Finding a WWII Hero from Decatur, Pt 1
By G. Michael Pratt, Ph. D.
Learn the fascinating history of one World War II Hero from Decatur and the winding journey the author took to discovery. The story will uncover heroism, classified documents, and family lore. Robert J. Rogers received the Distinguished Service Cross (posthumously) for his heroism in connection with military operations while serving serving as an Officer of a B-24 Heavy Bomber in the 460th Bombardment Group.
Part 1: A Tale of Two “Rogers”
“Mike, Decatur High School is doing a project on service persons from Decatur who died in World War II. They were recorded on two bronze plaques – one at the high school and one at the court house. One name isn’t the same on both plaques and no one knows why. The names are Frank W. Rogers, Jr., and Robert J. Rogers, Jr., but it is probably only one person and a mistaken name. Do you think you can figure out the right one?”
I’d been volunteering with the DeKalb County History center since shortly after I moved to Atlanta in July 2016. I had started an inventory of maps in the Reading Room and was working on that, when Fred Mobley, then Archivist for the DeKalb History Center posed this question. “Ok Fred, I’ll see what I can find out,” I replied. Frank W. Jr. or Robert J. Jr.?
Frank W. Rogers, Jr. – Using the DeKalb History center Laptop and Ancestry.com account I quickly found that Frank W. Rogers, Jr., was born in 1923 (probably in Atlanta), but by 1940 he was living on the Rural Delivery Route 1 on Glenwood Rd, had completed 2 years of high school and was working part-time as a clerk for a drug store (pharmacy). Frank was a 1940 graduate of the Decatur Boys High School, and a 1944 graduate of the Georgia Technical School (now Georgia Institute of Technology).
Frank registered for the draft on June 30, 1942 while at the Georgia School of Technology. He served in the Army during World War II, ultimately achieving the rank of Lt. Colonel. He then returned to Decatur to work with his father and during the 1950s managed Cut Rate Drugs at 117 Hunter S.W. He later married and had five children. Frank W. Rogers, Jr., died in Woodstock, Cherokee County, Georgia, on April 28, 1996. He is buried in Westview Cemetery, Atlanta.2 He was certainly someone to be recognized for his service, but he was also obviously not one of Decatur’s citizens killed in World War II and therefore not the “right” name. I didn’t need to go any further with Frank W. Rogers, Jr.
Robert J. Rogers, Jr. – Using the same approach, I found that Robert Rogers was born in Decatur, joined the Army Air Forces, became a pilot, went missing in action over Yugoslavia in April 1944 and was declared dead by the War Department following the end of the war in Europe, July 1945.
The Atlanta Constitution for July 15, 1945.
Lt. Robert J. Rogers, Army Pilot, Dead
Lieutenant Robert J. Rogers Jr., 26-year old pilot, has been declared dead by the War Department, his parents Mr. And Mrs. Robert J. Rogers Sr., of 204 South McDonough Street, Decatur, have been advised. Lieutenant Rogers had been missing in action over Yugoslavia since April 2, 1944. A graduate of Decatur Boy’s High School, Lieutenant Rogers enlisted in 1941. He won his wings at Williams Field, Arizona. Besides his parents, survivors include one brother, Flight Officer Lyman L. Rogers, of the Eight Air Force, now home on leave; three sisters, Miss Jane Rogers, a Red Cross staff assistant stationed on Guam; Mrs. C. L. Lee, Decatur; and Mrs. G. R. Essex, Atlanta, and his grandmother, Mrs. Susan Reed Bottenfield, of Decatur.3
This Atlanta Constitution newspaper clipping gave me all that I needed to answer Fred’s question. The correct name was Robert J. Rogers, Jr., he was an Army Air Force pilot and I’d found his pre-war address, names of his parents and siblings, his High School and the location of his loss, which was Yugoslavia. An Ancestry Family Tree entry noted that his burial location was Arlington National Cemetery! More information for the Decatur High School trip, since the students were planning to visit Arlington. I went ahead and followed the family tree link to Find A Grave.com and was again surprised at what I found.
The Arlington Cemetery Grave Marker provided more detail than the newspaper death notice. Roberts was a 2nd Lt. assigned to the 460th Bomb Group (a unit of the 15th Air Force). The notations at the foot of his marker “DSC + PH” told me Lt. Rogers had been awarded the Distinguished Service Cross and the Purple Heart.
The Distinguished Service Cross is the United States Army’s second highest military award for extreme gallantry and risk of life in actual combat with an armed enemy force. Actions that merit the Distinguished Service Cross must be of such a high degree that they are above those required for all other U.S. combat decorations, but do not meet the criteria for the Medal of Honor. During World War II, 5,600 DSC awards were made to the Army and Army Air Forces personnel. Of that number, only 760 were made to Army Air Force personnel.5
I went home that afternoon feeling pretty good. My ‘tale of two Rogers’ was told. I’d found the right one, Robert J. Rogers, Jr. I had a ton of information on him for Fred to give the school and I’d started a biography file for him at the History Center as someone very heroic and significant to Decatur’s WW II history.
-End Part 1
About the Author
Mike Pratt is a DeKalb History Center board member and volunteer. He is a battlefield archaeologist and forensic anthropologist who retired to Atlanta in 2016. Formerly Associate Provost and Dean of Miami University’s Regional Campuses in Ohio, Mike spent 28 years as an anthropology faculty member and
administrator at Heidelberg University, Tiffin Ohio. As an archaeologist he conducted research and archaeological surveys at the 1794 Fallen Timbers, 1813 River Raisin, 1815 Mackinac Island and 1863
Buffington Island Battlefields. As a forensic anthropologist he was a consultant to the Lucas County, Ohio Coroner for more than 20 years and was a member of DMORT, a federal mass fatality response team. He is a graduate of Case Western Reserve and Miami Universities.
Mike and his wife, Patty, now live in Tucker.
- U.S. 1930 Census and U.S.1940 Census for Frank W. Rogers Jr. (Ancestry.com); Decatur Boys High School Yearbook for 1940 and Georgia School of Technology Yearbook for 1944 (Ancestry.com)
- U.S. WWII Draft Cards Young Men, 1940-1947 for Frank W. Rogers, Jr. (Ancestry. com); U.S. City Directories for Atlanta, Ga.: 1947, 1951, 1954, and 1956 for Frank W. Rogers Jr. (Ancestry.com); Find A Grave memorial for Frank W. Rogers Jr. LTC US Army, Westview Cemetery, Atlanta. (https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/104515900);
- Vital statistics and family information. (Collins, Rogers Family Tree, Public Trees, Ancestry.com); Death Notice for Lt. Robert J. Rogers, The Atlanta Constitution for July 15, 1945. (Collins, Rogers Family Tree, Public Trees, Ancestry.com).
- Marker photos and information for Robert J. Rogers, Jr. https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/49304351
- Distinguished Service Cross (United States) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Distinguished_Service_Cross_(United_States); DSC Award for Robert J. Rogers https://homeofheroes.com/distinguished-service-cross/world-war-ii-distinguished-service-cross-recipients/air-corps-p-s/