Funeral set for missing soldier

Print Print
Monday, December 15, 2008
— A Janesville family this week will put to rest a relative they've never met but have held dear for decades.

Randy Grutza and his children will go to Milwaukee to attend Grutza's uncle's funeral. The uncle, U.S. Army Cpl. Richard Grutza, was a gunner in a B-25 bomber shot down in Papua, New Guinea, during World War II.

A visitation is planned for 10 a.m. Wednesday at St. Adalbert Cemetery Chapel, 3801 S. 6th St., Milwaukee. Burial with military honors will follow at 11 a.m.

Grutza never knew his uncle, a Milwaukee native killed Dec. 5, 1942.

"All we had were my dad's memories," Randy said.

But he is excited to go to the funeral. Randy said the event will be especially interesting for his 11-year-old son, who recently went with his class to the Wisconsin Veterans Museum in Madison. Randy said he chaperoned the trip and told the kids about his uncle who was missing in action for almost 66 years.

Richard Grutza's remainsófive bonesówere escorted Saturday to Milwaukee, Randy said. He was disappointed that he was not notified ahead of time of the full military escort his uncle got to come home to Milwaukee.

Cpl. Richard Grutza was one of seven on the plane that crashed into a mountainside. The bombs on the plane left a crater that filled with water, preventing army personnel from recovering the bodies, Grutza said.

Finally, in 2005, the U.S. Army contacted Randy Grutza's father, Harry Grutza, and asked for a DNA sample. Even when the test was inconclusive, Randy said Harry "knew in his heart" his brother Richard's remains had been found.

"He was very excited about it, even when they didn't have confirmation," Randy said.

But the family had to keep waiting until September, when Richard Grutza's remains were finally identified after being compared to his still-living sister's DNA. Harry Grutza died in 2006.

The brothers were very close, Randy said. Richard enlisted at age 19 the day after the attack on Pearl Harbor. A year later, Harry joined the Coast Guard.

"Unfortunately he couldn't be here to see his brother come home," Grutza said.

Last updated: 11:09 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

Print Print