2nd Lt. Robert P. Gruber
Photo Taken after returning from a POW Camp
Flight Crew - Langley, Feb 44
Left to Right - Luke Terry, Gerald Grady, Robert Gruber in a Bulgarian Hospital
Gruber is on crutches to the left and Terry to the right
Letter from Mjr. Ross
Letter to Tommy Thomas
Crile General Hospital - Ohio 1946
Bob and "Randy" - All Bob's dogs were Sheppards called Randy
Another shot of Bob and Randy
Selling War Bonds
Hard at Work
Bob wrote "I fooled 'em" under the letter in his scrapbook
War Department Confirmation of MIA
Marriage to Dorothy - 19 March 1949
Keesler Field - November 1943
||Enlisted, private Air
Corps, born: Philadelphia, Residence: Atlantic NJ, height 67, weight 172 ,
. Civil occupation: mechanics and repairmen, airplane
||Section II Aircraft - Quoddy, Maine
|May 14, 1942
||Academy Hangar - La Quardia Field, NY?
|May 3, 1943
||Air Force Pre-flight school Bombadier-Navigator ---
|July 15, 1943
||Graduate Bombardier school -- Big Spring, TX
|July 30, 1943
||San Antonio TX
|August 1, 1943
||Hondo Air Base is an inactive United States Air
Force base, approximately 2 miles west-northwest of Hondo, Texas
(west of San Antonio). It was active during World War II and
during the early years of the Cold War as a training airfield. It
was closed on 31 October 1958, although the civilian airport was used as a
pilot screening facility by the Air Force from 1973 to 2000.
|February 1, 1944
||Langley Air Force Base - Hampton VA
|About Sept. 1943
||deployed overseas 9 months,
completed 25 missions before shot down
|June 24, 1944
||Shot down while returning
from a mission over Ploesti, 2 crew members (Gruber + 1) landed Danube River,
crew of Bulgarian River boat rescued them, taken to Bulgarian hospital.
Krzeminiski, turret gunner on B-24 Liberator Two Way
Stretch, flying out of Bari, Italy. landed in farmer's field in Romainia and
taken to POW camp in Bucharest. Krzeminiski liberated in Sept. 1944 then sent
to AF Convalescent Hospitalin Ft.
Thomas, KY. - Mission report says 4
planes shot down + 2 missing unknown reason
|October 1, 1944
||Admitted to Crile General
Hosptial - Cleveland, Ohio (I think about 2 1/2 years at Crile undergoing
surgeries, treatment for legs
|October 14, 1944
||letter from War Dept.=son
making normal improvement
|after Nov 1, 1944
||letter from Nellie Knuckes:
James POW Rumania 2 months, then furlough and stationed Miami Beach. 3 other
members at same POW camp but did know whom
||Capt Gruber sepakat
Lysander articlea: In 1945, Captain Gruber was held by East erman authorities
in East Berlin
end of WWII First Lieutenant - while "grounded" at Crile
Medal with Two Oak Leaf clusters, the Distinguished Flying Cross, Purple
Heart, Presidential Citation for Bravery in combat -- European-African-Middle
Eastern Theater Ribbon
||Taxi cab license - Atlantic
||participated in the Berlin
Air Lifts: see Speaks at Lysander article
|April 29, 1949
||Tempelhof AF Base, Berlin
|July 16, 1957
||arrived Travis Air Force Base, Honolulu, Hawaii
Items from Robert Gruber's personal collection
January 12, 1945
Announcer: This evening WTAM's Special Events
Department brings you a Public Service Feature. In the studio we have 1st
Lt. Robert P. Gruber, who parachuted from his B-24 Liberator Bomber into the
Blue Danube. With him is Tech. Sgt. John B Tierney Waist Gunner from the same
air group; Ensign Whitfield Wood, United States Naval Reserve, a veteran of LST
landings at Guam and Mr. R. R. Stratton, District Manager, Smaller War Plants
Corporation in Cleveland. Ensign Wood, Am I right in saying that the action
you've seen has been entirely in the Pacific?
