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Major Grant C. Caywood
720th Squadron




Grant Caywood, a Sacramento architect who helped rebuild German cities and towns destroyed in raids that he flew as a storied bomber pilot in World War II, died Sunday at age 90.

He died of pneumonia, said his stepdaughter, Anne Polli.

Mr. Caywood was a squadron commander of the 720th Bomber Squadron in the 450th Bombardment Group, known as "The Cottontails" because of white rudders on their planes. Based in southern Italy, the 450th hit critical targets in Europe that were out of reach of Allied bases in England, at a cost of 1,505 airmen killed or missing in 18 months.

In an amazing feat of skill, luck and bravery, Mr. Caywood flew 50 raids on enemy aircraft factories, munitions plants, refineries and transportation centers. His B-24 often was shot down, including once when he was forced to bail out over the southern Alps and make his way on foot through German lines back to base.

His bomber nicknamed Shadow, after his black cocker spaniel often returned "with only a steel beam holding the front and tail together," longtime friend Larry Schei said. "You'd see pictures of it and never believe anyone could have landed it."

Mr. Caywood received the Silver Star, Purple Heart and three Distinguished Flying Crosses. His crew's exploits are told in "Shadow: A Cottontail Bomber Crew in World War II," a 2004 book by Neil Hunter Raiford.

He was working as an architect in Sacramento and was a lieutenant colonel in the Air Force Reserve when he was recalled to active duty in 1951. Sent to Germany as design and planning chief for the 12th Air Force, he led design work for roads, hospitals, shopping centers, more than 4,000 homes and six military bases.

"It was a full circle for him," Polli said. "He'd had a hand in the destruction in Europe during the war, and it was a real sense of accomplishment to go back and help in rebuilding."

In 1953, Mr. Caywood opened a Sacramento architectural firm that grew to five partners. He worked on many residential and public projects, including California State University, Sacramento; the Sacramento Zoo, and Sacramento International Airport. He retired in 1986 and was an emeritus member of the American Institute of Architects.

Grant Dodd Caywood was born in 1918 to an engineer and a homemaker in Des Moines, Iowa. He grew up in Omaha, Neb., and earned a bachelor's degree in architectural engineering from Iowa State University in 1940. He joined the Army Air Forces as a flying cadet and rose to major during World War II.

He was married for 47 years to the former Jeanne Nicolaus, who died in 1989. He married Ruth Ryan in 1992. A son from his first marriage, Grant, died in 2001.

Mr. Caywood published articles and lectured at universities on architecture. He donated his services to the Boy Scouts, Salvation Army, Sacramento Children's Home, Boys Ranch and YMCA. He was active in the Masons, Scottish Rite and Ben Ali Shrine.

He spoke Spanish and German and enjoyed gardening and photography. He logged more than 30,000 flying miles after the military, often scouting Sierra Nevada lakes in twin-engine planes for active fly-fishing spots.

He was proud of his military service but humble about his personal deeds, Polli said.

"He just took it in stride and felt that was what he was sent to do," she said. "He said the ground crews who worked around the clock to get the planes ready and keep them working really deserved a lot more credit than they got."

Born: April 3, 1918

Died: Aug. 24, 2008

Remembered for: Longtime Sacramento architect and civic volunteer; flew 50 bombing missions over Europe during World War II; received the Silver Star, Purple Heart and three Distinguished Flying Crosses

Survived by: Wife, Ruth, of Sacramento; daughter, Lindi Caywood of Eureka; stepdaughter, Anne Polli of Wilton; and a step-granddaughter





Information courtesy of SacBee.com

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