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|7k||Robert George Tills was born in Manitowoc, Wis., on 9 March 1918. Enlisting in the Naval Reserve as a seaman 2c on 24 May 1937, he reported for duty on 14 June. Tills was appointed an aviation cadet on 3 August 1938 and reported to the Naval Air Station, Pensacola, Fla., for flight training on 26 August 1938. On 18 September 1939 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 and commissioned as ensign. 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, CinC, Asiatic Fleet, Adm. Thomas C. Hart, deployed his surface units to the southward, away from the Manila Bay anchorages 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. Click Here For Additional Information Page On Ens. Tills
USS Tills (DE 748) (1944-1968) was the first ship to be named in his honor. (Photo courtesy of the Tills Family.)
|42k||undated wartime image (National Archives #BS 70882)||Nick Tiberio|
|145k||undated wartime image||Robert Dunn|
|95k||Tills and USS Roberts (DE 749) going through the Panama Canal during WWII, taken from USS Hemminger (DE 746)||Robert Taylor|
|51k||undated: Hemminger and Tills in drydock.|
|71k||Tills underway in the Pacific during WWII. Note her "Homeward Bound" pennant trailing over the ship. Taken from Hemminger|
|402k||11 October 1944: A port beam view of Tills underway slowly off San Pedro, Cal. (Photo courtesy of Chris Wright)||Ed Zajkowski|
|81k||undated wartime image (I found this photo in my Dad's things, he was a seagoing Marine in WWII, PFC Robert Dale Gray.)||Donald Jones|
|114k||May 1958: Boston, Ma. - Public Visiting Day at the South Boston Naval Annex. (Photo © Richard Leonhardt)||Richard Leonhardt|
|104k||May 1958: Boston, Ma. - Public Visiting Day at the South Boston Naval Annex. (Note... that's Dick Leonhardt on the 40mm in this photo.) (Photo © Richard Leonhardt)|
|101k||early 1960: Gloucester, Mass. - Two reserve training vessels on a port visit to Gloucester. Tills, homeported at Portland, Maine is moored outboard of USS McClelland (DE 750), homeported at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.||Tommy Trampp|
|86k||1961: off Portland, Maine - My brother served in USS Tills before and during the Cuban Missile Crisis. I frequently drove my brother, Gerald Standel, from our home in Massachusetts to the ship's home port of Portland, Maine. Jerry was a corpsman who also served in Vietnam with the 3rd Marine Amphibious Brigade and ended his career of twenty odd years as a CPO.||Harry Standel|
|108k||at Gitmo, taken from USS Roberts, early '60's||Jay Jones EM3
USS Roberts (DE 749)
|35k||circa 1969: Palm Beach, Fla. - Tills on a port visit to the Port of Palm Beach.||Rick Barton
Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.
|265k||23 March 2009: Arlington National Cemetery - An Army Old Guard escort platoon leads a horse-drawn caisson carrying the remains of World War II Navy pilot Ensign Robert Tills during his funeral on 23 March at Arlington National Cemetery. The Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command identified Tills' remains and material evidence more than 66 years after his death 8 December 1941, in the Philippines. The mission of the Hawaii-based JPAC is to search for, identify and return the remains of fallen Americans from the nation's past conflicts. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Matthew Chlosta)||Bill Gonyo|
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