Ensign Wood: That's right. We were the
first LST to leave an Atlantic port bound of Pacific duty. Out of the hundred
or so men in the crew, only two had ever been to sea before. I wasn't an
officer at that time. I was a coxswain and later moved up to Boatswain's mate
Announcer: Where did you make your first full
fledged invasion of enemy territory?
Ensign Wood: That was the assault on Vella Lavella.
As far as we were concerned, it was a hit and run job, for we were only there a
single day. What sticks in my mind was the aerial supremacy of the enemy. You
can't appreciate what it means to have air coverage we enjoy in our landings
nowadays unless you were there in those early Pacific invasions when all planes
seemed to have Jap makings.
Announcer: Mr. Stratton, do you have any comment
to make at this time?
Mr. Stratton: Just this At the time of Vella
Lavella our American planes did not have the type of super-chargers to
establish aerial dominance over the zeros. However, Cleveland facilities have
been producing super-chargers and parts for the planes, which has made it
possible for American landing forces to have air superiority.
Announcer: To get those parts out to the
fighting front it took skilled men working hard at their jobs.
Ensign Wood: And don't think that when we were out
there we didn't say thanks to the WORKING man at home.
Announcer: What was your worst campaign from a
standpoint of danger and damage?
Ensign Wood: Our worst campaign from a standpoint of
danger and damage were the trips from Tulagi up to Bougainville to support the
landings at Princess Augusta Bay. It was about a ten day round trip through
enemy territory with the possibility of air attack at any moment of the day or
night. You've all heard of the "fighting forty", our crack anti-aircraft gun
and how the Navy still needs a lot more of them today. You'd understand why,
if you had been out there with us. We hadn't had any aboard when we left home
but when we got out into the Pacific and saw what they could do, we got hold of
some and mounted them ourselves. It was one of those self-installed forties
that brought down our first plane a Jap "Betty", that is a torpedo plane with
an eight man crew. We made nine trips in all to Bougainville and back. The
third one was the worst. It took place the day before Thanksgiving and it
really looked for a while as if we were going to have mighty little to feel
thankful about. We had hit the beach and were unloading when the Japs opened
up on us from the jungle. They caught us completely by surprise.
Announcer: What were you doing?
Ensign Wood: I was rolling a gasoline tank down the
ramp when suddenly it was full of holes. I rushed aboard ship and just about
reached my battle station topside when the Jap gunners found the range. One of
our bays had most of one leg blown away and the other one injured.
Announcer: Ensign Wood, what about going into
Ensign Wood: We were part of an invasion force that
was going to hit Guam three days after Saipan. But the fighting at Saipan was
so heavy and so many of our ships were needed as reinforcements, that we just
waited out there for three weeks and then went back to our base to await
additional strength. I'd like you to remember that maneuver because the
fierceness of the Jap resistance at Saipan is an indication that each step of
the way to Tokyo is going to be harder and not easier.
Announcer: And that means more and more
production in Cleveland -
Mr. Stratton: Production schedules for Cleveland
are SET and they can be met only by the workers staying on their jobs
and additional men entering essential industry at once
Announcer: What about the actual landing at
Ensign Wood: I don't think we could have made that
Guam landing at all if it weren't for the rockets. Just before the assault
boats went in, the rocket ships cut loose with over 6000 rockets. It was a
beautiful sight. They just wipe out a whole beach area. It's never seen
rockets before and now I have just one thing to say, about them. The more
rockets you give us for landings, the more of us will come through alive.
Mr. Stratton: Ensign Wood, Cleveland is an
essential producing center for the rocket program, and Rear Admiral F. G.
Crisp, United States Navy, told us Wednesday in Mayor Burk's office that the
rocket program will be doubled in three months and doubled again in the
following three months Cleveland can meet this schedule with the full support
of those working now, and with additional men coming to at once.
Announcer: Lt. Gruber what has your experience
been with rockets?
Lt. Gruber: Any experience has been, up to
date, on the receiving end of rockets from the German fighters, which camped
outside the range of our 50 calibre machine guns and riddled our formation with
rockets. I feel very lucky to be able to come home and tell about it.
However, the most effective and efficient protection the Germans had was their
barrage typed flak little white and black puffs, sometimes dense enough to
produce what appeared to be a thunderhead of death to crew members. Of our
four engine bombers Sgt. Tierney, you have flown over approximately the same
enemy territory I have. I'd like to have you tell a little bit about the flak.
