Robert Holbury was born in 1920 in Avon Lake, Ohio. He enlisted in the Aviation Cadet Program of the U.S. Army Air Forces on March 19, 1942, and was commissioned a 2Lt and awarded his pilot wings on February 6, 1943, at Marfa Field, Texas. During World War II, Holbury served as a reconnaissance pilot flying P-38 Lightning and P-51 Mustang fighters on 76 combat missions with the 10th Photo Reconnaissance Group in Europe. He left active duty on December 19, 1945, and served in the Air Force Reserve until he was recalled to active duty on June 30, 1947. Holbury served with the 363rd Reconnaissance Wing at Langley AFB, Virginia, from September 1947 to June 1948, and then attended courses at Michigan State College through the Air Force Institute of Technology from June 1948 to September 1950. He served in the Tactical Reconnaissance Section at Headquarters USAF in the Pentagon from September 1950 to February 1954. During this time, Col Holbury flew 3 combat missions as an RF-80 reconnaissance pilot in February and March 1952, during the Korean War. His next assignment was with Headquarters U.S. Air Forces in Europe, from February 1954 to September 1956, before attending the NATO Defense College in Paris, France, from September 1956 to March 1957. He served as Deputy Director of Operations for the 55th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing at Forbes AFB, Kansas, from March 1957 to September 1959. Col Holbury next served at Headquarters Strategic Air Command from September 1959 to December 1961, when he was made Air Commander of Detachment 1, 1129th U.S. Air Force Special Activities Squadron at Area 51 in Nevada. He served in this position until July 1966, when he became Commander of the 66th Tactical Reconnaissance Wing at Laon AB, France, and then at RAF Upper Hayford, England. He next attended RF-4 Phantom II combat crew training from September to December 1967, before serving as Commander of the 460th Tactical Reconnaissance Wing at Tan Son Nhut Air Base in the Republic of Vietnam. Gen Holbury then served as Director of Combat Operations for 7th Air Force, also at Tan Son Nhut AB, from July 1968 to August 1969. While in Southeast Asia, Holbury flew 149 combat missions. From August 1969 to August 1970, he served as Commander of the Tactical Air Reconnaissance Center at Shaw AFB, South Carolina. Gen Holbury's final assignment was as Deputy Chief of Staff for Plans at Tactical Air Command Headquarters, Langley AFB, Virginia, from August 1970 until his retirement from the Air Force on May 1, 1972. Robert Holbury died on August 18, 2005.
The Synopsis from the General Orders for his Distinguished Service Cross reads:
The President of the United States takes pleasure in presenting the Distinguished Service Cross to Robert J. Holbury, Captain (Air Corps), U.S. Army Air Forces, for extraordinary heroism in connection with military operations against an armed enemy while serving as Pilot of a Reconnaissance Airplane in the 10th Photo Reconnaissance Group, NINTH Air Force, while participating in a photographic reconnaissance mission over enemy-controlled territory in the European Theater of Operation. The personal courage and devotion to duty displayed by Captain Holbury on this occasion have upheld the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit upon himself, the 9th Air Force, and the United States Army Air Forces.