From USNA Virtual Memorial Hall

Robert Wilson, Jr. '78

Date of birth: August 6, 1956

Date of death: March 5, 1982

Age: 25

Lucky Bag

1978 Wilson LB.jpg


From USNA '78:

1st Lieutenant Robert Grady Wilson Jr. USMC died in an aircraft accident on 4 March 1982 at Bogue Field, North Carolina, an outlying field about 25 miles from Cherry Point. Interment was at the Maple Hill Cemetery in Huntsville, Alabama.

Appointed to the Naval Academy from the State of Alabama, he was graduated with the Class of 1978 and commissioned in the Marine Corps. After basic flight training at Whiting Field , Florida, he took jet training at the Naval Air Station in Kingsville, Texas, and was designated a Naval Aviator on 9 January 1981. After reporting to the Marine Corps Air Station at Cherry Point, he began training in the AV-8A Harrier aircraft with VMAT-203, and upon completion of this training was assigned to VMA-542, serving with Marine Aircraft Group 32 where he was assigned as the squadron training officer. He was a life member of the Naval Academy Alumni Association.

He is survived by his widow Christina, 3105 Holly Hill, Huntsville AL 35802; his mother and stepfather; and two brothers.


From The Los Angeles Times on December 17, 2002; the article is a compilation of deaths while flying in the AV-8 Harrier.

Died: March 5, 1982

After a Harrier crashed in Nevada, Wilson called his mother to assure her he was not the pilot.

"I said, 'Robbie, why do you fly that damnable airplane?' " recalled his mother, Ann Bandgren. "And he said: 'Mother, it's not a damnable aircraft. It's a wonderful aircraft and I love it. I'm right with God, and I'm doing what I want to do.' "

Wilson's own AV-8A crashed on March 4, 1982, while he was attempting to land from a hover during a training exercise at Cherry Point.

According to Bandgren, he was dropping onto a small metal pad surrounded by trees. The plane drifted left. When he tried to correct it, he became enveloped in debris kicked up by the nozzles. The plane rolled and Wilson ejected, but into the ground. He survived for about 15 hours. A letter Bandgren received from the squadron commander said, "The final cause was undetermined, with most probable cause as pilot error."

Wilson, 25, was the oldest of three brothers, a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy and had been married less than six weeks when he was killed.

Class of 1978

Robert is one of 4 members of the Class of 1978 on Virtual Memorial Hall.