Wednesday, June 13, 2012

What a Guy

A cousin on my father's side sent me this photo of my father, Robert Daniel Kruidenier, from her archives. He was all dressed up with somewhere to go. He was born in 1911, and I'm guessing he's in his early twenties in this photo, making it 1931 or later. Hey—that's the heart of the Great Depression, but he looks anything but depressed. (I'd love to have a jacket like that!)


Within a few years of this picture Daddy would drop out of Drake University and head to Canada to join the Royal Canadian Air Force as a pilot in the pre-WW II buildup. (The U.S. had no air force at the time.) When America got its air-act together, he transferred into the U.S. Air Force and was sent to China (29th Fighter Squadron) to train Chinese pilots to fight the Japanese in the CIB Theatre (China-India-Burma). On his way to China, he spent 12 hours floating in the Mediterranean when his transport ship, the HMT Rohna, was sunk by a German torpedo dropped from a plane (and he worked later side-by-side at NASA with the German scientist who developed that torpedo). In China he pancaked his P-40 in a rice paddy when he ran out of gas due to the radio beacon signal going dead, and spent several days walking back to the base on foot. Later, his plane would be hit by a Japanese fighter, blowing up the engine and leaving him with shrapnel in his leg. He was sent home a year-and-a-half later with a bad case of Sand Fly Fever—but not before receiving his Chinese pilot's wings from Madam Chang Kai-shek, to go with his RCAF and USAF wings. (He was one of a few pilots to earn pilot's wings from three different countries' Air Forces.)

When the above picture was taken, his grandfather (and then father) owned Kruidenier Cadillac in Des Moines, Iowa, originally located in this building at 1408 Locust Street in Des Moines. I'll assume Daddy was dressed up for a hot date in the 1930s version of the Escalade. As was true of all the Greatest Generation, Daddy never knew what perils lay ahead—including those to one day be induced by the raising of this post's author!

Screen shot 2011-08-03 at 3.28.04 PM


  1. Wow, a handsome Dutchman. So, he was still in Iowa? Hadn't been to war, hadn't met Grandmother, hadn't settled into a career at NASA. He sure has that handsome, tough, ready-for-anything look about him. What a great time in his life to capture in the photo.


  2. Your comment prompted me to add a few more background notes. Thanks!

  3. Great genealogical post, dad! I learned a few things about my grandfather.

  4. Wow, nice additions. What an eventful tour in the war. I'm so glad he made it home!

  5. I remember your Mom and Dad as being very wise, kind and calm no matter what the situation was. They both liked to laugh and had great senses of humor. I loved seeing your Dad's picture and learning about his life before he came to Decatur.

  6. I am researching Americans who served with the RAF and RCAF during the early days of World War II. My records indicate your father enlisted in the RCAF in October 1940. He received his elementary flying training at No. 12 Elementary Flying Training School, Sky Harbour, Goderich, Ontario. It appears he had enough flying hours to become a staff pilot without completing any advanced flying training. He was posted to No. 1 Wireless School Montreal and then No. 4 Wireless School, Guelph, Ontario. In may 1942, A train travelled across Canada transferring over 1800 Americans serving with the RCAF. Your father transferred when the train stopped at Toronto.

    I welcome any additional information you may have. Please visit my blog for more information about my project: