Charles L. "Chuck" Gribi - USAAF

1922 - 2017
In Memory of Dad

Created 3/29/2009
Updated 9/24/17

This page was created by me (Gerri Gribi) in honor of and with a LOT of help from my dad, Charles L. Gribi

I love you Dad!!!

Supporting America's Heroes:
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For several years Dad made presentations about his experiences during WWII to classes at Sycamore Junior High School.
These are some of the pictures he used and some of the stories he shared with the kids. One of the points he always stresses is that they weren't 90-year-old guys back then...they were just kids.

These are his memories, not mine, so I try not to intrude too much BUT I just want to share my own memory of when he visited Green Bay over 20 years ago, and urged us to rent the movie Memphis Belle to watch while he was here because it was so realistic, especially in the way the men were portrayed. He narrated the entire film in terms of his own experiences, pointing out where he would have been sitting in the plane, what it was like going on those missions...it was an experience I'll always cherish.

The information you see in italics are Dad's notes on the back of the pictures, or information he told me over the phone, or sent me in emails. These days he has an iPad, but when we first started working on this project, he used a computer at the Union Township Branch of the Clermont County Library...he usually had a 1 hour time limit if others were waiting (and sometimes a keyboard that sticks!) so in fairness, I do spell check. But other than that, these are his own stories in his own words. I've also gleaned some supplemental information from various websites, and included links to those.

Since he lives in Cincinnati Ohio, and I live in Green Bay Wisconsin, we work on this site long-distance. He scans his photos at Krogers and save them to a disc, then mails that disc along with copies of the photos up to me. Over the years, our website has grown to several pages, including:

On the Homefront: Marian and Micky

Earlier Days:
Life on the Ohio River, with an interview about the Great Flood of '37

Off We Go...Into the 21st Century!

White Cliffs of Dover performed by Vera Lynn,
with a video montage of Dad's photos!


Dad sharing his stories with some youngsters at
Sherwood Elementary in the Forest Hills School District.
From the Cincinnati Enquirer 12/25/09

Dad's interviews are available at:

Combat Stories From WWII

Charles L. Gribi Collection in the Veterans History Project Database
(American Folklife Center, Library of Congress)

Portrait of Dad, February 8, 2015
Photo by Patrick McCue, for the documentary series
World War Two Veterans Project - They Gave It All (In progress)


Photo by Ray Dasenbrock

The Walk of Veterans at the Tri-State Warbird Museum in Batavia, Ohio (just east of Cincinnati)
salutes their courage, valor and service for our country.

We kids (Micky, Tony, Mary Beth and Gerri) were glad to be able to purchase this brick
to honor our dad on his 86th birthday in 2008.

9/21/17 Dad's Shadowbox now has a prominent home at the Tri-State Warbird Museum.

Shadowbox we made with his WWII memorabilia and medals, which include the Distinguished Flying Cross (upper left corner)
and Air Medal with 5 clusters, each cluster representing an air battle (upper right corner.)

HISTORY

Charles L. Gribi

Aviation Cadet School

University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa Alabama

Early Fall 1943

Served as a Bombardier-Navigator aboard a B-24 and survived a mid air collision with another B-24 on his first mission.

After completing 31 successful forays into heavily defended enemy territory, he returned to the U.S.A on Oct.11 1944, the day his firstborn (a girl) was one year old. He became an instructor at the Bombardier School in Midland Texas, and was readying to return to combat in the Pacific Theater when the Atom Bomb ended the war.

The Norden Bombsight, a secret weapon that allowed precision daylight bombing. This allowed us to destroy manufacturing plants that built airplanes, etc. I believe that it was a big factor in a successful D Day invasion - the Luftwaffe was crippled.

THE BOMBARDIER'S OATH

Mindful of the secret trust about to be
placed in me by my Commander in Chief,
the President of the United States, by whose
direction I have been chosen for bombardier
training...and mindful of the fact that I am
to become guardian of one of my country's
most priceless military assets, the American
bombsight...I do here, in the presence of
Almighty God, swear by the Bombardier's
Code of Honor to keep inviolate the secrecy
of any and all confidential information
revealed to me, and further to uphold
the honor and integrity of the Army
Air Forces, if need be, with my life itself.

Read more about the training and role of the Bombardier

Dad showed us a Norden Bombsight when we visited the Tri-State Warbird Museum in eastern Cincinnati,

Going Overseas - April 1944
(from our phone conversation April 2013)

Our crew was put together in Casper Wyoming. Then we went to Nebraska to pick up our plane and fly to England. We were originally supposed to get the plane in Tulsa, and Marian and some other women headed there to see us off. But when they got word we were leaving from Nebraska instead, they frantically changed plans and got there in time to say goodbye.

