ATTENTION: A humbling testament to both personal and national honor is to be found on the website of
The Honor Guard of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetary. These men dedicate their entire lives to a stainless standard beyond any other call so that they may more fully honor the fallen unknowns.
"The goal of the Society [of The Honor Guard, Tomb of the Unknown Soldier] is to make certain that the individuals that made the ultimate sacrifice of their life for our freedom are not forgotten, and that the general public understands this price of freedom."
Bob fought with the 3rd army in The Battle of the Bulge under General Patton. Bob's duty was to drive a 10-ton wrecker vehicle - a giant of a machine with a big crane on the back. He tells me that it was higher than most trees and could be seen from a great distance. The Germans could spot it from afar and they would use it to range-in their artillery. Bad job to have...
At the wars end, Bob helped liberate the walking corpses from the obscene
concentration camp, and several others as well. He has many pictures and even more memories of
these horrible times. It is still unbearable for him to speak of or review these things, but
perhaps one day he will share some of them with us. Meanwhile, enjoy the war relics shown below
that he somehow acquired from the shambles of the German High Command. The
greatest treasure of all is that Bob - World War II hero extrordinaire - is still with us, and still smiling,
on Veteran's Day, 2012. My hometown paper in Longmont, CO carried a very nice story
about Bob in early 2011
(click here). (Sorry the link is no longer active)
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"The saviors come not home tonight: Themselves they could not save."
-- scribbled in a soldier's diary.
On Oct. 27, 1947, thousands of caskets were unloaded from a ship in New York. The bodies of soldiers from the European theater, writes Rick Atkinson in his book 'The Guns at Last Light',
"then traveled by rail in a great diaspora across the republic for burial in their hometowns." Three young men, killed between the Battle of the Bulge in December 1944 and April 1945 in Germany two weeks before the war in Europe ended, were destined for Henry Wright's Missouri farm: "Gray and stooped, the elder Wright watched as the caskets were carried into the rustic bedroom where each boy had been born. Neighbors kept vigil overnight, carpeting the floor with roses, and in the morning they bore the brothers to Hilltop Cemetery for burial side by side by side beneath an iron sky."A U.S. infantryman wrote, "No war is really over until the last veteran is dead," - This war has not ended: About 400 World War II veterans, almost half a battalion, are dying each day. This Bob still remains with us - for a short time, now - a participating eyewitness to a time that some are saying never even happened.
As this national treasure of heroes slips away, the enemies
within seek to poison the roots from which freedom springs:
The United States Constitution.
Perhaps there is still hope for our nation, hollowed from within by greed and corruption. In his vigil at Omaha Beach, D-Day 2014, this young patriot gives hope to those of us who despair the future of the [once] 'land of the free and home of the brave.' Watch his tribute to the memory of those who fought for freedom in this moving YouTube video.
"For I dipt into the future, far as human eye could see,
Saw the Vision of the world, and all the wonder that would be;
Saw the heaven fill with commerce, argosies of magic sails,
Pilots of the purple twilight, dropping down with costly bales;
Heard the heavens fill with shouting, and there rained a ghastly dew
From the nationís airy navies grappling in the central blue"
- Alfred,Lord Tennyson (1809-1892)
In exciting, relatively recent historical developments,
(1) A literally deep-frozen P-38 was recovered in 1992 from under 260 feet of glacial ice in Greenland. Now appropriately known as "Glacier Girl," it was part of a 1942 mission to ferry much need fighter planes (P-38s) and heavy bombers (B-17s) from the U.S. via a route from Canada to Greenland, to Iceland, and on to England. This group of aircraft became lost in dense clouds over Greenland and eventually each crashed after running out of fuel. In the ensuing 50 years, all were encased under hundreds of feet of snow and ice. (map courtesy of lostsquadron.com)
In a surprising wink of God's eye, scientists at Denver National Ice Core Laboratory in Denver Colorado have "proven" that Glacier Girl is over 3,000 years old! Such a revelation could call into question every scientific assertion as to the age of anything. The earth may not be millions and millions of years old as science claims...
