Worth County

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Floyd County

Capt. Melvin H. Graper

 

 

Iowa Pilot Is Promoted to Captain

Rockford – Mrs. Melvin H. Graper of Ames, the former Marguerite E. Hoffman of Rockford, received a v-mail letter from her husband stating that he returned from an 8-day leave spent in Scotland, Dec. 15, 1943, to learn that he had been promoted to the rank of captain in the 8th Army Air Force, “somewhere in England.”

Captain Graper is a 4-engine Liberator bomber combat pilot, a flight commander, and flies the lead ship of his squadron, “The Axis Grinder.”

He received his pilot’s wings and commission as 2nd lieutenant at the Columbus army flying school, Columbus, Miss., Nov. 10, 1942, three days after his marriage.  He advanced to the rank of captain in 13 months and 5 days.

Captain Graper arrived in England Sept. 8, 1943.  On November 28, 1943, he completed 5 missions in one day, for which he was awarded the air medal.

He is a former Iowa State college student, where he took the mechanical engineering course. Mrs. Graper is residing with her parents, Mr. and Mrs. Louis T. Hoffman of Ames.  She has appeared before various Mason City organizations, presenting her original poetry recitals, and has broadcast her poems over KGLO and other Iowa radio stations.

Source: The Mason City Globe-Gazette, Monday, January 10, 1944

REPORT COMBAT PILOT MISSING  
Capt. Melvin Graper
Downed Over France

Rockford—Mrs. Melvin H. Graper of Ames, the former Marguerite Hoffman of Rockford and Ames, received word from the War Department that her husband, Capt. Graper, has been missing in action since June 23 over France.  Mrs. Graper now lives at 514 Hayward avenue, Ames.

A colonel friend of Capt. Graper writes, “All they know is they saw some parachutes coming out of a plane.  Only time will tell.”

Capt. Graper is a B-24 Liberator combat pilot, an operations officer, and flies the lead ship in his squadron.  He arrived somewhere in England early in September, 1943, and has been on active duty in the 8th army air force.

He received the air medal and oak leaf clusters and has been recommended for the Distinguished Flying Cross.  His wife received the air medal on D-Day.

Capt. Graper was a student in the engineering division of Iowa State college before enlisting in the service.

Mrs. Graper is well known in Mason City and north Iowa for her poetry broadcasts over KGLO and in literary circles. She also won poetry prizes and is listed in “Who’s Who in Poetry.”

Source:  Mason City Globe-Gazette, July 19, 1944 (photo included)

CAPTURED - Capt. Melvin H. Graper of Amex, a B-24 Liberator combat pilot, reported missing in action over France June 23, is a prisoner of war of the German government, according to word received by his wife, the former Marguerite E. Hoffman, of Rockford, now of Ames. Capt. Graper is an operations officer, flies the lead ship of his squadron, holds the air medal with oak leaf clusters, and has been on active duty with the 8th air force in England since Sept, 1943.

Source: Mason City Globe-Gazette, September 2, 1944

Graper Died in German Prison of Wounds Received in Action
Was Husband of Former Rockford Woman, Poet, Now Living in Ames

Mrs. Melvin H. Graper, the former Marguerite Hoffman of Rockford, now of Ames, had word recently that her husband, Capt. Graper, died on July 8 in a prisoner of war camp as a result of wounds received in action.

Mrs. Graper states that information of her husband’s death was received from German government through the International Red Cross. No details were known, she writes, and adds that she hopes there was some “mistake in the confusion of war” and that he would yet return.

Capt. Graper was first reported missing in action on June 23 over France. Then on Aug. 25 came word from the War Department stating that he was a prisoner of war of the German government. Later on Sept. 1, came another message, a letter from the War Department stating that a cable received from the International Red Cross, Geneva, Switzerland, reported Capt. Graper interned in a German prison hospital, in Reims, France.

But the War Department added that the allies had taken Reims territory and had found no trace of the captain.  From that time until Thanksgiving day no further word had been received, writes Mrs. Draper. It was then the message came that he had died on last July 8, in a prisoner of war camp.

Capt. Graper had been a lead pilot on a B-24 Liberator, and operations officer in the 8th AAF in England since Aug. 1943. According to word received from one of his crew officers, a lieutenant who escaped safely back to England, Capt. Graper was not flying the ship at the time it was struck.

He was riding as command pilot in the lead ship while checking out a new crew on their first mission and was directing the rest of the squadron by radio. He was standing between the pilot and co-pilot when a heavy barrage of flak struck the bomber from the ground anti-aircraft fire.  Five parachutes were seen to leave the disabled craft and Capt. Graper was seen leaving the burning plane. The fortunate lieutenant landed some distance from the rest and he did not know what became of the other 10 crew members.

Capt. Graper had been overseas since Aug. 1943.  Among his missions were the one over Germany on Jan. 11, when 60 bombers, 600 men were lost, and the trip over Berlin with 78 bombers and 780 men lost. He held the air medal with oak leaf clusters and had been recommended for the distinguished flying cross.

As lead pilot of his squadron, it was stated, Capt. Graper led anything from 24 to 36 ships in his own group, but there were always other groups following them. According to a squadron officer friend: “In the colonel’s opinion—and mine too needless to say—Graper was the finest pilot in his group and he ‘hoarded’ your husband much the same way a coach saves his star athletes.”

Capt. Graper was a student in the mechanical engineering division of Iowa State college before enlisting in the service in Jan. 1942, as a cadet in the army air forces.

Source: Mason City Globe-Gazette, Tuesday. Dec. 26, 1944 (photo of the couple together included)

RECEIVES MEDAL

Mrs. Marguerite Graper, wife of Capt. Melvin H. Graper whom the Germans reported died of wounds on or about July 8, 1944, at Reims, France, has received the distinguished flying cross and the air medal with 2 oak leaf clusters awarded posthumously to her husband who served in the Army Air Forces. Mrs. Graper, now of Ames, formerly lived at Rockford.

Source: Mason City Globe-Gazette, Friday, May 18, 1945

STILL PRESUMED DEAD -- No further evidence of the death of Capt. Melvin H Graper, husband of Marguerite Hoffman Graper, North Iowa poet, has been received other than the official presumption of his death set by the war department as July, 1944, according to word received here.

Mrs. Graper was recently visited by the co-pilot and navigator of Capt. Graper's Liberator. They came especially to tell Mrs. Graper first-hand details of Capt Graper's overseas experience up until the time he was supposed to have met his death.

Last trace of Graper, lead pilot of a Liberator hit by flak over a target in France, it was learned, was his removal from a prison hospital in Rems to another prison hospital. His legs had been amputated because of infection caused by inadequate medical facilities at the hospital. But the retreating Germans had destroyed any evidence there might have been regarding the captain and there is no record of his burial. Mrs. Graper states that she entertains the hope that further information may yet come to light.

Source: Mason City Globe-Gazette, November 8, 1945

Capt. Melvin H. Graper

[Photo-Findagrave]