Robert Leon Holloway was born October 28, 1923 in Fort Wayne, only child to Murray and Zula (Steele) Holloway. Zula had lived with a large family before marrying Murray, who was carpenter at the Decatur General Electric. He held the job for ten years, when he was forced to retire due to illness. He also served as an electrician in the submarine branch of the U.S. Navy for 22 months during World War I.
Photo Courtesy of Jeanene Leary.

Robert attended Pleasant Mills High School in Pleasant Mills, Indiana. His favorite subjects were P.E., Physics, and Sociology. He was very smart, and achieved good grades without studying. He played the trumpet for a year and a half. Robert hoped to one day become a basketball coach. Pleasant Mills was known for having a great basketball team, despite their small student body of only eighty-five people. Robert tried out for the team (named the Spartans), and made it. He played basketball all four years, and was put in as Center in his Junior year. Unfortunately that same year he came down with typhoid fever. Typhoid fever is a disease spread through contaminated food or water that causes abdominal pain, headaches, and high fevers. In the 1940s, it was pretty rare, with cases down to 8 in 100,000. While Robert was sick, another junior named Glen Bates filled in for him in basketball as Center. The next year Robert recovered enough to return to basketball. They started slow, but the players grew better as the season continued. There were four seniors and one junior on the team. They lost the final game at the SectionalTournament to Decatur's Yellow Jackets with a score of 34 to 32. The captain of the team, Donald "Dee" Harmon,was friends with Robert. Dee was popular, blonde, and wanted to be an aviator. He went on to serve in the European theatre in World War II, get married to Alice Sheets, have five children, and own his own market. Dee and Robert were known as a junk dealers along with some of their other friends. Dee threw together some of the junk items they collected and built his own version of the streamlined Jalopy. Another of Robert's friends was Louis "Bud" Smitley, who wanted to be an architect. He went on to serve in the infantry in World War II, and marry Joanne Warfel. Robert was also friends with Doc, Clen, and Sonny. On a junior and senior class train trip to Chicago, the three of them and Robert got tired of sitting still with the rest of their class, so they snuck off to the smoking car to play cards. Their fellow students wondered where they were, and had to pass through several Pullman cars before they found them.

Photo Courtesy of Jeanene Leary.

Robert was seen as a bit of a womanizer. In a quote from Spotlight Pleasant Mills High School 1941 Yearbook, Robert's interests are described by the yearbook interviewers: "One hobby is of course basketball, and he says the other is 'women'." He got his first and only serious girlfriend in high school. Her name was Lorraine Johnson, and she had transferred from Monroe High School to Pleasant Mills. She liked bowling, basketball, and tinting pictures. In her senior year she led the cheering section with her friend Dorothy White. She was well liked by many of her class, but especially by Robert, who was one year above her. In their class prophecy, her classmates predicted that she would become an artist married to Robert, who they thought would be a doctor.

Robert graduated in 1941, and then started school at the Ball State Teacher's college. On February 1, 1943, he mentioned in a letter to his parents that he was going to quit school early because of the his upcoming service in the war. It isn't clear whether he enlisted or was drafted, but the fact that he started at college and then left for the war hints that he was drafted. He was inducted March 3, 1943 and entered service March 10, 1943. On March 13, he was moved temporarily to Port Clinton, Ohio. From there he was sent to his first training camp, Camp Robinson, in Little Rock, Arkansas in April 1943. He was part of a camp of forty or fifty thousand soldiers in a mountain range on a hill. He was assigned to the Medical Department. First he thought the Medical Corps didn't do much except check for pulses, but Robert quickly learned that they had to go right up to the front, pick up wounded, and administer first aid. They also had no guns. His Lieutenant told him that if they saw a Japanese soldier coming they would have to 'jab him in the rear with a syringe'. They studied first aid for shock, burns, cuts, wounds, and gas, along with organization of the army, chemical warfare, military courtesy, and guard. Robert got more than just medical training at Camp Robinson. On April 8th he wrote about having to dig foxholes all afternoon: "If it weren't for the rocks, roots, and Arkansas clay, it wouldn't be so bad. You have to dig thru from a position on your side, head down, and you can't raise your elbows higher than your head."

That spring President Roosevelt visited their camp. The soldiers were told a General was going to come, and in preparation they worked until lights out cleaning, fixing up the camp, and doing drills. When the General didn't show up, they had to clean all over again the next day. They then stood rehearsal in the Outdoor Arena for two and a half hours in a steady downpour practicing for his appearance. At ten o'clock on Sunday (after Robert and his company had stood for hours in the rain), the General finally arrived, and turned out to be none other than their highest commanding officer, President Roosevelt. He passed by in his car and Robert was only able to glimpse him for a few seconds. For working seventy-two hours and standing in the rain for another ten, he did not believe it was worth it.

