Robert Raynes Keown (Scottish surname, pronounced Cow-ann) was born in 1919 in Lawrenceville, Georgia. His mother was Bertha Keown and father was Grover Prestell Keown who lived at W. Pike Street. He had two brothers: William H. "Bill" Keown and John Franklin Keown. He graduated from Lawrenceville High School in May 1937 and was senior class president. On August 25, 1937 his father passed away and his mother and two brothers moved to Scottsboro, Alabama to be closer to her family. Between 1937 until 1941, Robert appeared to split his time between Lawrenceville and Atlanta in Georgia and Scottsboro, Alabama with his mother and brothers. He was single and employed as a skilled engineer, stationary employee.
On June 28, 1941 Keown enlisted in the U. S. Army at Fort McPherson in Atlanta, GA. As a recruit his U. S. Army serial number was 34084343. He was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant, U. S. Army serial number O-754515. He received his primary flight training at Eagle Field graduating during August 1943 (Class 43-H). Afterwards, he was assigned to the 360th Fighter Group, 446th Fighter Squadron based at Grand Central Airport (Glendale Airport) and learned to fly the P-38 Lightning. Later, assigned to the 329th Fighter Group, 330th Fighter Squadron in California. During January 1944, he received his final medical examinations before being sent overseas to the South West Pacific Area (SWPA). Assigned to the 5th Air Force, 8th Fighter Group, 36th Fighter Squadron as a replacement pilot in New Guinea.
On April 16, 1944 "Black Sunday" took off from Nadzab No. 4 Airfield (APO 713, Unit 1) at 10:20am piloting P-38H Lightning 42-66668 as part of a four plane flight with call sign "Agate Special" led by P-38H piloted by Zielinski with wingman P-38H 42-66555 piloted by Mikucky, plus element leader P-38H 42-66832 piloted by Reeves and element P-38H 42-66668 piloted by Keown (this aircraft).
The formation escorted a single B-25 Mitchell from the 38th Bombardment Group searching for B-25G Mitchell 42-64835 that force landed four days earlier. The aircraft were over the target area 11:45am to 1:30pm until the P-38s ran low on fuel. Weather was overcast from 3,000' to 6,000'.
Returning, the formation flew a course approximately 50 miles inland from the coast and encountered heavy overcast 15 miles south of Annenberg with overcast down to 1,000' and rain. The formation proceeded towards Madang in hopes of landing at Saidor Airfield.
The formation encountered severe weather with overcast down to 1,000' and visibility of 300' and attempted to turn out towards the sea to find an opening in the clouds. Circling off Yalu Point off Yamai Airfield for 20 minutes before finding a hole in the clouds. With poor visibility, the formation broke up with Zielinski and Mikucky
turning to the left while Reeves and Keown turned to the right at 2:40pm. When Keown failed to return he was officially declared Missing In Action (MIA). His loss was attributed to bad weather.
When this aircraft failed to return from the mission, the 36th Fighter Squadron notified the rescue squadron at 3:30pm, but no searches could be undertaken until the next day due to bad weather. On April 17, 1944 PBY Catalinas and B-25s escorted by fighters searched the coastal and inland area from Saidor to Alexishafen. During the search, three wrecks were spotted near Alexishafen but were not identified. On April 18, 1944 searches continued without result.
Keown was officially declared dead on February 7, 1946. He is memorialized on the tablets of the missing at Manila American Cemetery.
On December 13, 2017 the Department of Defense (DoD) officially announced Keown was identified by DPAA based on remains in 1999 by local landowners Mr. Soka Dodon and Mr. John Bonding to US Army CILHI. The news release credits: "DPAA is grateful to Mr. Soka Dodon, Mr. John Bonding, the Papua New Guinea Government and Pacific Wrecks, Inc., for their partnerships in this recovery." Interment services are pending for Arlington National Cemetery on June 15, 2018 at 1:00pm.
Grover Prestell Keown (father, passed away August 25, 1937)
Mary Bertha Keown née Raynes (mother, passed away May 20, 1979)
John Franklin Keown (brother, passed away March 30, 2005)
William "Bill" Harold Keown (brother, passed away October 8, 2015)
John Franklin Keown, Jr. (son of John F. Keown, nephew of Robert R. Keown)
Gary Keown (son of John F. Keown, nephew of Robert R. Keown)
Sarah L. Keown (daughter of William H. Keown, niece of Robert R. Keown)
Jenny Jacobson (née Keown, daughter of William H. Keown, niece of Robert R. Keown)
Mary Ruth Wilson (née Keown, daughter of William H. Keown, niece of Robert R. Keown)
Carolyn J. Pinchot (née Keown, daughter of William H. Keown, niece of Robert R. Keown)
Mary Ruth Wilson (niece of Robert R. Keown) adds:
"Thank you all for your efforts and results in searching for and identifying the lost servicemen, My father passed away on October 8, 2015, but would have been so happy to know that his brother was finally accounted for."
John Franklin Keown, Jr. (son of John F. Keown, nephew of Robert R. Keown) adds:
"Robert was from Lawrenceville GA and graduated from Lawrenceville High School in May 1937. Following the death of his father Grover 3 months after graduation in 1937 his mother moved to Scottsboro, AL to be closer to her family, and Roberts 2 younger brothers [John Franklin, William Harold] both graduated from high school in Scottsboro. Robert appeared to split his time after high school until his enlistment between Lawrenceville / Atlanta, Georgia and Scottsboro, Alabama - but the details are a bit unclear. Hoping to learn more in the coming months."
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Lawrenceville Public School - Senior Class of 1937 vs. Lawrenceville Public School System May 21, 1937
The Atlantic Journal "Lawrenceville Honored on
Journal Carrier's Corner" by Clark Farber 1937
World War II Army Enlistment Records - Robert R. Keown
Eagles Log 43-H Eagle Field Yearbook (photo of Keown)
Individual Deceased Personnel File (IDPF) Robert R. Keown
Missing Air Crew Report 4358 (MACR 4358) pages 1–5
The Anniston Star "Alabama Casualties" May 18, 1944 page 8
Jackson County Sentinel "Letter Regarding Lt. Robert Keown"
June 6, 1944
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) -
Robert R. Keown
"Through the work of the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, the remains of 2nd Lt. Robert R. Keown were accounted for in 2017"
FindAGrave - 2Lt Robert R Keown (tablets of the missing)
DPAA News Release Airman Missing From World War II Accounted For (Keown, R.) December 13, 2017
"DPAA is grateful to Mr. Soka Dodon, Mr. John Bonding, the Papua New Guinea Government and Pacific Wrecks, Inc., for their partnerships in this recovery."
DPAA News Release "Alabama Pilot Accounted-For From World War II To Be Buried With Full Military Honors" June 5, 2018
DPAA News Release "Funeral Announcement For Pilot Killed During World War II (Keown, R.)" Release No: 18-075 June 5, 2018
Associated Press "WWII pilot missing since 1944 laid to rest at Arlington" by Jay Reeves June 15, 2018
Thanks to John Franklin Keown, Jr. , Gary Keown and Mary Ruth Wilson for additional information.