June 3, 1932 – August 18, 2022
Robert was born in Mandan North Dakota, to George and Peggy Dilger. Bob, as he was known by family, spent his teens working in his family’s bakery in the Ballard neighborhood of Seattle. With ‘higher’ aspirations calling, Bob explored a series of unusual jobs including high-wire walker and bush pilot. After enlisting in the US Air Force in 1950s he rose rapidly from jet mechanic to combat pilot. His many assignments throughout the world permitted studies at many universities. In the mid1960s, Major Dilger was assigned to fly 162 fighter missions in Viet Nam at a time when US pilot losses were at an alarming rate. He gained notoriety not only for his uncon- ventional method of high-speed-tree-top flying, but also because pilot losses in his squadron dropped to zero. During one epic duel to the death, he was unable to get his missiles to fire and resorted to using his vaunted F-4C Phantom (tail number AF37577, call sign ‘Stinger01’) to forcibly maneuver his adversary’s Mig 17 fighter into a mountain. Eventually, Bob’s superiors recognized the merit of his techniques and he was assigned as a Combat Trainer for the Air Force’s version of Top Gun. He taught the up and coming ‘Mavericks’ of the day, how to survive their missions.
In the mid ’70s he was assigned to manage the Air Force’s faltering A-10 program. Again using unconventional means and never forgetting his commitment to America’s fighting men and women, he and his team were able to produce the most robust and reliable aircraft in the US military’s arsenal. Today the A-10 is affectionately known as the ‘Warthog’, though lacking in traditional beauty, it still serves as a welcome guardian angel to our ground troops in times of trouble. Bob was the recipient of 3 Silver Stars, 4 Distinguished Flying Crosses, 1 Air Medal and 1 Purple Heart.
In 1980 Bob retired from the USAF, but he didn’t slow down. He was a consultant to defense contractors and politi- cians and developed weapons for use by America’s allies. He took up organic farming and founded the Maplenoll Com- pany to manufacture the Audiophile world’s favorite and most unique turntable (record player) and started a tutorial academy to teach math to disadvantaged youths. Bob relo- cated to North Bend in 2014 to be near family and ended up meeting many great friends and comrades here. He will be remembered as a beloved husband and father and as a Great American Hero – just doing his job. He will be interned with full military honors during a ceremony at Tahoma National Cemetery, September, 8th, 1pm.