WW II Pilot’s Lost Life Left a Legacy in New Book

Veteran's Voices

BOONE, Iowa — Nancy Grabau of Boone never really got to know her father. He was shot down while on a mission in World War II and never returned. Her dad, Bob, existed in all the photos, notes, and items save by her Mother Virginia (Ginny) Adam Higley Pennington.

“Discovering some of her material in a big old trunk kind of started making some of their life come alive,” said Nancy. “Then Jim started saying I think it would make a really good book, in this time to show the sacrifices that both women made at home and men and women going off to war.”

The tagline on the cover of the book “Higley” sums up this work.

“A Story of Bob Higley. His short life of sacrifice for his country, love for his wife, and how his legacy created great joy for so many,” wrote Author James Grabau.

Through all the photos, notes, and even receipts from trips taken there’s a story of Bob’s love for his wife Ginny. The book spells out Bob was initially reported missing while on a mission on November 11, 1943.

My dear Mrs. Higley I wish you expressed to you and the members of your family my deepest sympathy in regard to your husband who is missing in action. He failed to return from a flight today while performing his duty in attacking the enemy,” read a note from the J.J. Ballantine, Commanding Officer of the USS Bunker Hill, the ship where Bob’s plane was stationed.

Another note is from the Secretary of the Navy awarded Bob the Distinguished Flying Cross posthumously.

“The President of the United States takes pleasure in presenting the Distinguished Flying Cross to Lt. Robert Higley for heroism, and extraordinary achievement while participating in aerial flight as a pilot of a torpedo bomber attached to Torpedo Bomber Squadron 17 in combat against the Japanese service forces at Rabual, New Britain, November 11, 1943,” read the notice.

“I would hear the doorbell ring at times,” said Nancy “When I was little and we think do you suppose he’s coming back it was always that feeling for a long time, do you think he was a prisoner of war? Do you think you know that I have somehow he made it on back, but that part wasn’t meant to be.”

“Higley,” is available online at Xlibris Press, and at Bookstores in Boone. Some of the proceeds will go to help the Wounded Warrior Project.

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