PARIS — A lifetime of memories are stored in his head. Stacks of mementos are scattered throughout his room. He can recall the memories clearly and locate specific mementos with ease. He willingly shares the story of serving in the U.S. Air Force during the Korean War and how, nearly 70 years later, he was recognized for his service.

The story is an emotional one. Both for him and for those that have the chance to hear it.

His war story is not one of battlefields and loss. His service brought him to a place of lonely isolation.

He would do it all again, if given the chance.

Robert Robichaud was stationed in Gifu, Japan during the Korean War. Submitted photo

Robert Robichaud, of Paris, joined the Air Force in 1952, right after graduating from Stephens High School in Rumford.

“My buddy and I joined the same day, thinking we would spend some time together,” Robichaud said. “He ended up going one way for training and I went another way.”


After graduating from basic training at Sampson Air Force Base in Geneva, New York, Robichaud went to Colorado to train as a statistician.

“When I asked what a statistician did, I was told if the Air Force wanted to know how many airmen had blue eyes and how many had brown eyes, I would be the one to go to for the information.”

He never did get the chance to compare eye colors of his fellow servicemen. After a short time a Kelly Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas, he was asked if he wanted to go to Japan.

“I’d never been out of the state of Maine prior to joining the Air Force so I told them to sign me right up,” he said.

Robichaud was assigned to a base in Gifu, Japan. “The Japanese has been contracted to overhaul South Korean aircraft,” he explained. “A small group of U.S. military personnel were on site as technical advisers. We didn’t touch the aircraft.

Robert Robichaud was assigned to a aircraft rebuilding unit in Gifu, Japan during the Korean War. He holds photographs of a helicopter on its arrival and departure. Dee Menear/Advertiser Democrat

“I was an aircraft reporter. When planes were ready to go, I’d send a telegraph to tell them to come get their plane.”


The Japanese men he directly worked with did not speak English. He did not speak Japanese. “We could say yes or no but that was about it,” he said. “It was interesting duty. I enjoyed what I was doing but I was pretty much alone.”

To add to the isolation, Robichaud did not have contact with his family back home. His parents were deceased. His siblings were busy with their own lives, he said. When mail call rolled around, his name was never called.

After two and a half years, Robichaud was transferred to Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland for a short time, where he finished out his commitment to his country.

Upon returning to Maine as a civilian, he studied accounting and business administration at the former Auburn School of Commerce. He worked at A.C. Lawrence Leather Co. in Paris and then Knapp Brothers Shoe Manufacturing in Lewiston.

When a corporate takeover put him out of a job, he and his wife, Cory, packed up and moved to Florida where they lived for 28 years. In 2015, due to declining health, the couple moved back to Maine to be closer to their family.

“We had a good life and we raised three sons. The Lord took her home last December,” Robichaud said with the emotion one would expect from a spouse of 60 years.


Robert Robichaud holds a commemorative photo book given to him during his recent Honor Flight. The book, published with support of the Korean government, people and businesses, was given to all Korean War veterans on the Honor Flight. “The Korean people are so damn appreciative of what the U.S. has done for them,” said Robichaud.   Dee Menear/Advertiser Democrat

When it was suggested he put in an application for Honor Flight Maine, Robichaud hesitated.

Honor Flight is a nonprofit organization that honors American veterans for their service and sacrifices. The organization transports veterans to Washington to tour, experience and reflect at the city’s many memorials.

“I didn’t want to go because I thought I’d already seen everything I wanted to see when I was stationed there,” he said. “Someone told me, ‘Bob, it is fantastic. Do yourself a favor and sign up for it’. He was so right. From our bus driver to mail call … the monuments and memorials … it just can’t be beat.

“The Korean monument meant a lot. It’s full sized men walking thought bushes with their weapons held out in front of them. The way they look is so real. It is such a beautiful monument.”

Then there was mail call on the return flight home. “I never got any mail while I was in the service,” he said. “Needless to say, that was a very emotional moment.”

Robichaud said when the flight landed in Portland, the jetport was crowded with families. “They were waiting for us,” he said. “When you see family after family with small children reaching out and saying, ‘Thank you for your service’, it is very emotional. For families to take the time to teach children freedom isn’t free is pretty significant.

“The whole trip meant quite a bit. It was a tremendous experience. Any veteran who has a chance to go, should. Don’t skip it like I almost did.”

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