In June 1943, the B-17 “Boom Town” joined other bombers on a daylight raid over the German Ruhr region to attack a critical synthetic rubber factory in Huls.
Copilot on the Flying Fortress was Lt. Arnold Francis Grose, a 23-year-old blue-eyed blond from Mossyrock who joined the U.S. Army Air Forces in October 1941.
After crossing over the target, amid antiaircraft fire with German fighters attacking, the Boom Town took flak in the right wing and caught fire. The No. 2 engine exploded. The plane shifted into a flat spin. A German account claims the B-17 was shot down by Feldwebel Herbert Buschmann who was flying a Messerschmitt BF-109G from the Monchengladbach airfield.
Five men managed to bail out of the fiery aircraft as it plunged toward the ground before crashing near Valburg, Holland. One of them later died from his injuries while four were taken prisoner of war by the Germans. Five others, including Grose, died near the scene of the crash.
Grose was found dead in a Holland farmer’s field, said his sister, Audrey (Grose) Rhodes of Chehalis.
That day, June 22, 1943, Frank and Alice Grose lost their son, the eldest of their seven children, who was born April 4, 1920, in Wauneta, Neb.
“As it was deemed too expensive to bring the bodies of the fallen soldiers home at that time, 1st Lt. Arnold F. Grose was buried in the Netherlands American Cemetery near Margraten, Holland,” Rhodes said.
Alice always mourned her son and the fact that he was never brought home to the United States.
So last summer, during the annual Grose picnic, her remaining children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren talked about their fallen hero ancestor and donated money to place a memorial headstone for him near the graves of Alice and Frank at the Salkum Cemetery. His three surviving siblings—Audrey, Cyril Grose of Morton, and Alma (Grose) Cole of Jacumba, Calif. —will gather with his 21 surviving nieces and nephews and other family members April 4, 2020, which would have been Arnold’s 100th birthday, to celebrate his life and dedicate the headstone. They plan to hold a veterans’ sendoff complete with a flag ceremony to honor not only Grose but all those who served.
“I am sure Grandma Grose will be looking down and smiling on us that day,” Rhodes said.
Grose began his life in Nebraska but moved often during his childhood, first to Benkelmen, Neb. During the Great Depression and Dust Bowl years in the Midwest, the Grose family moved west to work in New Plymouth, Idaho, and then in the fruit orchards of Buena, Wash. They cut wood and worked in packing houses, living in Wren and Estacada in Oregon before finally settling in 1939 on Damron Road in Mossyrock. The family grew to include Charles, Dwaine, Doris, Cyril, Gordon, Audrey, and Alma.
Grose, who stood five-foot-ten and weighed 160 pounds when he registered for military service, worked as a logger for Haskins Lumber Co. in Morton. He was inducted into the Army Air Corps at Fort MacArthur in San Pedro, Calif., Oct. 16, 1941. When he completed his training Oct. 9, 1942, his father, Frank, traveled all the way to Lubbock, Texas, to pin on his pilot’s wings. As a first lieutenant, Grose was deployed to Chevelston, England, and joined the 365th Bomb Squadron, 305th Bomb Group Heavy, assigned to the B-17 known as Boom Town (41-24633).
In December 1943, Frank and Alice received the Purple Heart awarded to their son posthumously by the War Department. He had last visited his parents at home in April 1943. Frank died in 1960, and Alice in 1983.
Although he remained in Holland, resting alongside the 8,300 other American liberators buried in the Netherlands American Cemetery at Margraeten, he was never forgotten. A white marble cross marks his grave in Plot I, Row 21, Grave 13.
Dutch families have adopted the graves of those servicemen and cared for them through the decades. And his American family never forgot the war hero who flew a Flying Fortress to free French, Dutch, Belgian, and other Allied regions from the Nazi regime.
Julie McDonald, a personal historian from Toledo, may be reached at email@example.com.
Julie McDonald, a personal historian from Toledo, may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.