Friday, May 30, 2008

Passing the Torch, Keeping the Flame

My friend Gerald Grove sent me some excellent pictures today. I met Gerald for the first time in April when he was my gracious host at the 95th Bomb Group Reunion down in Tucson, Arizona. Gerald, like many of the children of the men of the Greatest Generation, is dedicated to keeping the memories of the World War Two airmen alive. His father, Ronald Grove, was a tail gunner on the Max Wilson crew of the 95th Bomb Group. This B-17 crew was shot down on April 24, 1944. In addition, Gerald's son (and Ronald's grandson) also expressed an interest in Ronald's exploits as a B-17 tail gunner, and both Gerald and Jeremy have been back to England to see the 95th Bomb Group's base in Horham.

The first picture, taken in 1994, shows Gerald's son , then 8, in the middle of the remnants of the Max Wilson crew in Tucson, AZ -- celebrating the 50th anniversary of the day they were shot down, April 24, 1944 [left to right: Frank (Cherry) Ceraso - radio operator; Dave Oates - left waist gunner; Felix (Kowalczyk) Cole - copilot; Jeremy Grove- Gerald Grove in the back; Ronald Grove - tail gunner; and Max Wilson - pilot.

The second shows the three Grove generations, all of which have now flown in a B-17, left to right: Jeremy, Ronald, Gerald in Kansas City in 2007 when Jeremy was 21 years of age, after he'd just landed in Don Brooks' "Liberty Belle".

In a letter he wrote to his grandpa after returning from a trip to England with Gerald, Jeremy wrote this poignant letter, which must have become one of Ronald Grove's greatest treasures:

June 2005
Dear Grandpa,

Well, we’re back! It was the trip of a lifetime, Grandpa! Spending a week in Horham, seeing where you were stationed. It was so humbling to realize that some 60 years ago you were standing on the same ground as me at the same age getting ready to take off in a plane not knowing whether or not you would make it back.
I may never know all the feelings you had or realize all the sacrifices that you and your buddies made for people like me, for the future, but it really struck home when I stood on the ground where your plane crashed. You see, I feel like I know you better now. Your experiences there were made very real to me. Now the guy that I remember growing up with, the hero who had fought in the war, the best friend who would let me drive the tractor with him is my hero now, even more so than before; because I’ve been where you’ve been. I feel like I’ve leapt across time and distance and bonded with you in ways that words cannot describe.
Going to the 95th BG reunions have been good because I’ve been able to know more about your friends and understand what happened and heard amazing stories of heroics from all kinds of guys. Going to those places in Europe has done so much for me too, though.
I just thought I would let you know how thankful I am for you and all that you did, and the 95th too, for all that they do. Thank you for letting me be a part of your fantastic world. With all the love from your biggest fan,

Your Grandson.

Thanks for sharing this with me, Gerald and Jeremy. With sons and grandsons like you--the flame will always stay lit and we will never forget...


Les said...

That is a beautiful letter, Rob.

Knowing what I know now, I wish I had written such a letter to my own grandfather earlier on. I hope he knows from heaven that I am now learning about the nature of his service.

Glad you had a great experience at the reunion and God Bless your efforts at writing the 95th's Official History!

r morris said...

Your grandfather knows, Les. He knows.

Richard Havers said...

It's June 20....welcome home!