 1946 at Camp Beale (now Beale Air Force Base) near Sacramento,
California. Interestingly, his commission remained in effect until
discharged as an inactive reservist on 7 December 1953.
His Military Record and Report of Separation
Certificate of Service lists his completion of Parachute School, Ft Benning;
Special Services School, Ft George Meade; and Special Services School,
Washington Lee University, Virginia.
His remains were cremated and placed in a niche in the St.
Thomas Episcopal Church memorial wall, Miami, FL
(Based on information provided by Mike Fleming)