Robert Abbott was born in 1942 in Deckerville, Michigan. He was commissioned through the Air Force ROTC program at Michigan State University on June 14, 1964, and went on active duty beginning January 13, 1965. Lt Abbott next completed Undergraduate Pilot Training and was awarded his pilot wings at Webb AFB, Texas, in March 1966. He then attended F-105 Thunderchief combat crew training at Nellis AFB, Nevada, before being sent to Southeast Asia in November 1966. Lt Abbott began flying combat missions with the 354th Tactical Fighter Squadron at Takhli Royal Thai AFB, Thailand, in December 1966, and he was shot down by a MIG-17 and forced to eject over North Vietnam while flying his 64th combat mission on April 30, 1967. He was immediately captured and spent the next 2,136 days in captivity before being released during Operation Homecoming on March 4, 1973. He was briefly hospitalized to recover from his injuries at Wright Patterson AFB, Ohio, before attending refresher pilot training and then F-4 Phantom II training with the 21st Tactical Fighter Training Squadron at George AFB, California, from December 1973 to May 1974. Capt Abbott flew F-4s until October 1975, when he began Law School. He became an Air Force Staff Judge Advocate in August 1978, and then served as Assistant Staff Judge Advocate and Deputy Staff Judge Advocate of the Ogden Air Logistics Center at Hill AFB, Utah, from August 1978 to June 1982. Col Abbott's next assignment was as Staff Judge Advocate for the 363rd Combat Support Group and then Deputy Judge Advocate for Headquarters 9th Air Force at Shaw AFB, South Carolina, from June 1982 to October 1986, followed by service as Staff Judge Advocate for 23rd Air Force and Deputy Staff Judge Advocate for Headquarters Military Airlift Command at Scott AFB, Illinois, from October 1986 to July 1989. His final assignment was as Staff Judge Advocate at Lowry AFB, Colorado, where he retired from the Air Force on September 5, 1991.
His 1st (of 2) Silver Star Citation reads:
First Lieutenant Robert A. Abbott distinguished himself by gallantry in connection with military operations against an opposing armed force as an F-105 Pilot in Southeast Asia on 30 April 1967. On that date, Lieutenant Abbott was a member of a surface-to-air missile suppression flight protecting a strike force of fighter-bombers which were to strike a vital transformer in a heavily defended area. When a hostile interceptor downed Lieutenant Abbott's leader, he gave little thought to his own personal safety and established a RESCAP orbit over the downed aircrew. By his gallantry and devotion to duty, Lieutenant Abbott has reflected great credit upon himself and the United States Air Force.