We flew from Nebraska to Goose Bay Labrador where we refueled - I remember we circled Nigara Falls because one of the guys wanted to see it. Our next stop was to be Iceland. The weather was really lousy, and we flew at night. We were so close to the North Pole that the compass was useless. At one point the Navigator said he was really sick...and we were off course. So I used the North Star to get us on a 45 degree angle, and then we flew in on radio compass.

It was really cold in Iceland, but we had a layover because we were flying a new plane and it was due for its 25-hour checkup and some work.

Our next stop was Shannon, Ireland. I remember we flew in the clouds for about 2 hours, and then all of the sudden the clouds cleared and I looked down and saw an island that was absolutely emerald green. While in Ireland we went to a pub for a beer, and I remember the bartender's brogue was so thick we couldn't understand him.

From there we flew to Horsham St. Faith. We had named our plane I'LL GET BY but we received a different one, BRINEY MARLIN.

When I was due to come home I was scheduled to come on the Queen Mary, but I would have missed my daughter Micky's 1st birthday. Luckily, I hitched a ride on a military transport that took me to Dulles Airport N.Y. by way of Prestwick Scotland and St. Johns Newfoundland. From Dulles I took the B&O railroad to Cincinnati and arrived on Oct.11,1944 thus keeping my promise when I left that I would be there for her first birthday. When I walked in to see her she wouldn't have a thing to do with me.

(Gerri's note: I remember my mom saying that she and other wives followed their husbands everyplace they could during the training out West, but some mornings they'd wake up and discover the men had been moved! Of course, these movements were always kept secret, but there was one wife who always seemed to have inside information, so my mom stuck close to her, and always managed to be where Dad was. You can read more On the Homefront)

Crew 71 of the 755th squadron of the 458th bomb group 2nd Air Division 1943

Front, Left to Right: Francis Thompson, Les Martin, Charles L. Gribi

Rear: Jim Burke, George Smarzinski, Dick Grant, Don Beverly, Leslie Karnes, Doyle Johnson

Had a break and decided to see some of the English countryside - June 1944

First Lt. Charles L. Gribi stationed at Horsham St. Faith a, former R.A.F. airbase just outside of Norwich East Anglia from mid April 1944 to early October 1944

This is a map that I use at school to show where my air base was in England (Horsham St. Faith at Norwich.) The white spot is the location of Norwich and I had to cut it out for security purposes in order to bring it home.

I point out how close I was to where Anne Frank was hiding and many times flew over her on my way to a target.

In the 1943 movie "Bombardier" Brigadier-General Eugene L. Eubanks says: "Upon him finally depends the success of any mission on which he participates. The greatest bombing plane in the world with its combat crew take him into battle. Through weather, through enemy opposition, just so he may have 30 seconds over the target. In those 30 seconds he must vindicate the greatest responsibility ever placed upon an individual soldier in line of duty. I want you to know about him and about those who had the faith, the vision and foresight to bring him into being."

Crew 71 of the 755th squadron of the 458th bomb group 2nd Air Division Summer 1944

1Lt Lester C. Martin Crew (L-R)
Standing: Francis Thompson – CP, Chuck Gribi – B, Les Martin – P, Bob Craig – N, Unknown - Ground Crewman.
Middle Row (Kneeling): Unknown – Ground Crewman, Jim Burke – WG, George Smarzinski – WG, Dick Grant – TG.
Front Row (Sitting): Don Beverly - BTG, Leslie Karns - RO, Doyle Johnson TT/E.

Just back from a mission, still in flight thermal gear (sometimes) temp dropped to -20F

Note the Mae West, an inflatable device if needed in the event of ditching into the ocean.
June 1944

The Briney Marlin - a B-24 Liberator - was built to fill a specific request for a bigger faster airplane that could carry more bombs and do the job of two B-17s. You can read the history of this bomber at the Commemorative Airforce website.

This is me at my desk in Briney working on a way to get home - We had lost an engine and had to fall out of formation and find our way back.

Summer '44

500 lb bomb

In mid summer 1944 we were sent to bomb a factory in Saarbrucken. After I dropped our bombs and closed the bombay doors a voice came over the intercom "Lieutenant one of our bombs is still hanging"

I hurried to the bomb bay and there hung this bomb armed and ready to go off. I opened the doors again and tried to wiggle it loose without success,even tried with a fire axe to chop the clip loose that was holding it. At 20,000 feet on a catwalk less than a foot wide this was exciting and precarious. While this was going on we had lost an engine and had to drop out of formation and make it home on our own.

