A Killeen war hero was killed in action 75 years ago today.
Capt. Robert “Bob” Manning Gray, a Killeen native famed for his participation in the Doolittle Raid, died when his aircraft crashed into the Himalaya mountains during World War II.
His death occurred six months to the day after the April 18, 1942, mission he was famed for.
The raid was led by U.S. Army Air Force pilot Lt. Col. James H. Doolittle, who planned the operation against the Japanese home islands. Gray was one of the pilots hand picked to fly one of the 16 participating aircraft in the mission, which was a daring plan to fly B-25 Mitchell bombers off of Naval aircraft carriers to attack the Imperial Japanese in response to the Dec. 7, 1941, attack against Pearl Harbor.
Gray’s legacy lives on in downtown Killeen with Gray Street, at Killeen-Fort Hood Regional Airport with a historic display and bronze statue and on Fort Hood at Robert Gray Army Airfield.
Each year on the anniversary of the Doolittle Raid, the Killeen mayor proclaims April 18 “Bob Gray Day.” The tradition stretches back to R.T. Polk, Killeen’s 18th mayor, who served from 1935 to 1943, according to a City of Killeen news release. Polk first proclaimed Bob Gray Day in 1943 and ordered that for the duration of time, “flags will fly from every socket and flag pole in the community, and the day will be set aside permanently as the memorial to a brave heart that winged its way into the very vitals of enemy territory and destroyed military objectives that were calculated to bring harm and destruction to our great country.”
Read more about this in today’s Fort Hood Herald.