By 1945, the 22nd Bomb Group had its sights set on new targets at Heito, Formosa. As was tradition, the Group Commander, Col. Richard W. “Red” Robinson, made a point to lead the first mission to new targets. The first mission to Heito, on January 16, 1945, was called off before they reached the target, and the strike was rescheduled for the 21st. Capt. Robert W. Hume of the 19th Squadron was listed as the flight leader and the 19th Squadron’s Operations Officer, Capt. Lawrence E. Wulf, was assigned as Hume’s co-pilot and the air commander for the mission.
Col. Robinson wanted to lead the strike, still the first one over a new target, as air commander. With that, Wulf gave up his spot to 2/Lt. Charles P. Heath, Hume’s co-pilot, who was eager to participate in the flight. Altogether, 11 men would be flying on the fully loaded B-24, nicknamed OUR HONEY. That morning, the weather was overcast and misty due to the intermittent rain the night before. Hume taxied to the takeoff position, where he awaited the green light from the control tower. When the ok was given, OUR HONEY started down the runway.
As the B-24 gained speed, it started drifting towards the left, unable to get off the ground. Disaster struck a few seconds later when the aircraft’s left wing hit a spinning propeller of one of the parked Corsair fighters. Six feet of the wing and aileron were hewn from OUR HONEY and thrown into the air. The plane lifted off slightly, only to hit a SeaBee construction vehicle at the east end of the runway, and burst into flames. The inferno set off some of the bombs, nearly collapsing the control tower at mid-field. If any of the crew had survived the original crash, they surely perished in the explosion.
A red flare was sent up from the control tower to signal the rest of the crews to abort their takeoffs and the mission was canceled. Later, once the wreckage had cooled, several members explored the debris for any unexploded bombs. One was found and successfully defused. The others that had exploded in the fire had “cooked off,” which is not nearly as destructive as being set off by detonation devices. Otherwise, the control tower would have probably collapsed.
The loss of Col. Robinson was a heavy blow to the Group. He was well-liked by his superior officers and the men serving under his lead. The Group’s nickname, The Red Raiders, came from the name of Robinson’s first plane, RED RAIDER, after Robinson was promoted to Group Commander. Following Robinson’s death, the nickname became somewhat of a living memorial to him.