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First Name: Robert

Last Name: Grow

Birthplace: Sibley, IA, USA

Gender: Male

Branch: Army (1784 - present)

Home of Record: Dawson, MN
Middle Name: Walker

Date of Birth: 14 February 1895

Date of Death: 03 November 1985

Rank: Major General

Years Served: 1914-16 MNG; 1916-1953 USA
Robert Walker Grow

•  World War I (1914 - 1918)
•  Mexican Expedition (1916 - 1917)
•  World War II (1941 - 1945)


Robert Walker Grow
Major General, U.S. Army

Robert Walker Grow was born on 14 February 1895 in Sibley, IA, the son of John Thomas and Nellie Walker Grow. His mother died when he was 2 years old. John Grow went to Canada to work and young Robert went to live with his paternal grandparents in Dawson, MN, where he graduated from high school.

Military Career

Grow enlisted in the Minnesota National Guard (MNG) on 24 February 1914, while he was attending the University of Minnesota and served until he received a commission in the MNG on 17 November 1915. Grow graduated from the University of Minnesota in 1916 and on 5 December 1916 was commissioned as a First Lieutenant of Cavalry in the U.S. Army.

He served as a Captain in the National Army during World War I (non-combat service) from 5 August 1917 to 12 October 1917. On 12 October he was commissioned as a Captain in the Regular Army.

As a Captain, Grow was a student in the Troop Officer's Course of the Cavalry School at Fort Riley, KS, from 1923-24 and, a student in the Advanced Equitation Course of the School in 1924-25. Major Grow attended the Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, KS, during 1928-29 and was a student at the Army War College at Washington Barracks, DC, in 1935-36.

From 13 July 1940 to 3 August 1941, Lieutenant Colonel Grow was the Deputy Chief of Staff of the 2nd Armored Division ('Hell-on-Wheels') when General George S. Patton was its Division Commander. In October 1941, he was promoted to Colonel and assigned as Commanding Officer of the 34th Armored Regiment. He was promoted to the flag rank of Brigadier General in March 1942 and assigned to Combat Command B, 8th Armored Division at Fort Knox, KY, and at Camp Polk, LA. During the latter part of 1942 and in early 1943, he was Commanding Officer, Combat Command A, 10th Armored Division.

In 1943, Major General Grow became Commanding General of the the 6th Armored Division ('Super Sixth') in the European Theater of Operations.

Most of the data available for Robert Walker Grow centers on only two events in his career: 1. His command of the U.S. Army's 6th Armored Division during the critical years of 1943-45 in World War II; and, 2. His 1952 court-martial. For that reason, this bio focuses on those actions.

World War II

The U.S. Army's 6th Armored Division (Super Sixth') was activated on 15 February 1942 at Fort Knox, KY, and was formed with a cadre from the 2nd Armored Division. In July 1944, 6th Armored landed at Normandy as a follow-on unit, and went on the offensive in the Cotentin Peninsula in support of the Normandy Campaign. At the end of that campaign, 6th Armored assembled at Le Mesnil, Normandy, on 24 July.

Two weeks later, the Super Sixth pulled up at the gates of Brest, creating complete chaos enroute and bottling up 40,000 Germans for eventual capture. How the Division, operating in vitally important territory defended by 80,000 Nazis (about six times the Division's strength), made the 250-mile drive in 10 days is a masterpiece of armored operations.

Each member of the Division felt the Super Sixth was destined for greatness. This potent feeling was amplified further on the eve of the 6th's jump-off through Lessay when Maj. Gen. Grow said: "I don't care if we do get so far out in front we are completely surrounded. We've enough fire-power and mobility to punch out of anything the Krauts have to offer." The 6th's tactics allowed its racing armored columns to average 25 miles a day; on 3 August it covered 48 miles. The Division captured 4556 prisoners and killed an estimated 4000 enemy soldiers. Over 1000 enemy guns and combat vehicles were knocked out or abandoned during the period. The top prisoner of war captured was Lt. Gen. Karl Spang, Commander of the 266th German Infantry Division.

On 1 August, the 6th Armored Division, among other units, was placed under the command of Lieutenant General George S. Patton, Jr., Third Army commander. This brought Generals Patton and Grow together for the first time since they were members of the 2nd Armored Division at Ft. Benning, GA.

"These maps are too small. Give me a map large enough so that I won't run off it today." Grow's statement was prompted by the speed of the 6th's advance, which had put maps on the critical supplies list. His armor raced across sections of maps almost before navigators could fix them to boards. "You're doing pretty good, Bob!" Patton told Grow on 4 August. Patton then presented him with a Bronze Star; the first battlefield decoration received by the Super Sixth.

Prisoners were delivered to 6th Armored's cages in large numbers: On 10 August, 919 were bagged; next day, 828; another 439 on 12 August. Without a shot fired, another 350 prisoners were taken from coastal artillery strongholds.

The Saar River was reached in 26 days because the 6th had captured 80 towns and villages spreading over 400 square miles. The push was bitterly contested, but now the enemy had his back to the wall; the fight would be waged in the Fatherland. When the last square foot of France in the Division's zone was cleared on 5 December, the count showed 1,216 Nazis prisoners, 202 guns and 143 vehicles captured or destroyed; 73 of which were tanks or self-propelled assault guns.

