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Oxford honored for service, ultimate sacrifice

Robert Eugene Oxford of Concord – whose Army plane crashed over the Himalayan Mountains in 1944 – was honored by American Legion Post 197 at an inductee ceremony Dec. 6 at the Pike County Memorial Annex off Highway 19, adjacent to Ruth’s Restaurant.  At the Veterans Day program held by Post 197 on the courthouse square, a special flag raising and lowering ceremony was held in honor of Oxford. The flag was unveiled during the Dec. 6 ceremony. Oxford was not drafted but enlisted in 1942 as a private in the Army Air Crops. He attended the United States Army Air Corps Bombardier School at Ellington Field in Houston, Texas where he received his commission upon graduation. First Lt. Oxford was posthumously awarded the military’s highest award for aviation in combat, the Distinguished Flying Cross. During World War II he was assigned to the 425th Bomb Squadron, 308th Bomb Group, 14th Air Force Command supporting the China-Burma-India Theater. He was assigned as the bombardier of an eight man crew for a B-24J Liberator bomber aircraft nicknamed ‘Hot as Hell,’ tail number 42-73308. ’On Jan. 25, 1944, the Hot as Hell departed Kunming, China for Chabua, India whose flight path was the standard ‘Hump’ route over the eastern end of the Himalayan Mountains,’ said Post 197 historian Bryan Richardson. ‘Missions were considered dangerous but important, because most of the almost daily flights were an essential part of the Allied effort to keep China in the fight against Japan. Each bombing mission against the enemy required several supply ferries, so combat cargo crews flew regardless of weather.’ The aircraft Oxford was aboard never arrived at its destination. Months later its eight member crew was declared administratively dead. Among the dead was Oxford, serial number 0-663308. The Hot as Hell crash site and wreckage, encompassing about 10 acres, were discovered on Dec. 7, 2006 near Damroh, Arunachal Pradesh State, India, by Clayton Kuhles of Prescott, Ariz. Crew remains have yet to be found and recovered. Currently, Lt. Oxford is memorialized at the Manila American Cemetery in the Philippines; the family grave site at the Magnolia Cemetery in Concord; on the Veteran’s Memorial on the courthouse square in Zebulon; and at the Memorial Annex. In the Manila American Cemetery there is an engraving in a memorial that states, ‘Here are recorded the names of Americans who gave their lives in the service of their country and who sleep in unknown graves.’ Oxford was born in Concord as the youngest of six children of Charles and Bessie Oxford. He graduated from Concord High School in 1938 and worked on his family’s farm and at the Concord Post Office. He was engaged to Susan Brown.

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