Pearl Harbor

WWII pilot from Marion was truly an ace

2012-12-07T01:00:00Z 2013-09-13T11:28:05Z WWII pilot from Marion was truly an aceBY SCOTT FITZGERALD, The Southern The Southern
December 07, 2012 1:00 am  • 

MARION — Steve Duncan does not know the precise details about his father, Robert W. Duncan, first hearing news about the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor that occurred 72 years ago today.

Robert Duncan was a young 21-year-old man and just a regular guy, courting his high school sweetheart, Mary Evelyn Russell, and working at the family hardware store in Marion.

The news may have come over the radio. More likely, a store patron may have alerted the Duncans as to what had transpired in the South Pacific.

“Someone probably came into the store and said something,” Steve Duncan said.

Regardless of how the news arrived, Robert W. Duncan knew exactly what he was going to do. A month later, he enlisted in the U.S. Navy and became one of the more famed Allied fighter pilots with his achievements of shooting down seven Japanese aircrafts during ensuing Pacific aerial combat.

One of his hits was taking out Warrant Officer Toshiyuki Sueda, a Japanese ace who had shot down nine American planes.

Duncan is also credited with destroying another six Japanese aircraft on the ground while strafing and flew more than 100 missions during World War II and the Korean War.

His achievement of becoming the first Squadron 5 pilot to become a fighter ace with the first carrier raid on Truk, the Japanese Pear Harbor, in 1944 have been documented and broadcasted on the History Channel.

His decorations included the Navy Cross, two Distinguished Flying Crosses, eight air medals and a presidential unit citation with five stars during a military career that spanned 24 years.

Duncan was not available for an interview with The Southern Illinoisan, but Steve Duncan shared information about his father.

“He wanted to do something for his country,” Steve Duncan said about his father’s immediate enlisting after Pearl Harbor. “He said he knew the war was coming. He wanted to help out with the effort.”

The Williamson County Board of Commissioners honored Duncan during an August meeting that included the unveiling of a 30-by-40 inch painting of the Fighting Squadron 5 in action by Marion artist Tom Hartwell and a plaque etched by Joe Hayes of Graph-ics Galore of Marion.

Steve Duncan said he, his father and other family members were grateful.

“It was more than we expected,” Steve Duncan said. “We just thought it would be a small gathering of people with an unveiling down in the building lobby. Instead, they (county commissioners) included us as part of their meeting.”


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(14) Comments

  1. DeeJay
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    DeeJay - December 08, 2012 2:39 am
    "I find the lack of teaching on World War II to be appalling"

    Bob Beckel on "The Five" December 7, 2012

    I agree
  2. DeeJay
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    DeeJay - December 07, 2012 12:58 pm
    Diogenes: I fly my flag at half staff on 9/11 was well. In the past our younger neighbors have asked why, and I had the opportunity to tell them about Pearl Harbor.and 9/11. We have some teenaged neighbors who were very young when 9/11 occurred, so I believe have have quite a few teachable moments with my flag. We display a service flag in our front window as well (more teachable moments).

    One of my co-workers wears a flag pin on appropriate days, including 9/11. On 9/11 we display small American flags at each desk and teller station. Last September my co-worker waited on a college-aged young man who asked about the flags and her flag pin. She replied, "It's September 11th." His response was, "So?" When she reminded him about the attacks he shrugged his shoulders and said, "Gee, that was a long time ago." Her husband is a Gulf War veteran, so it was a little upsetting to her. I'm certain that young man knew nothing about Pearl Harbor.

    My Dad was with Patton in North Africa. At the end of the war he was in Canada training for the invasion of Japan. My father-in-law was involved in the aftermath of the German concentration camps, disposal of bodies, medical care for the victims, etc. My boyhood pastor served in the 3rd Army during it's move across Europe. All three of those men spoke little of their service experiences. All of them were greatly disturbed by the social upheaval of the 60's, especially the draft dodging and mistreatment of our returning soldiers. I believe that when you and I stand for the values of men like Robert Duncan and our greatest generation loved ones we are honoring them in the best possible way.
  3. OLD JOE
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    OLD JOE - December 07, 2012 12:48 pm
    Ishmael, again I will admit your correct. Let me rephrase. Then lets stop the nit picking of others. We can be more constructive. There is an old saying I like. Those without sin, cast the first stone. Now I believe we are all sinners. I know I'm guilty!!
    Now if we want to split hairs, your guilty to. You didn't mention Mr Duncan's service to our country neither. You went straight to criticizing DJ.

    I also believe DJ and Ishmael was just adding to the story? So at least they was on the subject of the story.
    Was you? At least cover your own tracks, and give Mr. Duncan's service 2 cents worth of credit or no credit, before you start criticizing other people

    Ishmael your one of the most intelligent people commenting here!!! Your better than that!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Instead of belittling us, teach us on the stories.

