I had the honor of meeting Robert at his first small Veterans of All Wars Museum at the old Peerless Woolen Mill in Rossville. As I visited the museum for the first time, it was Robert that wanted to show me around this collection of memorabilia from many wars. As we moved through each section, we came upon a very special spot that he was obviously very proud to show me. As I looked at all of the pictures and listened to his story, it was then that I realized that it was Robert, the man that I had just met, that was the veteran that had experienced the things depicted in this part of the museum. After we had finished the tour, Robert and I sat down, and he began to tell his story. At this point, I was feeling a little overwhelmed by what I was hearing. There were many stories that Robert told me, but there is one that stood out more for me than the others.
When the rocket struck Hells Bells, he opened his parachute and hit the ground. When he got on the ground, he dropped his parachute into a well, hoping that the German soldiers would not find it. Robert had landed in the yard of a small home and was about to go into the woods near the home. There was a small girl about 10-years-old who came across the yard and took him by the hand and led Robert into the house. Robert was hit by parts of the plane during the explosion of Hells Bells and had several cuts on his body. After a short time, he was moved to a small village where he went inside a barn. The town’s people began to bring him blankets, pillows, food and water. Robert had not had anything to eat or drink since his plane went down about 12 hours earlier. He told me that he could not believe that this was happening to him, after all that he had been through. Robert said he would never forget the kindness that the Austrian people had shown him. I know that by now you are asking yourself, what was the name of the small town that helped Robert? This town is called Fischbach, Austria.
In talking to Robert, I had the feeling that he would like to go back to Fischbach, the city that had been so kind during such dangerous times. The desire was always with him to go back and visit, but his failing health would always hold him back. I talked with Randy and Louise Culbreth at the new museum in Chickamauga about Robert being able to return to Austria for a visit. Little did I know that they had been thinking the same thing. Randy Culbreth had already tried to make contact with someone in Fischbach, but could not locate anyone on the internet. All Randy had was one name, and that was Christian Arzberger. I took the name and said that I would also try and locate him or someone else associated with Hells Bells in Austria.
Many days went by, and I could not get a response from anyone connected with Christian or the story about Fischbach. Then, one day as I was checking my email, there was an inquiry about just whom I knew that was in Hells Bells when it was shot down and the town of Fishbach. I sent out information about Robert and received an updated email of Christian Arzberger from someone that had talked to Christian about three years earlier. I then sent out an email right away to Christian, and he answered it the same day. After Christian and I had talked several times, he explained that he was in the process of writing a book about what took place in 1944 and the plane that was shot down near their city. I then turned all of the information that I had over to Louise Culbreth at the museum.
This is but one short story that Robert relayed to me, but Robert has many others that are written in his book, “The Eleventh Man,” by Robert H. Honeycutt and Jane Littlejohn Berz.
Louise and her son, Randy, have been communicating now for several months with Christian and have been invited to come to Fischbach for a parade and dedication of a monument telling about Hells Bells and what the city did for Robert. The following events are planned for the dedication. The event will be held on Saturday, June 2, at 4 p.m. The U.S. Embassy will send a representative, along with the local Veterans Association, and the mayor of Fishbach will join the event. There will also be musicians, and a representative of the U. S. Air Force in Vienna has also been invited. Robert was aware of the events taking place in Fishbach and was very pleased.
Robert Honeycutt, or “Tootsie,” a name given to him by his sister, was aware of the upcoming event, but became very ill and passed away on April 30.
I would like to personally thank the city of Fishbach for the kindness that was shown to Airman Robert H. Honeycutt, and thank Christian Arzberger for the work and effort that they have put into this project in Fishbach. I do look forward to owning and reading Christian’s book whenever it becomes available.
Roger Sherrill lives in Ringgold. He can be reached at email@example.com.