Biography shares story of WWII bomber pilot Victor Idol Jr.
You may not recognize the name of Lt. Victor Hugo Idol Jr., but the Idol family roots run deep in High Point. The young World War II pilot’s father and namesake was born and raised in High Point, before moving to Madison and enjoying a long, successful banking career there.
The son’s story, though, is not a High Point story anyway — it’s an American story, and one that’s most fitting for the Memorial Day weekend.
“His story needed to be preserved, so I wrote it all down,” said Charles Rodenbough, a former High Pointer now living in Greensboro. Rodenbough wrote a biography titled, “What We Lost of the Greatest Generation: Lt. Victor H. Idol, Jr.”
Much of Idol’s memorabilia, from his military career and otherwise, belongs to the Rockingham County Museum and Archives (commonly referred to as the MARC).
Vic Idol was a young, dashing fighter-bomber pilot with the Ninth Air Force. He flew P-47 Thunderbolts, one of the warhorses of WWII, and had bravely flown numerous missions over enemy territory — missions in England, Belgium, Holland and Germany.
On June 17, 1944 — 11 days after the D-Day invasion at Normandy and only a week after his 24th birthday — Idol found himself flying a mission over France. Via Rodenbough’s biography, one of Idol’s officer buddies picks up the story of what happened.
“Vic flew quite a bit that day, and on the last mission he had one bomb and had a low dive bomb,” the officer said. “It seems that he went down on the target and on pulling up still had his bomb on, which apparently failed to release. In his pull-up, the ship went haywire — controls probably — and he went into a shuddering inverted skid. When it seemed the ship would do something more violent, Vic dropped out of the cockpit and used his silk.”
That’s slang for parachute. Idol’s wingman reported seeing him float almost down to the ground with no difficulties.
“Vic landed in enemy-held territory,” the officer continued, “and I hoped he might have escaped.”
“Vic was captured on landing and was summarily shot by the Nazis,” Rodenbough wrote. “The French buried him in an unmarked grave and took his belt and dog tags, which they gave to the Americans when they overtook the spot the next day.”
The belt, dog tags and the rest of Idol’s belongings eventually found their way to his brother, who then passed them down to his stepdaughter. The stepdaughter — not knowing what to do with the artifacts, yet still feeling a strong obligation to protect the memory of this young man who had given his life for his country — contacted Rodenbough, who had lived in Idol’s native Madison and was an active member of the historical society there.
Rodenbough suggested she donate the memorabilia to the MARC, and she readily agreed, sending three large storage boxes of items to the museum, which is located in Wentworth.
“I was stunned by the completeness of the record of this young man I had never known but had heard of all the years I lived in Madison,” Rodenbough said. “I felt that all the material was incomplete without some written story to file with it.”
That’s what prompted him to write Idol’s biography, which he self-published, with no intentions of selling to the general public.
The book has gained some attention, though. A representative of Virginia Military Institute — where Idol had been a student — contacted Rodenbough for a copy. The representative is leading a delegation of about 20 people from VMI to Normandy to place flowers on all the graves of former VMI students. Rodenbough agreed to give each of the VMI delegates a copy of his book.
The book can also be found at the MARC, where Idol’s memorabilia is located.
“(The Idol collection) is in our archives and available for researchers to use at the moment,” said Kim Proctor, executive director of the MARC, adding that he will be featured in the museum’s military exhibit in 2015. “Meanwhile, an online exhibit and a mini exhibit highlighting Victor Idol Jr. are scheduled for later this year.”
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