A member of the “Greatest Generation” has finished this earthly race and now rests in the arms of his Lord’s eternal embrace. Rogers Davis Littlejohn died Jan. 11, 2020, at the age of 97. That’s 35,700 days of a full life!
He was born March 22, 1922, in Spartanburg, South Carolina. He was the youngest following Paul, Pearl and Virl (twins) and Mary Jo, born to Beula Davis (Rogersville, Tennessee) and Jesse Robs Littlejohn (Spartanburg, South Carolina). Rogers is survived by his son Jeffrey, wife Susan (Jentz) and grandchildren Joshua and Natalie. Rogers grew up during the Great Depression, suffering great poverty with his family. He once traveled across the U.S. hopping trains with “hobos” who were looking for work. Rogers attended Wofford College in South Carolina.
At the age of 19 he started his flying career by joining the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) in 1941. He soloed at Vancouver, B.C. He was trained and deployed with the 410th Night Fighter Squadron flying a Bristol Beaufighter. Shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor, his squadron in Halifax, Nova Scotia, was transferred to Scotland. There he flew night defensive missions. In September 1942 he joined the U.S. Air Force and flew a number of missions in the famous “Flying Fortress” B-17 over Germany. Rogers copiloted the B-17 named “Lil Autry” that was part of the 367th Squadron, 306th Bombardment Group (Heavy), 8th Airforce, stationed at Royal Air Force Base Thurleigh, England. The 306th was the famous bomber group that inspired the “Twelve O’Clock High” movie (1949) and TV series in the mid-60s. The 367th was the first to enter Germany in early 1942. In fact, it is thought that his plane was the first to enter hostile airspace by U.S. forces. During one mission, his B-17 was hit by flak that damaged the windscreen on his side, whereby he had to push back and resist it breaking up. At this point all windows in the cabin frosted up and the pilot Hennessy flew the rest of the mission by looking out his side window being guided by what the other B-17s were doing. Andy Rooney (later of 60 Minutes fame) wrote a Stars and Stripes article on this mission. Then Rogers was transferred to the 415th Night Fighter Squadron (USAF), and assigned to Tunisia to fly night missions in the Beaufighter protecting U.S. forces in North Africa. Between World War II and the Korean War, he entered civilian life. Once the Korean War broke out, however, he re-entered the U.S. Air Force, piloting the F-82 Twin Mustang “All Weather Fighter.” Rogers was part of the 5th Squadron, 52nd Fighter All Weather Group, based out of Iwakuni, Japan. From there he flew night combat missions over Korea, some being “Lightning-Bug” missions coordinated with the U.S. Marines, who strafed North Korean convoys after being lit up by the 5th. One of those Marine pilots was John Glenn, the famous astronaut. Rogers continued serving in the USAF as a base commander at several duty stations. In 1964 he retired as Lt. Colonel.
In 1945 he married June Anderson in Orlando, Florida. Together they raised a son Jeffrey and daughter Deborah (deceased). The family moved many times during Rogers’ time in the Air Force. Most years were spent in Madison, Wisconsin, before he retired. After military service, Rogers worked with New York Life as an insurance agent. Later he worked for the City of Madison as its safety and training officer until his second retirement.
In the early 1980s, June and Rogers built their dream home on 114 acres located near Muscoda, Wisconsin. There they thoroughly loved daily visits by many songbirds, wild turkey, white-tailed deer, flying squirrels (some of which made a home in the attic) and many other wondrous creatures of God, including an occasional six-foot long timber rattlesnake.
They moved to Lynden in 1997. For the next 22 years, Rogers enjoyed “shooting the breeze” and telling jokes with his many community friends at the Dutch Treat Restaurant. He never got tired of tricking little children with his magical disappearing coin tricks. Nor did the kids! Rogers loved meeting and greeting new people at the Treat, creating a family-like atmosphere. This personal approach exemplified the heart of the Gospel of Christ. Many then and there took note. As you might guess, because of his dynamic military career and long life’s experiences, his stories of just about anything never ceased. New friends loved this and never tired of it.
In 2011 his beloved wife of 65 years died. Rogers dearly loved his grandchildren, Joshua and Natalie, and loved watching them grow to adulthood. In recent years he dedicated a lot of his time to researching and advocating for an Article 5 Convention of the U.S. Constitution, which if implemented, would return much of the individual power to citizens of the states. His dedication and patriotic spirit will follow him for generations to come.
Mom and dad’s ashes will be placed with their daughter Debbie in Madison, Wisconsin.
A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. Friday, Jan. 24, in Faith Reformed Church, 300 Seventh St., Lynden.
In lieu of flowers or even donations, Rogers simply asked you to share one kind word of encouragement to another person. Thank you. “See you soon, Dad.”