ROBERT MORRIS STILLMAN was born in Greenville, Ohio, on 30 November 1911 but soon moved with his family to Colorado—first to Colorado Springs and then to Pueblo. His father, an itinerant teacher and gifted musician, continually sought better positions, primarily to assist his four children in getting a college education. The Stillman children were given clear-cut responsibilities and inculcated with high moral values. Bob excelled scholastically, athletically and musically in high school and received a football scholarship to Colorado College. During his second year, he secured an appointment to West Point from his congressman and entered with the Class of 1935.
At the Academy, Bob was an all-round athlete. He lettered three years on the football team, won All-American mention his last year, lettered three years in lacrosse and was team captain and All-American his first class year. He won his letter and a broken nose on the boxing team. Bob picked up the nickname “Moose” when a football teammate kept stepping on his feet as they lined up for scrimmage. Bob said. “Watch what you’re doing, you big moose.” From that point on, we had two “Mooses” in our class.
Moose played in the cadet orchestra and stood in the upper fifth of our class. Although Moose was essentially neat, our company tac singled him out and wrote him up for countless minor delinquencies. Moose endured with equanimity and wore without complaint a chevronless blouse first class year when most of us thought he should have been driving the company. He won a Rhodes Scholarship regional competition and narrowly missed final selection.
Moose was commissioned in the Field Artillery, transferred to the Engineers and, after flight training at Randolph and Kelly Fields, joined the Air Corps. He was ordered to Hawaii for duty with the 50th Reconnaissance Squadron and commuted to West Point each fall to be an assistant line coach at the request of head coach Gar Davidson. He stopped each way in San Antonio to court Fannie (Noopie) Graham. They married in December 1938, and Moose returned to Hawaii with his bride. In 1940, they moved to Bolling Field in Washington, DC, where Moose commanded a staff squadron before moving to Army Air Force Headquarters overseas. While they were in Washington, Sharon, their only child, was born and Pearl Harbor was attacked.
Moose, now a lieutenant colonel, grew restive in his staff job and wrote orders for himself to take command of the 322nd Bomb Group, then enroute to England. Two months later. Moose led the unit in the only two low-level medium bomber strikes attempted against German-held Europe. All nine planes of the attacking squadron were lost in the second of these missions, and Moose was shot down over Holland. He attempted to bring his plane down on a beach but crash-landed while flying upside-down at 200 knots, loaded with ordnance. He claimed afterward that he was the only pilot to ever draw a line across a beach with his vertical antenna. Miraculously, Moose was thrown clear and survived but with multiple injuries, looking “like a raw piece of beefsteak.” He spent two years in POW camps across Germany. One, near the town of Moosberg, he remarked, was not named for him. Moose said later, “I attempted to starve Germany to her knees by eating everything I could get my hands on.”
On his return to the States, Moose readjusted rapidly in a series of assignments, the most satisfying of which was command of Stewart Field outside of West Point. A known proponent of unification, he attended the first class of the Armed Forces Staff College in 1947 and the third class at the National War College in 1950, paying the penalty for all this schooling with three years of Pentagon duty. In 1954, Moose was requested by Lieutenant General Hubert Harmon, the first Superintendent of the Air Force Academy, to be the first Commandant of Cadets there. He spent a year at Lowry Air Force Base, the temporary Academy site, planning all aspects of cadet life except academics. After the cadets arrived, he was a very active Com, leaving an indelible impression on all with his great strength of character, absolute integrity and boundless energy and enthusiasm. He was among the first in our class to receive a star, and he received a second in 1958 when ordered to command the Air Force Military Training Center at Lackland Air Force Base.
Bob left a strong imprint on this primary portal of the Air Force with his emphasis on rigorous, innovative training. While there, Moose was named by Sports Illustrated to its Silver Anniversary All-American football team of individuals who achieved outstanding success during the 25 years after college. He also was invited back to Colorado Springs by the Class of 1959 to hand out their diplomas and swear them in. Moose’s ties with that class were deep; one member married his daughter soon after graduation.
Moose left Lackland to command the 313th Air Division in Okinawa and, while there, was checked out in the F-100 Super-Sabre jet fighter. He concluded his military career with a fourth consecutive command: the Technical Training Center at Sheppard Air Force Base in Abilene, Texas, training young airmen in key technical areas.
After retirement, Moose became Director of Development for a technical school in Waco. After two years, Moose and Noopie returned to San Antonio, where he became involved in many civic activities, including the American Red Cross and the Daedalians, a society of military pilots dating back to World War I. For recreation, he fished the trout streams of Wyoming. In the mid-1980s, he was afflicted with an illness that gradually sapped his physical strength and fine mind. Noopie took splendid care of him but the burden was great. Bob’s stout heart finally failed him quietly, at home, in his sleep. He was buried with full military honors at the Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery, and Lackland Air Force Base honored its former commander in style. Eight classmates acted as pallbearers. Moose left behind a gallant lady, to whom he had been married for 52 1/2 years; a loving daughter and son-in-law, Sharon and Larry Cotton; a fine grandson. Bob; and a devoted sister, Lenore, to whom he had remained close throughout his life.
Moose had a profound effect on the lives of countless individuals. Major General Robert Delligatti said simply, “But for General Stillman, I wouldn’t be in the Air Force today.” Sharon said, “He was the most thoroughly good man I have ever known.” Moose was a man without guile or pretense who dealt honestly with himself and others. He never lost the twinkle in his eye or the ability to laugh at himself. We salute Robert Morris Stillman as one of our most admired and valued comrades-in-arms.
A classmate and company-mate, with much, much help
- MG J. H. Caughey, USA, Retired