U.S. Rep. Aguilar on Friday, Nov. 22, presented the Congressional Gold Medal to Domenic Robolino, son of Nicholas Robolino, who was a member of the 492nd Bombardment Group, known as The Carpetbaggers.”
During a brief ceremony at the VA Ambulatory Care Center in Redlands, Aguilar, who represents District 31, presented the medal to Nicholas, who is also a veteran.
On March 21, 2018, the men and women of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), were collectively awarded the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest civilian honor bestowed by Congress.
Robolino died in 2011. Aguilar presented the medal to his son, who fought back tears.
“All I can say is my dad would be proud. I accept posthumously for him,” said Robolino.
According to Aguilar, Robolino dedicated his life to serve the country. He served during World War II in England, working on radar equipment and maintaining a fleet of unmarked B-24 bombers that flew in France undetected.
In 2017, the CIA declassified records that detailed the work of the OSS, the first spy agency, said Aguilar. Despite the contributions, the members went unrecognized for decades because of the secret nature of their work, he said.
According to CIA records, the OSS relied on dedicated U.S. Army Air Force special operations air groups to provide aerial support for its missions. The Carpetbaggers began operations in January 1944, dropping agents and supplies into occupied Europe.
One of the most important missions of The Carpetbaggers was to ferry gasoline to the front. To do that, the B-24s were modified, airlifting gasoline to Lt. Gen. George S. Patton Jr.’s Third Army, according to records. By September 1944, the Carpetbaggers had delivered 822,791 gallons of gasoline.
Because B-24s were designed for low-level flight, they could not perform high-altitude bombing. The B-24s were modified for the new mission. One of the most distinctive and now historic features was the “Joe hole,” which was created by removing the ball turret and replacing it with a hatch.
It was through the Joe hole that Joes (males) and Janes (females) were dropped into the dark.
The ceremony took place amid a veteran resource fair organized by Aguilar’s office.
Veterans in the district received information on housing, disability claims and other VA benefits.
“One of my top priorities is to make sure veterans are receiving the necessary benefits,” said Aguilar.
Nick Robolino, as family and friends knew him, was born on May 3, 1922 in North Bergen, New Jersey. He died in 2011 and is resting at Bakersfield National Cemetery.
Robolino worked on the ground as a mechanic testing and repairing the radar each day that was used during missions of the Carpetbaggers. After the war, Robolino moved to California in 1948, and spent many years in the burlap bag business in Bakersfield, and the Coachella and Imperial Valleys. He ran his own company, I.V. Bag, in Brawley from 1956 to 1964.
Robolino was deeply involved in every community he lived in. Robolino sang tenor and enjoyed performing at various functions for organizations.
He was a member of the Kiwanis, Lions, 20-30 Club and the Elks Lodge. He was president of the local Air Force Association Charles Hudson Chapter from 1996 to 2000.
He was also member of the Italian Heritage Dante Association and the American Legion Post 26.