(2) A nearly perfect P-38 emerged in 2007 from its tomb of 65 years from beneath the sands of a remote beach in Wales, England, where it had crash-landed in 1942 after running out of fuel. This aircraft, now know as the "Maid of Harlech," is among a precious few surviving P-38s and the only intact P-38F in original condition. (photo courtesy of tighar.org)
(3) I found a web page that shows many images of rare WW-II era USA experimental aircraft
ABOVE: The second picture, originally a tiny 2x3" print, had the aircraft name and identifying numbers redacted for security purposes. The attempt mostly failed because in the hi-res scan done 60 years later, we can clearly see the name of the ship and plenty of identifying marks. Little could the authorities of that time have imagined the power that today's digital processing brings to bear on the past. My Uncle Bob eventually became a B-17 Command Pilot, and led entire squadrons of these craft in bombing raids over the Hun (German) homeland. He named his first ship "Smilin' Thru", or perhaps "Smiling Through" as my Mom's handwriting says in the pic at far right. Uncle Bob is in the center of crew the B-17 as shown in the right center photo above.
ABOVE: I received an email in late December 2012 from Luke St.Blanc with an awesome photo (leftmost) of the real "Smilin' Thru." attached. Luke's grandfather, William H. Hebert (shown on the far left), was part of the maintenence crew responsible for this magnificent aircraft. An internet search revealed the ships Serial Number as 42-29784 - with additional information which I gathered into this text file.
Regardless of the true name (which may not have ever been shown in the noseart) of the B-17 in which he died,
Uncle Bob's ship was heavily damaged by anitaircraft ground fire.
The story goes that the valiant crew were able to nurse the crippled B-17 back over the channel to
English soil where it crash landed. Ditto the same story for several subsequent B-17s that Uncle Bob commanded.
Perhaps no one will ever know if there were two B-17s named some version of Smilin' Thru
- but be there one, two (or many) we all agree that all these B-17s were manned by heroic men.
ALERT: In July 2005, I was able to get some excellent photos of a surviving B-17.
Watch this beautiful HD video of a B-24 and
B-17 in flight.
|CLICK ON||IMAGES||TO ENLARGE|
|hi-res A different time, a different B-17, a different crew. My "Uncle Bob" is the one in the center with the inside prop blade pointing at his hat.||
The final crew before the final hours:
Lt. Robert J. Crutcher (my "Uncle Bob") is center, back row.
To his right is Captain Donald Allen.
92nd USAAF-USAF Mem. Ass'n]
Much valuable information resides in
your Emails to this website. Unavoidably, there is some uncertainty about much of this history and we are losing hundreds of WWII vets a month who might still know the details first hand. As this national treasure of heroes slips away, the enemies within seek to poison the roots from which freedom springs: The USA Constitution.
|Last letter Bob wrote to his Dad (the envelope). Air Mail stamps were only six cents back then.||
Last letter to his Dad,
mailed 04 May 1944 (Page 1)
"I am a 1st Lt. and have been as of Dec 15th ..."
Last letter to his Dad (Pages 2-3)
"Received the Air Medal and Cluster - been on 12 raids ..."
|hi-res In 1946, author John S. Sloan published his WW-II memories of the 92nd Bomber Group in the book "The Route As Briefed." Uncle Bob was mentioned by name on page 111 of this book, a paragraph from which is directly quoted in the two panels at right:||"The Luftwaffe was less in evidence than ever before during June  but there was plenty of flak. Over Hamburg on June 18, a direct burst struck the nose of the deputy lead aircraft, killing Capt Robert J. Crutcher of the 327th Bombardment Squadron, co-pilot, and...||
...severely injuring the pilot and other crew members. The ship was landed safely on the English coast,
a tribute to the courage, stamina, and flying skill of Lt Charles W. Hodges
of the 326th Squadron, the pilot, whose foot had been blown off by the burst."
Handwritten comments on the page are by my mom (Bob's sister, Dorothy).
The 92nd Bombardment Group Newsletter from December 1989
covered B-17 missions from 25 October 1943 to the end of August, 1944.
