This is a post from my blog section “Profiles of True Heroes – Military and Law Enforcement”. I love to go cycling. As I started getting serious about it, I decided to name my routes after people – and who better to dedicate my routes to than the heroes in military and law enforcement?
After completing a route, I would select a hero I had heard about and then write about them. There are three types of people in this post: some gave their service for America and served in the armed forces. Some have paid the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom. And some protected the local community and died in the line of duty.
After their story, I included information about the route I dedicated to these heroes. I hope you can learn more about them and gain an understanding of what they have done for us.
US Army Air Corps Sergeant Olen “Reb” Grant, WWII – Armament Inspector, B-17 Waist Gunner, 8th Air Force, 384th bomb group, 545th squadron
Grant was born on 1923 in Bauxite, Arkansas and his father, Eli, was a miner who helped dig out the mineral that gave the town its name. The family moved to El Dorado when Grant was a baby so his father could work in the oil fields.
Following in his brother’s footsteps, Olen joined the US Army in 1941 and after basic training, he was assigned to the 384th bomb group stationed in Grafton-Underwood, England. During the course of the war, the 384th flew over 316 combat missions over Europe.
On September 6, 1943, with 338 B-17 “Flying Fortresses” during a bombing raid on weapons factories in Stuttgart, Germany, the US 8th Air Force flew over the cloud-covered target four times before they were able to see clearly enough to mark their targets. Between the antiaircraft fire at the target and the German Luftwaffe fighters that harassed the group, 45 US bombers went down, and hundreds of men went missing in action.
As a waist gunner on the B-17 nicknamed “Yankee Raider”, Grant survived the initial mission. During the return trip, he was blasted by a shell fired by an attacking German fighter and was riddled with shrapnel, including a piece of metal that tore into his head and blew out his right eye.
“I was hit in the side of the head, and it shot my eye out,” Grant said during a 2012 interview, “I thought I was dead,”
Several members of his crew tried to help him jump from the plane but he told then to get out themselves. The last one, the belly gunner, grabbed Reb, attempting to rescue him but was shot in the chest and fell out the open door. Grant went down still inside the bomber and was amazed that he survived the crash! He was captured by the Germans near Paris and was moved from a prisoner-of-war camp to military hospitals for a series of operations.
After several surgeries, Reb was taken to POW camp Stalag 17B outside Krems, Germany, near the Austrian border.
Because of his severe wounds, in 1944, Grant was a part of a large prisoner exchange at the German/Swiss border. He was moved to Marseilles, France and was later placed on a Swedish ship and sailed for New York.
After the war, he earned a degree in journalism at the University of Arkansas then worked as a reporter and a technical writer in several states.
Along the way, he married a nurse from Little Rock and they had two daughters.
Terry Kendrick, one of Grant’s daughters, stated that throughout her father’s experiences and his life he never complained and was never been bitter towards his enemies. She said she was grateful for all of the sacrifices he and others who have served with the 384th have made for our nation.
Grant, who is now battling cancer, “… is an example to all of us,” Kendrick said of her father. “He is my hero.”
Today, Olen Grant is 95 years old and lives in Utah with his family.
Distance: 32.65 miles
Duration: 2 hours, 39 minutes
Average Pace: 12.3 mph
I’ve been wanting to do this route for a while. Last night, I mapped it out and it was only 30 miles so it was a go! I started at the South Platte Park parking lot then continued west on the Centennial/C-470 Trial. The trail turned north and went through Bear Creek Park, where I connected to the Bear Creek Trail. I eventually ended up at the Platte River Trail and followed that back to my car. This 32-mile loop is best if you do it clockwise because the other way would have lots of uphill. I decided to make 2 stops: one at Wal-Mart on Bowles and C-470 and another at Bear Creek Park (AKA the “Hat Park”). When I was almost at the Platte River Trail, I saw a group of ladies off to the side of the trail so I stopped. One of them had wrecked her bike and the chain fell off. There wasn’t much I could do but tell them where the closest bike shop was. Anyways, my iPhone overheated twice because it was so freaking hot! I think it must have been in the low 90s! This was an all in all good ride and the next time I do it, I’d like the weather to be a bit cooler!
Mrazek, R. J. (2012). To kingdom come: an epic saga of survival in the air war over Germany. New York: NAL Caliber.