Seventy-five years ago, Americans observed Memorial Day still flush with the joy of V-E Day and the end of World War II in Europe about three weeks earlier. They had reason to believe the long, hard war was finally drawing to a conclusion, though V-J Day was still two and a half months away.
Many Crawford County natives were still in uniform, waiting for the time when they could finally return home. Among them were members of the Grant family, Robinson’s very own “band of brothers.”
Two years earlier, the Grants had been featured in a front page article in the Daily News. Four brothers were all in military service and their mother, Hazel B. Grant, had received a letter from Acting Secretary of War Robert H. Lovett praising the family.
“It is a privilege for me to take officials cognizance of the fact that you have four sons as members of the Nation’s Armed Forces,” Lovett wrote. “Loyalty and patriotism, essential to a good soldier, have their foundation in early training received in the home. The fact your sons are all establishing worthy service records speaks well for the wholesome Americanism which must have surrounded them in their home environment.
“Please accept my congratulations on the unusual contribution you are making to the success of our common cause.”
The article makes no mention of Hazel Grant’s reaction to the letter. One can only wonder how it affected a mother of six who had been raising her family alone since the death of her husband Reid nine years earlier.
Perhaps she was proud. After all, her four boys were apparently excelling in the service of their country.
At the time, Roger Grant, the oldest sibling, was a sergeant in the U.S. Army Corps. He was stationed with an engineering section at the 3rd Air Force headquarters in Tampa, Fla. He entered the service in October 1942.
John Grant, better known as Jack, was the first of the brothers to join the military, having joined the air corps several months before Pearl Harbor. He was a first sergeant and was undergoing training at the University of Chicago in September 1943. He later made the rank of master sergeant.
Robert Grant was a staff sergeant with the 49th Fighter Group. He also joined prior to the start of the war. His daughter, Linda Moye of Washington state, said he was actually on a train headed to Michigan for training when word of the Japanese attack on Pearl arrived.
Instead of Michigan, Robert found himself in San Diego where he and other troops were loaded on a modified cruise ship and transported to Hawaii.
There was no time for sightseeing; the ship arrived at night and left again for New Guinea without the personnel aboard ever seeing the future 50th state.
William Grant, the youngest of the brothers, was a second lieutenant at the time of the article but would soon be promoted to first lieutenant. He won his Navy “wings of gold” at the Naval Air Training Center at Pensacola, Fla., and was continuing his training at Lake City, Fla. He married Mary Slevin in 1943.
Bill would not make it home. On Valentine’s Day 1944, a little more than five months after the Daily News article and less than four months before V-E Day, the 22-year-old was lost in a training accident off Key West. There is a marker for him in the Robinson New Cemetery, but his body was never recovered.
The other Grant brothers would survive the war. Jack and Roger would continue to serve stateside, but Robert would spend most of the war in New Guinea.
During a Japanese bombing raid on the airfield there, Robert had to pull an injured man from a downed plane. That act earned him the Silver Star.
In another letter received by his mother, Robert’s commanding officer said his efforts “contributed greatly to the successes attained by this group in combat.”
Moye regrets that more isn’t known about the efforts of American military personnel in New Guinea. “It was hideous. They were bombed. They were in constant danger,” she said, pointing out the threat wasn’t just from the enemy. The island, with its treacherous terrain and jungles, was infested with fleas, mosquitoes and snakes. Robert contracted malaria, which became so bad he couldn’t use his arm. He was sent back to the states shortly before the end of the war and spent months in physical rehabilitation.
Robert died in 2010 at the age of 91. He married Marthel Parker of Robinson and fathered two daughters. He lived most of his post-war life in Ohio where he worked for Marathon for 41 years.
Jack also worked for Marathon and lived in Findlay, Ohio. He married Kathy Watters and had three sons. After retirement, Jack moved to California. He died in 1990.
Roger married Mae Lichtenberger who was served in the navy. They had two daughters and lived in New Mexico. Like his brothers, he worked for Marathon.
It wasn’t just the Grant boys who did their duty. Their youngest sister, Louise, was still in school at the time, but another sister, Lois, was one of the first civilians to work in the Pentagon.
Lois married Harold Homan and had two sons and a daughter. Louise married Walter Robertson and had a daughter.
The six Grant siblings are gone now. And every year, fewer of those who filled the ranks of the American military during WWII remain. Every year, a little more living history of that time is lost.
Moye begged he father to write down the stories of his war experiences, but neither he nor his brothers were ever much for reminiscing about those days.
Some parts have been saved, however. Moye’s sister, for example, kept her father’s mess kit, Duffel bag and medals.
Lois extensively researched their family history and retained many of her brothers’ letter from the war.
Moye recalled her father’s letters to his mother were sometimes riddled with holes where military censors had excised bits they thought might give away sensitive information. Later, for security purposes, they confiscated some of the photographs he had snapped as well as his flight jacket.
Moye was pleasantly surprised when she received her father’s letters.
“I had no idea they existed,” she said.