    PS. I'm not defending DJ!! DJ is a big boy and can defend himself. DJ and I have both come to blows in the past. But those blows wasn't personal, they were disagreements on a story.
  4. bluegill
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    bluegill - December 07, 2012 12:35 pm
    @ish-haha - you've discovered the heart of DeeJay; he sees an opportunity in every thread to bring himself up, name/location drop and otherwise insinuate himself into the topic. I called him on that endearingly transparent quality a while back actually. Ish - I know we don't agree on everything but it's been a laugh watching the comment board elders propose that you and I are one and the same. Devious people see devious causes. Keep their feet to the fire - I'm not paying for the privilege of watching the follies.
  5. Diogenes
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    Diogenes - December 07, 2012 11:50 am
    Nicely said Joe. It is impossible to know what those folks went through. So many of them didn't want to talk about it. My own father was haunted by the green hell of the Philippines and only hinted of the horrors he endured. My father in law helped liberate a Japanese internment camp in Leyte, he said he believed he was the only man in his unit that ate that day, everyone else was too nervous, but Lawrence loved to eat and didn't know if he ever would again. I worked with a fellow who was a waist gunner in a B-17 and helped bomb Pennemunde. This good man joked that he was the only one in the plane who could shoot the tail off. I have tried to put myself in the place of people like that and I have no idea if I would have been able to rise to the occasion as well as so many did.

    DeeJay and I may be a bit pessimistic about our own and ensuing generations. We don't know what anyone is capable of until they are tested. While I hope we never have the kind of outright catastrophe that Mr. Duncan and so many others found themselves in, the young folks of today may surprise us with the way they respond. I will probably never know how I would have held up, it's haunting to imagine what would go through a person's mind (or their underwear) when death stares them in the face.

    I may agree with Ishmael on very little, but the Wounded Warrior Project is a worthy cause.

  6. Ishmael
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    Ishmael - December 07, 2012 11:22 am
    "Ishmael, now lets stop the personal attacks for a minute ... " - OLD JOE

    I didn't make a personal attack and saying I did doesn't make it so. However, it is a violation of the 9th Commandment.

    "Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour."

    Pointing out and standing up against others making personal attacks like DeeJay/EffKbz and Dio did is not making a personal attack itself.
  7. OLD JOE
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    OLD JOE - December 07, 2012 10:41 am
    Ishmael, now lets stop the personal attacks for a minute and think about this. Wouldn't it be amazing to of been Mr, Duncan's co-pilot for just one mission, and experience what he did? I bet I would come back with dirty shorts and an empty stomach lol.

    Another great American hero to read about is Audie Murphy. Audie was the most decorated american war hero of all time, including receiving 3 metals from the French government and one from Belgium.
  8. OLD JOE
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    OLD JOE - December 07, 2012 9:53 am
    DeeJay I'm proud of you! Flying your flag half staff on 12-07 may help some of us remember our veterans.

    I'm proud to read fantastic stories about great american heroes like Robert Duncan. Sometimes people forget, about people from southern Illinois like Robert Duncan, that has contributed much to Americas success.
  9. Ishmael
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    Ishmael - December 07, 2012 9:35 am
    Dio, my statement to DeeJay/EffKbz applies to you, too. Considering you two don't even take the time to mention Mr. Duncan's actions in your posts but instead choose to complain about the inaction of some nameless "others" I would suggest the ones who have "forgotten lessons" are you.
  10. bluegill
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    bluegill - December 07, 2012 8:45 am
    @Dee - you say that: "I pray that we will not forget the lessons of WWII, however, I'm afraid we are well on the way to doing so." - Surprised to see a chest thumping believer show such little faith in his own prayer! Maybe you're not praying loud enough. Maybe you need to speak in tongues while you writhe around on the ground to get god to notice your prayer? Also what's the meaning of such a drab, pessimistic, defeatist statement? Could you be more depressing and vague? I, a glass half full atheist, think we learned, and continue to hold dear, plenty of lessons from that war.
  11. Ishmael
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    Ishmael - December 07, 2012 8:37 am
    Instead of making self-aggrandizing statements and thinly veiled insults why not honor the actual subject of the story; Robert Duncan?

    I recommend volunteering at the Marion VA and making regular contributions to:
  12. Diogenes
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    Diogenes - December 07, 2012 8:27 am
    I fear we may have already forgotten the lessons of 911 as well as Pearl Harbor. Too many of us are too busy keeping up with the Kardashians and Jersey Shore to pay attention.
  13. DeeJay
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    DeeJay - December 07, 2012 7:39 am
    This is one baby boomer who remembers Pearl Harbor. My flag flies at half staff every December 7th. I pray that we will not forget the lessons of WWII, however, I'm afraid we are well on the way to doing so.
  14. Longtime Resident
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    Longtime Resident - December 07, 2012 5:10 am
    Math error. It was 71 years ago, not 72.
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