Robert Geoffroy - 2nd Lieutenant
Year at ISU: 1944
Second Lieutenant Robert Geoffroy was born to Howard Oscar Geoffroy and Eva E. Williams on January, 27th, 1922. He grew up an only child in Sterling, Illinois.
Sterling is a small city in Northwest Illinois, most commonly known for its long association with manufacturing and the steel industry. This is why it was nicknamed “The Hardware Capital of the World.”
Robert graduated from St Mary’s Community High School in 1939. During his high school years, he participated in band, orchestra, and was an athletics manager.
Robert went on to become an engineering student at Iowa State University. Robert was also interested in the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity, and was initiated on April 29, 1941. He eventually became the president of his pledge class.
His Phi Kappa Psi brothers, who affectionately called him Jeff, remembered him having a sparkling wit and ready humor. In addition to the time he spent on fraternity activities, he was extremely involved on campus. Whether it was for the Society of American Military Engineers, the Newman Club, or intramural athletics, Robert was always busy contributing to the Iowa State community.
The outbreak of World War II meant the Beta Chapter house had to temporarily close, as did many other Iowa State fraternities. Iowa State’s on-campus housing was used to accommodate military trainees during the war; fraternity houses were then leased to the University to fulfill student housing needs. As the chapter steward Robert wrapped up the business affairs of the house before, he too, joined the military.
Robert enlisted on June 10, 1943, and entered the service on August 9 that same year in Chicago, Illinois. He passed his mental, psycho-motor and physical examinations at the Army Air Force’s Classification Center in Nashville, Tennessee, and was eligible for his first choice to attend training to become a navigator.
He received his commission as a second lieutenant on September 25th, 1944, after training at Maxwell Field, Alabama, and earning his navigator wings at the Army Air Force Navigation School at San Marcos, Texas. Described as “unusually brilliant,” Robert completed his course of study at Bucknell University in four-months, instead of the prescribed eight-months, with an average of 99.7, said to be the highest grade average achieved by a cadet.
After the completion of his training, and his commissioning, the Army Air Force granted him a seven-day leave that he spent at home with his parents in Sterling. After that leave, Robert reported to Westover Field, Massachusetts on October 5, 1944, as the navigator of a B-24 Liberator bomber.
Only nine days later, and on his second mission, he and his crew went missing on October 15, a late Sunday night. A search soon discovered that he, and eight other members of his crew, died when their plane crashed into the Camel's Hump, a 4,083 foot high mountain peak near Burlington, Vermont.
James Wilson of Jackson, Florida, was the only man to survive, though he had several injuries. Civil Air Patrol planes located the men on the mountainside, and the recovery team spent over two days climbing the mountain to locate the crew. They returned to base with the bodies of the fallen men.
Robert was 22 years old when he died in the service of his nation.
He was buried in Calvary Cemetery in Sterling, Illinois on October 25, 1944, with full military honors. The Sterling Gazette described the funeral crowds as “unusually large.” The Phi Kappa Psi burial ritual was read at the cemetery by two of his Iowa State Phi Kappa Psi Iowa Beta Chapter brothers, Louis H. Kornman, US Navy Reserve, and Army Air Corps Lieutenant Norman C. Schuneman, who had also been Jeff’s instructor at San Marcos Field.
Lt. Col. Elwood P Donahue wrote, “He was extremely devoted to his work and was congenial, friendly and cooperative in everything he did. All of us feel his loss is indeed a great one. Robert was a superior solider in every way, and a man of the finest character. He was the type who gladly gives his life for his country.”