Tills, Robert George, ENS

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Last Rank
Last Primary NEC
131X-Unrestricted Line Officer - Pilot
Last Rating/NEC Group
Line Officer
Primary Unit
1941-1941, 131X, USS William B. Preston (AVD-7)
Service Years
1937 - 1941

 Last Photo   Personal Details 

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Home State
Year of Birth
This Military Service Page was created/owned by Michael Kohan (Mikey), ATCS to remember Tills, Robert George, ENS.

If you knew or served with this Sailor and have additional information or photos to support this Page, please leave a message for the Page Administrator(s) HERE.
Casualty Info
Home Town
Last Address
Manitowoc, WI

Casualty Date
Dec 08, 1941
Hostile, Died of Wounds
Gun, Small Arms Fire
World War II
Location of Interment
Arlington National Cemetery - Arlington, Virginia
Wall/Plot Coordinates
Sec. 60 Grave: 8998

 Official Badges 

 Unofficial Badges 

 Military Association Memberships
World War II FallenWW II Memorial National RegistryUnited States Navy Memorial The National Gold Star Family Registry
  2013, World War II Fallen [Verified]
  2013, WW II Memorial National Registry
  2013, United States Navy Memorial [Verified] - Assoc. Page
  2013, The National Gold Star Family Registry

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 Ribbon Bar
Naval Aviator Wings

 Duty Stations
School Assignments - StaffVP-21 BlackjacksUS NavyCommander Patrol and Reconnaissance Force Pacific/Commander Patrol & Reconnaissance Wing 10
  1938-1939, Naval Flight Training
  1939-1941, 131X, VP-21 Blackjacks
  1941-1941, 131X, USS Langley (AV-3)
  1941-1941, 131X, Commander Patrol and Reconnaissance Force Pacific/Commander Patrol & Reconnaissance Wing 10
  1941-1941, 131X, USS William B. Preston (AVD-7)
 Combat and Non-Combat Operations
  1941-1941 Philippine Islands Campaign (1941-42)/Battle of the Philippines
 Additional Information
Last Known Activity
Born in Manitowoc, Wis., on 9 March 1918, Robert George Tills enlisted in the Naval Reserve as a seaman second class on 24 May 1937 and reported for active duty on 14 June. After serving until 14 July 1938, Tills was appointed an aviation cadet on 3 August and reported to the Naval Air Station, Pensacola, Pla., for flight training on 26 August 1938.

On 18 September 1939, 17 days after Hitler's German legions marched into Poland and commenced hostilities
in Europe, Tills was commissioned an ensign in the Naval Reserve, and reported to Patrol Wing 2, Patrol Squadron 21, on 5 December. On 14 April 1941, Tills was augmented to regular Navy status.

By this time, Ensign Tills was flying neutrality patrols with Patrol Wing 10, based on the tender
Langley (AV-3) in the Philippines at Cavite. With war imminent, Commander in Chief, Asiatic Fleet, Admiral Thomas C. Hart, deployed his surface units to the southward, away from the vulnerable Manila Bay anchorages so tantalizingly in reach of Japanese land-based bombers on Formosa. As part of this southern movement, William B. Preston (AVD-7) received orders dispatching her to Malalag Bay, near Davao Gulf, on the southeastern coast of Mindanao. Dropping anchor on 1 December, she served as an advance base for three PBY's assigned the duty of patrolling the eastern reaches of the Celebes Sea.

Ensign Tills flew one of the Catalinas, and the planes
alternated on aerial reconnaissance flights. Early on 8 December 1941, a radio dispatch crackled over the airwaves into the destroyer-seaplane tender's radio room: "Japan started hostilities; govern yourselves accordingly." The terse message alerted all hands, and William B. Preston and her planes prepared for war.

One plane took off immediately to search the seas for
signs of the Japanese; while the other two, including the one to which Tills was attached, remained in the serene waters of Malalag Bay, their crews ready to take off at once. William B. Preston shifted her anchorage from the two Catalinas to lessen the chances that one bomb, aimed at the ship, would also damage the aircraft. Anxious eyes peered intently into the lightening skies for signs of Nipponese aircraft.

Shortly before 0800, nine Mitsubishi A5M4 "Claudes"
from Japanese carrier Ryujo, escorting 13 Nakajima D3A-1 "Vals," swept around the narrow point of land screening Malalag Bay from Davao Gulf. Leaving the destroyer seaplane tender alone for the time being, the "Claudes" strafed the helpless PBY's, turning them into collanders of metal and fabric and setting them afire. Ensign Robert Tills died in the fusillade of bullets from the Japanese strafers, the first American naval officer killed in the defense of the Philippines.  His body was not recovered.
The Department of Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office (DPMO) announced today that the remains of a U.S. serviceman, missing from World War II, have been identified and will be returned to his family for burial with full military honors.

He is Ensign Robert G. Tills, U.S. Navy, of Manitowoc, Wis. He will be buried on March 23, 2009, in Arlington National Cemetery near Washington, D.C.

Representatives from the Navy’s Mortuary Office met with Tills’ next-of-kin to explain the recovery and identification process and to coordinate interment with military honors on behalf of the Secretary of the Navy.

In October 2007, the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC) was notified by U.S. authorities in the Philippines that aircraft wreckage had been discovered in Malalag Bay. A fragment of the wreckage bore the markings “PBY-4.”

In November 2007, a JPAC team, along with the Joint U.S. Military Assistance Group-Philippines and the Philippines Coast Guard (PCG), surveyed the site and recovered human remains and non-biological evidence. Later that month, the PCG recovered additional remains from the site.

Among other forensic identification tools and circumstantial evidence, scientists from JPAC also used dental comparisons in the identification of Tills’ remains.
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