One of The Beloved WWII Hell Hawks Turns 99

Bob Russell one of the WWII Hell Hawks, as a young officer.

Bob Russell, one of the fabled WWII Hell Hawks, just turned 99 in Dunedin, Florida, on January 17th, 2023. Family and closest friends gathered around him for a week of festivities. There were five parties in seven days. The finale was at the Dunedin VFW Post #2550 on Friday the 20th.

Over the week, we got a reminder of his vigor and strong personality. In many ways he’s a walking contradiction, with many interesting backstories and perspectives on life. He’s still active and opinionated. So, it can be a challenge to get him to accept help. Nothing is perfect for any of us, and know this: you just cannot push around a 99-year success story that is still going.  

The VFW event was, amazingly, a dual party for a pair of 99-year vets! Both named Bob! The Bob on the left in this picture, Robert Boulet, is a 6’2″ Marine. He was decorated and acclaimed for his work as a gunner on the USS Texas. He loves to dance.

The VFW always honors the veterans, and there is a special place and aura when the WWII vets are around. Just imagine, a party for a pair of decorated distinguished WWII heroes. Even one is a big deal. VFW Post #2550 did these men and themselves proud. This is the most vital VFW post I have enjoyed. Thanks and gratitude to the team.

About the WWII Hell Hawks

The mystique of the WWII P47 Squadrons will live forever. They were a key element of the Army Air Corp, operating before the Air Force came into being. Bob is one of four known surviving Hell Hawks.

Hell Hawk and Seasoned Human, Bob Russell

Bob grew up during the Great Depression and was quite influenced by it. He knew hard work beyond description. It gave him an appreciation for his uniform as the first full set of clothes he ever had. Bob managed to finagle his way into the service at 17 years of age as a flight officer. He was in the 387th Squadron of the 365th Fighter Group.

Late in the war, it was often a matter of taking up whichever plane was in decent flying shape. “Yes, we sometimes had a little bomb strapped under each wing and could get in there and just basically eyeball it,” says Bob, “but our main job was to chew ’em up with those 50-caliber bullets They didn’t like to see us coming in.”

Readers can anticipate a short biographical profile of Bob Russell, The Florida Flyboy

Bob does not advocate for war and killing of others. So, he encourages youngsters to think hard about their decisions. One story choked him up. He told of taking out a pair of young ace Germans who were in a hill-top artillery position that had stopped the American advancement for days.

A great time was had by all that week of January 17th. My partner and I stayed in our camper van, which had an untimely electrical issue, but that’s another story.