Arthur M GrisaMilitary
Photo taken by me for the American Air Museum archives.
Art Grisa served as an aerial gunner with the 457th Bomb Group flying missions out of Glatton, England. Recovering in an English hospital from severe flak wounds he received on his fourteenth mission, the flight surgeon offered Art the option of going back to the USA. He chose to stay, and completed a further sixteen missions over occupied Europe...
THE BACK STORY
Art left high school to go to Chicago and got a job with the printing companies where his uncle worked – he was the errant boy and did the photocopying – he remembers that they gave you the fare for the street car but he walked more often.
After war was declared, he saw people marching and wanted to enlist. His parents didn't want him to as they felt he was too young. Art didn’t give up – he wrote them a letter listing his reasons and eventually he convinced them it was the right thing for him to do.
Art wanted to fly but at the beginning he was assigned to the Army. He put his name down for the Air Corps and eventually he became an air cadet and went to flight school. Art remembers soloing in a Fairchild PT-19 and accruing sufficient flight hours, but he didn't pass the test flight. His reasoning – “they had enough pilots, they needed gunners!”
OVER HERE – LIFE IN ENGLAND
Art remembers making friends on base and going out for beers in local towns. But he also remembers how this feeling of relative safety could be destroyed in a second. He had one friend, an engineer, who was killed as he stood next to an aircraft. Someone discharged a .50 cal round by accident and he was hit and killed. He was buried in England.
[Note: Possibly this was Joseph T Schembri, who is the only flight engineer/top turret gunner listed in 750th Bomb Squadron who is buried at Cambridge American Cemetery, but not yet established how Schembri died.]
Art says - "I loved England, I even had a girlfriend - Audrey Clayton – it was a romance, you know. She wanted to come to America. I remember she sent a table cloth to my mother. I corresponded with her for a long time but - I went to the University of Wisconsin and I met my wife - Marnie. We have been together ever since."
Art Grisa often flew with pilot Charles Lauer. He described what it was like taking off in a B-17 – “it shakes a little bit, you sit in a protective position - in the middle bit - one plane goes, then the next one – the planes are loaded heavy and you worry about that. Some crashed on take-off because they were so heavily loaded – then you’d crawl back to the tail. During the missions, you had to keep a look out for German fighter pilots coming up from behind."
Art flew as a tail gunner for 14 missions. On the fourteenth mission, he was wounded by a German fighter aircraft - pieces of metal plate pierced his arms and legs. His comms cable was severed, his oxygen and heating lines were severed. He managed to crawl up to radio room and the radio operator hooked him up to oxygen and stopped the bleeding. When they landed he was told ‘go straight to hospital’.
Art was in hospital for three weeks. The surgeon gave him a plastic bag with the metal bits that had been pulled out of him. It was on his bed side table but someone took it one night. He moved to an English rest home and then went back to base. Art remembers the flight surgeon saying to him ‘you can go home’ and he said ‘do I have to?’ the surgeon said – ‘you don’t have to, you can stay’. So he did and flew 16 more missions. He was in the waist for 12, two in the ball turret, and once up in the nose as the togglier.
Before being hit by flak and going to hospital, Art flew in 'The Kid'. When he returned, his crew had finished their missions, so he flew with a number of different crews.
Art travelled back to the United States on a troop ship. He remembers that it was loaded with wounded soldiers, and that he had to assist the crew of the ship with their care. In the States, he was sent to the West Coast, and he thought he’d be heading to Japan. When the war in Japan ended abruptly, he returned home to Wisconsin.
REFLECTIONS ON SERVICE
Art: "My parents had four boys in service – my youngest brother served in Korea, my eldest fought in the Pacific as an aircraft mechanic. We all survived. That makes us lucky – it doesn’t make us heroes. The big heroes are those that are under the ground."
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Units served with
|Chicago, IL, USA||6 January 1924|
|21 October 1942||Chicago, Illinois|
|Gleason, WI 54435, USA|
|Brookfield, WI, USA|
Capitalized the words in the "Role/job" field to aid readability.
Added to awards and bio section per NARA files.
Conversation with Art Grisa at the 8th Air Force Historical Society reunion in New Orleans, September 2017.