Photo courtesy of Jeanene Leary.
Lorraine slowly stopped writing to him. On May 6, 1943, Robert wrote home and said that Lorraine had written only two letters to him in eighteen days. She used to write to him everyday. Her letters grew increasingly more infrequent. He didn't find out until September 10 why Lorraine had slowly stopped writing. She had joined up with the Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service (WAVES). The WAVES were a branch of the U.S. Navel Reserve that allowed women into the service to take shore jobs and leave more men available to go to sea. Lorraine's decision to join left Robert worried about whether Lorraine had decided to to break their engagement. They had slowly grown apart from each other, and Lorraine's new position was one that Robert had never really approved of.

On May 16, 1943, Robert was selected for the Army Specialized Training Program. Robert decided to join the program in order to attend college in the army. He had six months to two years of schooling ahead of him, and would not be able to become an officer or non-com for some time. He was moved to Camp Maxey, Texas June 12, 1943, and stayed for classification temporarily in an old Japanese Concentration Camp. He was then moved to Paris, Texas June 13, 1943, where he and his friend Donald "Don" Hufford went with two university girls to a dance. On July 10, 1943, in a letter home, Robert said he was being sent to Lafayette College in Easton, Pennsylvania. Classes for both army men and civilians started the same time. Robert mentioned the classes were much harder than usual due to the army trying to cram four years of school into two. A week later, Robert was made a Cadet Corporal, and was responsible for a squad. He was transferred to Co. B and moved to another dorm. On January 27, 1944, Robert was made a platoon leader, put in charge of forty-eight men, and moved to Easton Hall. On March 29, 1944, Robert was moved out of Easton, and on April 3, he joined up with the 84th Infantry Division in Camp Claiborne, Alexandria, Louisiana. He became a rifleman in a rifle co. in the infantry. After a week of being in the camp, Robert realized why the A.S.T.P. men were called up. His new division, nicknamed the Railsplitters in honor of past member Abraham Lincoln, had one and a half years of training, and had been on maneuvers in Texas and Louisiana. They were ready to ship across, but did not have enough men. As Robert put it, "The infantry has depleted its supply of average intelligent men and called up the A.S.T. for a few leaders and men to go across with the 84th. We are the ones." Robert was to be given intensive training until May 6th, then sent to a Port of Embarkation (P.O.E.), or sent on maneuvers in the U.S. On April 20, Robert told his parents that he felt rushed, and that their planned twelve weeks of training was cut to six.

He was sent overseas September 1944, with the rest of his division, many of whom were lacking in training, and were to be put straight into action. They went from England to Holland, where he wrote home and talked about the fighting on the beachheads in St. Lo. Letters became more and more delayed the closer Robert got to the front. On November 29 Robert wrote from Germany, saying they had moved to the front. At the first action he found himself a novice, and proclaimed that he was mentally prepared for anything the Germans could hit them with. The 84th split its forces to cover more ground. They sent the 333rd Infantry, Robert's division, and the 334th Infantry with the Second British Army to hit the Siegfried Line, a German defensive line of bunkers, traps, and tunnels. They regrouped afterwards, and headed to the Ardennes salient in Belgium. Robert was constantly busy and very glad whenever he got a chance to get farther from the front. In one of his last letters home, Robert wrote home to his parents and said, "I certainly hope the next 21 years of my life are much different than the last 2 years."

Photo courtesy of Jeanene Leary.
In Ardennes, the 84th division heard word of a German threat nearby, and were sent to meet it early on December 21, entering the conflict which would later be known as the Battle of the Bulge. The Battle of the Bulge started on December 16, 1944 when Hitler decided to attempt to split up the Allies by running a blitzkrieg through the Ardennes to Antwerp. Having miscalculated and left Ardennes guarded by only two inexperienced and war torn American divisions, the Allied forces were taken by surprise, and had to fight furiously to stop the German advances of over 250,000 men. But as the Germans pushed farther in Ardennes and began claiming vital bridges, the Allied line was twisted into a bulge shape, giving the battle its name. It lasted until January 25, 1945, but Robert would not see it to the end. Robert was killed in action December 26, 1944 in Belgium during the Battle of the Bulge. He is said to have volunteered to deliver a message, and was shot by the Germans on his way there. His parents received a telegram on January 14, 1945 saying Robert was KIA. Robert was buried temporarily at Fosse, Belgium, and later moved to the Decatur cemetery.

For service in the European theatre, Robert was awarded the European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal. For serving during World War II, Robert was awarded the World War II Victory Medal. For service in the American theatre, Robert was awarded the American Campaign Medal. For dying in service, Robert was awarded the Purple Heart.

Information researched and collected by Shelby Nower, 2015


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Spotlight Pleasant Mills High School 1941 Yearbook