GEORGE W. GROVE, LCDR, USNR

From USNA Virtual Memorial Hall

George Grove '15

Date of birth: September 6, 1894

Date of death: June 13, 1941

Age: 46

Lucky Bag

From the 1915 Lucky Bag:


Loss

From Find A Grave:

Dallas Morning News, July 9, 1941 -

NAVAL OBSERVER DIES IN RAF CRASH OVER IRAQ DESERT
Washington, July 8 (AP) - The Navy Department reported Tuesday that Lieut. Commander George W. Grove, and observer with the Royal Air Force in Iraq, was killed last month in an airplane crash.

Grove previously had been reported missing since June 13 on a Royal Air Force flight in Iraq.

The department said that information from the American Minister at Baghdad was that the body had been found in a wrecked plane on the desert and apparently all aboard the plane had been killed instantly. There was no information as to the cause of the crash.

The American Minister advised that funeral services for Commander Grove were held at Basrah on July 4.

The naval officer is survived by his wife, Mrs. Katherine Grove of Cornwall, Connecticut.

He has a memorial marker in Pennsylvania. He is buried in Tunis, Tunisia.

From a blog post, "The First Casualty in Iraq":

… At the last minute, however, a fourth passenger talked his way onto the aircraft, one who surely piqued the young aviator’s curiosity. Not only was he an American, a rare sight in Iraq even in ordinary times, he was a naval officer — an odd duck indeed in a country with only 58 kilometers of coastline. The American was behind schedule and in a hurry, and not only did Iraq have few modern roads in 1941, RAF Intelligence judged them unsafe for travel by Westerners. Given the later indication that the American was aboard “by personal arrangement with the pilot,” it seems reasonable to conclude that F/O Arthur was happy to oblige him.5

A Naval Reservist recalled to active duty, Lieutenant Commander George Grove supervised the loading of his baggage, keeping with him the briefcase that contained the cryptographic codes he was required to use in his new assignment as United States Naval Observer at Bahrain.

Grove, who’d been delayed while awaiting transit and the outcome of the Anglo-Iraqi War, must have been pleased at his luck in grabbing a hop to Basra — and on Friday the 13th, no less. He’d certainly made a sensible decision, talking Arthur into carrying him for what should have been a relatively brief, 2-hour flight to Shaiba.

Unfortunately, it was also a decision that would cost him his life and would make Lieutenant Commander George Wilson Grove, USNR, the first uniformed American to fall in the line of duty in Iraq.

After serving in destroyers during World War I, Grove left active duty in November 1920 to pursue a civilian business career. On October 5, 1940, Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox authorized the involuntary recall to active duty of 5,000 Naval Reservists, joining the 5,000 already on active duty. Leaving behind a wife and two sons in Rhode Island, Grove reported first to the Navy Department in Washington. He was posted to Manila, pending British approval of his assignment in Bahrain. Because Britain was historically the preeminent power in the Persian Gulf, and because the U.S. was not a belligerent in the conflict in the Mideast, diplomatic protocol gave London the right-of-refusal over the presence of any non-Allied military personnel in its areas of operation — especially those who would be performing “special duty.”

On March 29, 1941, the Secretary of State notified the American legation in Baghdad — the U.S. did not yet have full diplomatic relations with Iraq — that London had approved Grove’s assignment. The Minister-Resident (a legation did not rate an ambassador), Paul S. Knabenshue, was advised to expect Grove’s arrival and was given instructions for facilitating Grove’s mission.

Grove’s mission was to observe British anti-submarine operations in the Indian Ocean and gather intelligence on U-boat operations and the tactics, techniques, and procedures used to defeat them. With Britain’s position in the Middle East in jeopardy, Grove was also likely expected to maintain information on military operations east of the Suez Canal, then under threat by German Field Marshall Erwin Rommel’s Deutsches Afrikakorps.

Lieutenant Commander George Wilson Grove, USNR, became the first uniformed American lose his life in the line of duty in Iraq. He would not be the last.

It is sadly ironic that the first American service member to lose his life in Iraq, a country with only 58 kilometers of coastline, was a naval officer.

Lieutenant Commander George W. Grove, USNR, was recovered by British forces on Independence Day, July 4, 1941, and buried a day later in the British Imperial War Graves Cemetery at Basra, attended by an honor guard and firing party from HMS Seabelle, a converted yacht that served as Graham’s flagship, with “Taps” sounded by buglers of the Assyrian Levies.


Class of 1915

George is one of 18 members of the Class of 1915 in Memorial Hall.