Page 2 hi-res Page 3 hi-res
|hi-res "An 88 mm [shell] ... had come in ... taking [pilot] Hodges right leg off and exploding along the left side of Lt. Crutchers head, killing him at once." This is page 4 of that newsletter which describes in detail their 19th Mission, flown on 18 June 1944.||hi-res "...the plane filled up with vapor as we slid across the field..." Page 5 finishes up the report of the 19th Mission of 18 June 1944. Subsequent missions are also described on this page, through late August 1944.|
Flak damage. Because Lt.Crutcher was "command pilot" he was actually coordinating the entire squadron of B-17s
92nd USAAF-USAF Mem. Ass'n]
|The 88mm shell (about 3.5" diameter) caused extensive damage to the cockpit of Lt. Crutcher's plane, as shown by photos in the two panels, left and right.||
The B-17 in which Lt. Crutcher was killed was actually being flown by Lt. Charles Hodges, who lost a leg
in the explosion.
92nd USAAF-USAF Mem. Ass'n]
|hi-res A letter from an an eyewitness on the fatal mission about Bob's death.||Another eyewitness related events of that fateful day page 1 hi-res page 2 hi-res)||
"...but such is the way of God,"
- Harold W. Rollig (Bob's friend)
Shown at left is a scan of a letter written in 1996 (but probably never sent) by Bob's sister Dorothy.
In it she shares some memories of the 1943/1944 New Year, where she hoped to
catch a last, midnight glimpse of her brother Bob as he boarded a train at
Kansas City's Union Station...
- A journey that would ultimately return him to England and his subsequent death only months later. Several
newspaper clippings from The Kansas City Star and a map of Allied bombings are shown below:
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Listen to this moving D-Day Prayer (6Mb .mp3) as given by President Franklin Roosevelt. View this video of President Ronald Reagan honoring the D-Day dead of Normandy on June 06 1984 (40th Anniversary). Public prayers to God led by a US President will probably never be heard again, due to the constraints imposed by rampant Political Correctness. You will also enjoy this D-Day prayer introduction (1.6Mb .mp3) from noted historian and House Speaker Newt Gingrich. Now, hear this audio tour of the memorial (10Mb .mp3) for Franklin Roosevelt, also authored by Newt Gingrich.
HALLOWED GROUND After he was killed, Uncle Bob's mother Ruby traveled to England and stayed there several years. She attended many of the ongoing ceremonies at the Cambridge American Military Cemetery - a place where thousands of young American warriors found rest after an untimely end to their life's journey. The base of the 72-foot flagpole in front of the Visitors' Building carries an inscription taken from John McCrae's poem - In Flanders Fields, "...To You From Failing Hands We Throw The Torch - Be Yours To Hold It High." The sad and lonely sound of TAPS has been played over their graves for many a year now. You can download a small .mp3 file of Taps here. Play it for them again now, won't you? hi-res hi-res hi-res hi-res
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On a cold winter's night,
For these heros in dreamless sleep,
We pray, oh dear God, their souls to keep...
18 months after Bob's death, my mom (Bob's sister) did the illustrations for a short story "Peace I Give Unto You" in a Catholic magazine. Mom used an actual photograph of Bob to draw his perfect likeness. The author used "Marianne" as the name of the fictional Bob's girlfriend while, In life, the living Bob's girlfriend was named Jo Anne.
Here are the four pages of the story, scanned 72 years later from the original, now falling apart, magazine:
hi-res. I was there with my mom and grandma Ruby (Bob's mother) for the dedication of the Kansas University Memorial Carillon and Campanile tower in 1951, and years later in 1958 as shown in this photo. I passed through the doors of that same tower during an incoming Freshman ceremony at Kansas University in 1958, and again on graduation night in spring of 1962. Both times, and every time on dozens of visits since, I have stopped and located the name of Uncle Bob inscribed among the other KU alums who died in World War II. I thank God for him and the sacrifice he and so many - too many - others have made for America both before, since, and yet to come. I spit on the soul of any person born on American soil who has, or does, or will, publicly disparage the memory of our fallen war heroes.
hi-res Uncle Bob's body was eventually taken from England and reburied in south Kansas City, Missouri, along with his father and mother. Through the years, Bob's father Ross, his mother Ruby, my eldest son Scott Martin, and later my father George Martin would join Uncle Bob at that place in final repose. Bob's sister Dorothy (my own Mom) died in early 2013 (age: 97) and is buried next to her brother, father Ross, mother Ruby, husband George, and my first son, Scott.
