ROBERT J. CRAIG, LT, USN
Robert Craig '56
Date of birth: February 17, 1932
Date of death: August 19, 1963
From the 1956 Lucky Bag:
From USNA '56:
Robert James Craig, LT USN, died on 19 August 1963, when the purchase cable snapped at nearly full run-out after touchdown of his F-4B aboard the carrier USS Constellation, after a normal intercept mission. The F-4 went off the angle and into the ocean. His body and that of his backseater were not recovered.
Bob was born on 17 February 1932 and completed the combination John Muir High School/Junior College in 1950 in Altadena, California, where he participated in football and track. Bob enlisted in the Navy, went to NAPS, and entered the Academy in the 20th company. After graduation, Robert attended flight schools at Pensacola and Beeville, Texas. While at Pensacola, Bob played football for the Goshawks base team. From there, he went to ordinance school, then on to two Air Groups. In 1962, VF-53 was re-designated VF-143, with his assignment to the F4B aircraft.
Robert married Elaine Krolczyk of Baltimore on 2 June 1956. Elaine was a nurse at Mercy Hospital in Baltimore. At the time of Bob’s death, his wife was pregnant with their sixth child. Elaine later married Robert Warner, a Navy widower with five children, about 1970. Mr. Warner passed away in 2005. Elaine is still living in San Diego, as are Bob and Elaine’s children; Kathleen Altomare, Diana Merrick, Bruce, Jeffrey, Steven, and Robin Downey who is a Commander in the Navy Reserves. There are also six grandchildren. Bob will be remembered for his Navy football abilities, for being on the winning Sugar Bowl team on New Year’s Day 1955, and for his time as a dutiful team goat keeper.
He has a memory marker in California.
From the November 1963 issue of SHIPMATE:
It grieves me to have to report the death of one of our outstanding athletes, BOBBY CRAIG. His plays on the football field gave many a Navy fan much to cheer about, and his pleasing manner made him a friend to many.
After graduation Bob went through flight training at Pensacola and Beeville, Texas. While at Pensacola he played football for the Goshawks where he showed that he had not lost any of his old form.
After flight training in May 1958 Bob instructed at Beeville for one year, then he attended maintenance school at North Island. From there he went through the Replacement Air Group Squadron (VF-121) and then on to VF-53 at Miramar. In January 1962 VF-53 was redesignated VF-143 and assigned the F4B aircraft.
On behalf of the class I offer to Elaine and the children our prayers and condolences in these dark days. We grieve with you this tragic loss.
We have received a letter from Cdr. C. V. Merrell, USN, Commanding Officer of VF-143:
"To the Class of 1956,
"It is with deep regret that I inform you of the death of your classmate, Lt. Robert J. Craig.
"The tragedy occurred as Bob was landing his F4B aboard the carrier CONSTELLATION on the completion of a normal intercept mission. Upon touchdown and after almost full run out, the purchase cable snapped and the aircraft continued off the angle and into the water. I can only say that being the professional he was. Bob did everything possible to get his airplane airborne in an attempt to save the life of his RIO, Lt. (jg) Ernest A. Polz.
"The squadron has lost an outstanding aviator, a dedicated naval officer and a very close friend to us all. I know that all of you who knew Bob at the Naval Academy will feel this tragic loss also.
"We are making arrangements through the Alumni Association at this time to dedicate a chair in the Memorial Stadium. We all feel that this would be a perfect monument to one who was so much a part of Navy football.
"I might also mention that Elaine is presendy residing with their five children at 2382 Blom St. in San Diego."
C. V . MERRELL