Sgt. Tierney: Well, Lieutenant, the experience we
had on our plane was rather a depressing one since two of our crew men were
killed over Vienstadt, which was a number one priority target. Enemy targets
are so classified because of their productive capacity. One of those lost was
the pilot and the other the ball gunner. Our bombardier was also wounded. We
made an emergency landing with the red emergency beacon revolving and the red
flares flying - while along the runway trying to catch us were the ambulances
and fire fighting equipment.
Lt. Gruber: Thank you, sergeant. You probably
know the picture has changed quite a bit since the soldiers on the homefront
have been producing rockets, which have been a great help in support of ground
troops and train busting, and also a new threat to enemy aircraft.
Announcer: Was it rockets that destroyed your
plane, Lt. Gruber?
Lt. Gruber: No ---- our plane was shot down by
German Messerchmidts 109 E's Machine gun bullets, one of which entered my right
leg. It was taken out and presented to me by a Bulgarian Doctor.
Announcer: Do you carry it with you?
Lt. Gruber: Yes, I wear it around my neck as a
good luck piece. I figure anyone who was hit by one this size, and able to get
around, is still being smiled upon by Lady Luck. Here it is.
Announcer: Kind of big, isn't it?
Lt. Gruber: Yes, It's about seven times as long
as a 45 calibre projectile and solid steel.
Announcer: How did you happen to land in "the
beautiful blue Danube"?
Lt. Gruber: Our plane had been damaged
critically by the four German fighters when the fire aboard was beyond control
we decided it was time to leave, without any thought to whether our parachutes
would open or not. It appeared as though we had crossed the Danube, but due to
a prevailing wind during the eighteen minute ride down, I drifted to the middle
of the mile wide Danube. Make no mistake about it, that river is not beautiful
and not blue. While floating down, the serenity of the countryside and
beautiful hills which roll to the river seemed worlds away from a violent war.
Instead, the patchwork of fields and waving grain definitely pointed to a peaceful
people, except for their aggressive neighbors.
Announcer: Did they keep you prisoner in
Lt. Gruber: Yes, I remained in Bulgaria four
months an unwelcome visitor with friends from all over the United States.
Even though the Bulgarians did not like, or appreciate, us openly they all told
us confidentially that as soon as the war was over they were planning to come
to the land of freedom those who can escape from under the aggressor's whip
and pistol butt to America would consider it a privilege to be allowed to work
every day, and they'd be startled by the amount of clothes, food and luxuries
their labors would provide. It is gratifying to see that the majority o four
workers are on the job every day, and it is the sincere hope of myself and
every fighting man on all fronts that those who have to realized the life and
death importance of continuous work will help to save the lives of our fighting
sons, brothers and sweethearts by giving them the weapons they need to protect
themselves. Ensign Wood, Sgt. Tierney and I have all stared death in the face
and know how precious life really is. So, you who are fighting behind the
lines, consider your life a gift of America and protect that gift by working
day in and day out. (Pause) Mr. Stratton, I'm wondering if those people who
have been absent during 1944 realize how many shiploads of vital equipment our
fighting men have been deprived of?
Mr. Stratton: Lt. Gruber, I am sorry to say that
last year alone in the Cleveland Area, 7 million man days of production were
lost due to absenteeism. This is as situation which must not continue if we
expect to defeat our enemies in the near future. Ninety percent of the War
Plants in Greater Cleveland are Smaller War Plants. Due to the fact that many
of these plants produce not only components and end products but also
manufacture the dies, jigs and tools from which large manufacturers produce
quantities of war material, the need for skilled and semi-skilled manpower is
acute. Much skilled manpower can be reclaimed trough the reduction of
absenteeism and turnover. Executives in all plants will find it profitable to
magnify the importance of each individual's duty to the War Effort no matter
how small the job may appear to be. Regular attendance at work is not only a
necessity in 1945 - - it is a paramount duty of every worker.
Air Corps song
Information courtesy of Kathy Ogle
Link To Crew Information
Link To Scrapbook Pages