Bob Barnett was born in 1928 in Los Angeles, California. He enlisted in the U.S. Coast Guard on September 4, 1946, and served as a Radioman until receiving an honorable discharge on September 6, 1949. Bob then completed college and was commissioned a 2d Lt through the Air Force ROTC program at the University of Southern California on July 31, 1953, going on active duty beginning August 12, 1953. Lt Barnett completed pilot training and was awarded his pilot wings at Laredo AFB, Texas, in September 1954, and then completed F-86 Sabre Combat Crew Training and Instructor School before serving as an Instrument Flight Instructor with the 3558th Combat Crew Training Squadron at Perrin AFB, Texas, from April 1955 to July 1959. His next assignment was as an F-89 Scorpion pilot with the 57th Fighter Interceptor Squadron at Keflavik Airport, Iceland, from July 1959 to July 1960, followed by service as a Weapons Controller with the Phoenix Air Defense Sector at Luke AFB, Arizona, from August 1960 to July 1962. Capt Barnett next served as an F-101 Voodoo pilot and on the staff of the 78th Fighter Wing at Hamilton AFB, California, from July to November 1962, and then as an F-101 pilot with the 83rd and 84th Fighter Interceptor Squadrons at Hamilton from December 1962 to July 1963. His next assignment was with the 28th Air Division at Hamilton AFB from August 1963 to January 1964, followed by Spanish Language School. Maj Barnett served as an advisor to the Ecuadorian Air Force from July 1964 to September 1966, and then served on the staff of Headquarters Air Defense Command at Ent AFB, Colorado, from September 1966 to January 1967. He next completed F-105 Thunderchief Combat Crew Training before deploying to Southeast Asia where he served as an F-105 pilot with the 44th Tactical Fighter Squadron at Korat Royal Thai AFB, Thailand, from July 1967 until he was forced to eject over North Vietnam on October 3, 1967. He managed to evade for three days before being captured and taken as a Prisoner of War on October 6, 1967. After spending 1,986 days in captivity, Col Barnett was released during Operation Homecoming on March 14, 1973. He was briefly hospitalized to recover from his injuries at March AFB, California, and then received an Air Force Institute of Technology assignment to the University of Arizona where he received his master's degree in Latin American Studies. Col Barnett remained on at the University of Arizona where he served as Commander of the Air Force ROTC detachment there until his retirement from the Air Force on September 1, 1977. After retiring from the Air Force, Bob remained in the aviation industry, and retired from flying in 1997 after accumulating 7,325 flying hours during his career. Bob and his wife Anita have one daughter, Lori, and 4 grandchildren. He served as Secretary/Treasurer of NAM-POWs from 1976 to 1981.
His 1st (of 2) Silver Star Citation reads:
For gallantry in connection with military operations against an opposing armed force while serving as a Pilot with the 44th Tactical Fighter Squadron, Korat Royal Thai Air Base, Thailand, PACIFIC Air Forces, in action over North Vietnam, on 9 September 1967. On that date, Major Barnett led a force of twenty F-105 Thunderchiefs on a successful attack against a hostile location. Despite intense hostile fire and weather which partially obscured the target, Major Barnett's attack heavily damaged this vital MiG base. By his gallantry and devotion to duty, Major Barnett has reflected great credit upon himself and the United States Air Force.