I closed the doors and got back to my desk and worked on getting back to base. Things were going pretty good when I hard the voice again from the back "lieutenant the bomb just went through the bomb bay door." We were near the base at the time.

Several days later a friend of mine from an adjacent base about 15 miles away came on his bike to see me and said "Chuck some idiot tried to blow us up" I told him the story and also that I had received a commendation for getting us home and a reprimand in the same letter.

This picture is in the operations shack pointing to artillery emplacements that could
give us trouble on the way to the target.

What you see here is "Flak," a German word for anti-aircraft fire.
Dad always said that fireworks reminded him of it.

I don't know of any others in our squadron of 12 B-24s who flew 31 missions.

I didn't start thinking "This might be my last flight" until maybe numbers 28, 29 or 30...then I had trouble sleeping before a mission because I would start thinking maybe my string was running out and that maybe I wouldn't ever see Mom or Micky again, etc. etc. etc. etc. So you can understand why I was devastated when Colonel Isbell said that due to special circumstances, he had to put everything in the air that could fly.

It's interesting that my 31st mission turned out to be one of the easiest even though we were in the air 12 hours (6 going over and 6 back) We missed being shot at by the Nazi fighters, the flak was bad but I don't rememeber any bouncing off Briney as it had many times before. 20 below zero wasn't comfortable but I was dressed for it in my lambs wool outfit.

One element (3 planes) of a 12 unit squadron. The white vertical stripe identifies planes of the 755th squadron. 1944

B 24s on the way to a target sometime mid 1944

The men on these planes are mostly between the ages of 19 and 22 including the pilots.

Take a video tour of a B-24 at YouTube

Dick Grant (age 19) tail gunner on Briney Marlin. Note the long trail of ammo up to his two guns. He could fire these at the rate of 600 shots per minute. Mid 1944

Photo by Ray Dasenbrock

Here is a photo comparing a 50 caliber machine gun round (right)
with a 22 caliber target round (left.)

The 50 caliber is what Dad's aircraft used to defend itself.

You can see it in the photo of tail gunner Dick Grant to the left.

Dad with Mary Beth at the Tri-State Warbird Museum, 01/17/15. Dad emailed me this picture and added "100 lb bomb. This is like the one that hung up and I tried unsuccessfully release.
It shook itself loose later on."

"This is a 500 lb bomb. Briney could carry eight of these and I could release each one at predetermined intervals such as each 100 feet or all at once( salvo)"

On May 27, 1944, the Briney Marlin piloted by 2Lt Lester C. "Cookie" Martin was involved in a mid air collision during formation over Cromer.
Read more about the accident and see the Accident Report at the 458th Bombardment Group Website

Photo by 1st Lt. Charles L. Gribi, Briney Marlin Bombardier-Navigator, May 27, 1944

May 27, 1944

Since it was likely to be more than an hour before our squadron was formed and tight I decided to take a nap in the waist section using my chest parachute as a pillow. Planes took off consecutively until altitude was reached (this time 17000 feet) then flew in a race track type pattern to the left until each could slide into its allotted slot in the 12 plane squadron.

We had just begun to turn right to get into our spot when another B24 came sliding at us. "Cookie" our pilot did a sharp left turn and our right wing clipped this other plane and it broke just in front of the tail section, spinning down into the ocean and all aboard were lost. Two men jumped from our plane and were also lost. Fortunately before any more jumped Cookie righted the plane.

I had a Bell and Howell camera that was used to take pictures of bomb strikes and so I took this picture of Colonel Isbell in his P47 looking us over. He told Cookie to set the auto pilot and everybody jump. Cookie told the Colonel that he thought he could land, and he did.

The Briney Marlin back on the ground

Cookie had to land at a very fast speed, but he did it and stopped right at the end of the runway.

I still call him every year on May 27 to say "Thanks." I think of that day as my second birthday.


Gerri's update: Lester Cooke "Cookie" Martin
passed away on August 5, 2009. View his tribute page.


S/Sgt Chester Carlstrom, tail gunner opened the bomb bay and salvoed the bomb load. He then bailed out through the bomb bay. KIA 5/27/44

S/Sgt Wilbert Abshire, bailed out from the tail section - KIA 5/27/44

Painting of the Briney Marlin by Mike Bailey. Baily is the author of B-24 Liberator Groups of the 8th Air Force, published by Walton on Thames : Red Kite, 2007. "As a boy author Mike Bailey climbed over fences to see his American airmen friends and their aircraft. His friends and the planes have been gone these past 60 years, he has never lost that boy-hood enthusiasm. He is now the acknowledged expert on 'his' planes and often appears on BBC Radio Norfolk and in local journals." (Quoted from the book jacket.)


http://creativefolk.com/ww2/CharlesGribi.html