"OH, I HAVE SLIPPED THE SURLY BONDS OF EARTH, AND DANCED THE SKIES ON LAUGHTER-SILVERED WINGS..."
YET THERE WAS JUST A TRACE OF SORROW IN YOUR EYES...
hi-res These are pictures of Uncle Bob taken only scant weeks before he died. The horrors of war have aged him beyond his years: he looks 40 but was only 24. Compare to his senior high school photo further above (taken only six years before). The War had already stolen his youth, but even such a price was not enough. The ultimate payment was still to be demanded.
The song Fountain Of Sorrow, (4.2 Mb .mp3 - Joan Baez) just seemed to flood into my mind (I had not heard it in years) as I was pulling this tribute together. Be they a nudge from my creative muse, or an inspiration from beyond, the words from it now seem so appropriate that they should be documented here:
"Looking through some photographs I found inside a drawer
I was taken by a photograph of you
There were one or two I know that you would have liked a little more
But they didn't show your spirit quite as true
You were turning 'round to see who was behind you
And I took your childish laughter by surprise
And at the moment that my camera happened to find you
There was just a trace of sorrow in your eyes"
Here is Uncle Bob, in England at the controls of his B-17,
turning 'round to see who was behind him,
and at the moment that the camera happened to find him
there was indeed just a trace of sorrow in his eyes.
In the full context of this young hero's death, I think these phrases from the final chorus of the original 1974 Jackson Browne recording (6.5 Mb .mp3) are so poignant and meaningful that they too must shared with you:
"Fountain of sorrow, fountain of light
You've known that hollow sound of your own steps in flight
You've had to struggle, you've had to fight
To keep understanding and compassion in sight
You could be laughing at me, you've got the right
But you go on smiling so clear and so bright"
Bob's father, Ross Crutcher, shown here in 1947 was, I believe, a deeply unhappy - but still a very proud - man at the time of Bob's death. His gaunt and weary face shows he must have been still grieving the loss of his only son. In 1947, Ross was living in Philadelphia - five years separated from his wife (Ruby) and daughter (my mother, Dorothy). He had only a 4th grade education and was working as a clerk among far younger, and college-educated, peers. By no means could his life then be anything but grinding and futile,An unknown someone, Jack Minor, submitted Uncle Bob's name to the WWII Memorial (see picture at left). I would like to thank him but don't know how to get in touch. So if you are the one, please email me (see below) and let me know how you knew Uncle Bob. Were you a fellow service man, a high school friend? Even if you are not Jack Minor, but know how to reach him, or have other related information, please forward this link along to him and/or email me (see below) with more information. Thank you.
yet of such men had many heros been fathered...
At left are scans from the many letters sent to well-wishers, only weeks after Bobs death, by his dad. His responses show both dignity and class, unlike the public spectacle of how some parents seem to grieve their loss in the year 2005 - as exampled by the hateful and embarassing antics of war-mom now turned anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan.
hi-res Yes, Uncle Bob had a girl back home. Her name was JoAnn, and they were to be married on his return to America. Surely his Dad, Ross, had enough to grieve about without having to write that last letter to the beautiful young woman who would now never be Bob's wife. My Mom told me many, many years later that she hoped her brother Bob had fathered a child by an English woman, who might one day find our family. How sad, sad it all is...
Here are some additional WWII aircraft pictures, most in color.
The B-17 and B-24 bombers were not the only ones to terrorize our enemies.
The B-25 was also a formidible power in World War II. Here is a web page that comemorates the ill fated Dolittle Raid on the Japanese homeland in April 1942. FINAL TOAST
A full dress white-glove salute, executed smartly and
held long, to honor these and all brave men in uniform.
God bless America.
With Love and Highest Respect,
email: dan at dansher dot com
In Red Skelton's own, heartfelt words: The Pledge of Allegiance (4 Mb .mp3)