Robert Elder was born on July 10, 1918, in Joiner, Arkansas. After graduating from Southwestern College, Tennessee, with a bachelor's degree in physics, he enlisted in the Aviation Cadet Program of the U.S. Army Air Corps on September 9, 1940, and was commissioned a 2d Lt and awarded his pilot wings on April 25, 1941. Lt Elder next completed P-40 Warhawk transition training, and served in the United States until he deployed to England in February 1945. He served with the 353rd Fighter Group in England from February to October 1945, having served as Commander of the Group from September to October 1945. During this time, Col Elder was credited with the destruction of 5 enemy aircraft in aerial combat, 1 damaged, and 2 on the ground while strafing enemy airfields. After attending Command and General Staff School at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, he received an Air Force Institute of Technology assignment to complete his master's degree from September 1947 to August 1948. His next assignment was on the Research and Development Board with Headquarters U.S. Air Force in the Pentagon from August 1948 to March 1951, followed by service with Headquarters U.S. Air Forces in Europe at Wiesbaden, West Germany, from March 1951 to July 1954. Col Elder served as Chief of the Tactical Air Division with Headquarters Air Force Operation Test Center at Eglin AFB, Florida, from July 1954 to October 1955, and then served as Commander of the 3243rd Test Group at Eglin AFB from October 1955 to February 1956. He next served as Director of Test Requirements with Headquarters Air Proving Ground Command (APGC) at Eglin AFB from February 1956 to June 1957, and then as Assistant Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations with APGC at Eglin from June to August 1957. He attended the Industrial College of the Armed Forces in Washington, D.C., from August 1957 to July 1958, and then served on the staff of Headquarters Air Research and Development Command at Andrews AFB, Maryland, from July 1958 until his retirement from the Air Force on October 1, 1960. Robert Elder died on November 26, 1994.
His Silver Star Citation reads:
For gallantry in action while serving as Flight Commander in the EIGHTH Air Force, on a fighter sweep over Germany, 24 March 1945. Observing approximately fifteen FW-190's withy a top cover of approximately fifteen ME-109's, Colonel Elder led his Flight in a daring attack against the high element. As the enemy scattered, Colonel Elder, with cool deliberation, proceeded to shoot down in flames one plane after another. Terminating his attack at tree top level with less than fifty rounds of ammunition, and under fire from three FW-190's, Colonel Elder executed a brilliant maneuver and destroyed one of the attacking planes before returning to base. A fitting tribute to Colonel Elder's conspicuous courage, enthusiasm, and disregard for personal safety is the fact that during this action he personally destroyed five enemy aircraft. The courage, flying skill, and unyielding fighting spirit displayed by Lieutenant Colonel Elder are in keeping with the finest traditions of the Army Air Forces.