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Inland Empire Wing Honors KIA Soldier Finally Laid to Rest

Article by Steve Rose

On Thursday, June 8, 2023, the CAF Inland Empire Wing conducted a flyover with C-53 D-Day Doll, in honor of a veteran who remained unknown for 78 years from World War II. His name was Pvt. Robert R. Gruwell. He was a member of Company G, 3rd Battalion, 517th Parachute Infantry Regiment (part of the 517th Parachute Regimental Combat Team). During Operation Dragoon, Gruwell was killed in action, possibly from his grenade. The following day, a few 517th paratroopers happened upon a disfigured body with no dog tags. They removed his boots and found the initial of his last name and service number stamped on the inside. Because they were in combat, they had no choice but to move on. Afterward, Gruwell’s body could not be found. His status changed from "Missing in Action" to "Killed in Action" shortly after.

After the War, between 1947 and 1949, attempts were made to recover Gruwell’s remains by the American Graves Registration Command. But these attempts were unsuccessful, and he was subsequently listed as unrecoverable. Imagine the heartbreak of the family, not knowing the whereabouts of their loved one, lost in a war far from home, but knowing that he was killed in action.

In recent years, the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) began looking for the remains of missing soldiers lost during Operation Dragoon. They learned that personnel from an American field hospital found an unidentified, severely burned body sometime after Gruwell was killed. They buried the remains in a grave marked X-23 in a cemetery that became the Rhone American Cemetery in Draguignan, France.

Looking through their files on missing servicemen, DPAA agents determined that grave X-23 could hold one of three men. After a two-year study of the remains, they were able to determine the identity. It was Pvt. Gruwell. He was finally accounted for on Sept. 12, 2022. He was laid to rest at the Riverside National Cemetery with full military honors on June 8.

The Inland Empire Wing, based in Riverside, was asked to participate in the ceremony by performing a flyover with C-53 D-Day Doll. The crew of D-Day Doll was honored and humbled to be a small part of the memorial service to honor a young soldier missing for too long.

Video by Honoring Our Fallen
The final salute with full military honors of Pvt. Robert R. Gruwell at the Riverside National Cemetery on June 8, 2023. Gruwell was born in Los Angeles, California, on October 8, 1923. He was inducted into the U.S. Army on January 19, 1943, at the age of 20. He was laid to rest 79 years after paying the ultimate sacrifice in defending our country.

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