The last time Clinton Gruber '47 saw his B-24 bomber he was falling away from it, 18,000 feet above Germany. But not until 35 years later, through a chance encounter on the Internet and the kindness of strangers in two distant countries, would he learn the complete story of the incident that nearly took his life that fateful day of Dec. 1, 1943.
Some 520 Pacific University students and alumni served in World War II. About 31, roughly equivalent to an entire senior class at the time, never came home.
It was spring, 1942 and there was war all over the world. The Great Depression had ended, but now the Allied nations were fighting for their lives as the second European war of the century metastasized with horrific swiftness into global conflict.
It had been barely a year since Calvin Van Pelt finished his freshman year at Pacific University when he landed at Utah Beach on D-Day, the great invasion that was the beginning of the liberation of Europe from Nazi domination.