Bastogne - 30 days of freezing hell! This was the end of the 6th Armored Division's first six months of combat. Withdrawn from the Saar River area 24 December 1944 and put in Corps reserve, the men under Maj. Gen. Grow were rushed to the Third Army front on the south of the Ardennes salient, relieving the 10th Armored Division north of Mersch, Luxembourg.

Five days later, Super Sixth was shifted to positions northeast of the now-famous city. The pocket in which the 101st Airborne and armored units had made such a gallant stand had become a bulge. Facing that bulge was one of the greatest enemy concentrations since the Ardennes Forest offensive began. Still trying desperately to capture Bastogne, the Germans threw everything in the book at the 6th - tanks, infantry, artillery, rockets, and bombs. For 23 snowbound, freezing days, 6th Armored and the Nazis fought a seesaw battle. Yanks took towns - lost them to numerically superior forces - then recaptured them later. Slowly, the Germans relinquished their grip on the east shoulder of the bulge. Waging strong rear-guard action, they completed their 20-mile withdrawal across the Our River into Germany and the Siegfried Line by 26 January 1945.

For the enemy, Bastogne marked the stumbling block in its Ardennes offensive. For 6th Armored, Bastogne - where it faced the most formidable force of SS and Wehrmacht troops since going operational - it stood as the supreme test. Primed for the thrust, Hitler's troops were the elite of his army, possessing the best equipment, vehicles and supplies. The 6th was greatly outnumbered by the six enemy divisions which applied constant pressure against its entire front.

The snow, ice and sub-freezing weather of Bastogne provided the setting for one of the most severe campaigns ever fought by American troops. Tank turrets froze and had to be chipped free to regain traversing action. Iced breech blocks had to be manually operated. M-1 rifles refused to function until the bolts were beaten back and forth with grenades. When tank escape hatches and doors stuck fast, they got "blow torch" treatment. Ice formed in gas tanks and clogged lines. Men's feet froze and they became so cold they "burned."

Germans held the upper hand for five days, directing tank-infantry teams against the entire front. The tide shifted on 9 January when the 6th began to surge forward reinforced by the 320th Regiment, 35th Infantry Division. It was a grueling ordeal. Nine long, bitter-cold days were needed to push back the enemy four miles, taking the ground astride the Longvilly-Bourcy highway and its now-familiar towns. Germans pulled back from the western-most tip of the salient, and the 6th ploughed forward. Five towns fell quickly to tank-infantry teams making five-mile dashes through heavy snow. Strong rear-guard action was encountered, but five more towns were retaken in two days. The enemy's Ardennes salient was wiped out completely during the next three days. The high ground astride the Skyline Drive was captured.

To adequately describe 6th Armored's operations would mean telling the story of every man who took part in its powerful thrusts. It is the story of every team, from division to squads, fulfilling missions due to their ability, fortitude and will. The roll call of the brave is long; otherwise the 6th could never have achieved its remarkable record. When the Division passed its third anniversary on 15 February 1945 (in its sixth month of combat), 141 men had received Silver Stars; 737 got Bronze Stars; and 15 received direct battlefield commissions. The long road had been filled with obstacles. But in every case, pitfalls like the engagements of Brittany, battles around Nancy, mud of the Saar, and the cold and snow of Bastogne were overcome. During all this intense action, one common thread ran through the variety of missions: complete success. Success that helped open a liberation path from Brest to Bastogne on a road aimed for Berlin!

"I know of no other new division that has accomplished the things we have done in so short a period," Maj. Gen. Robert W. Grow said in praise of his men and officers.

Post World War II Service

Following deactivation of the 6th Armored Division on 18 September 1945, Grow served as Commanding General, 3rd Armored Division, in North-West Europe. During 1945-46, he was Commanding General, 26th Infantry Division and, in 1947-48, he was the Chief of Military Mission with the Persian (Iranian) Army. In 1950, he was Commanding General of Fort Devens, MA, and then a student at the Strategic Intelligence School in Washington, DC. In 1950-51, he was the Senior Military Attaché to Russia, in Moscow.

The Court-Martial

In 1950, Major General Grow was appointed as senior U.S. Military Attaché in Moscow, USSR. In 1952, he made a mistake that resulted in his court-martial. While he was attending a conference in Frankfurt, West Germany, East German agents photographed his personal diary. He was staying at a U.S. Army guest house operated by German personnel and its security was later found to be very slipshod. Grow was accused of using poor judgment by having a diary containing classified information without securing it properly.

Grow's mistake became public when a British defector, Richard Squires, put copies of parts of the diary in a book called On the War Path. His claim was that this information was evidence that Grow was trying to get the U.S. to initiate war against the Soviet Union. In an attempt to prove that this was Grow's intent, Squires stressed comments such as, "It seems to me the time is ripe for a blow this year," and the U.S. should "hit below the belt."

The U.S. Army leadership at the Pentagon was very embarrassed by the incident and all the publicity surrounding it. The Army's Chief of Information said the diary was authentic and that the photos used were obtained as the result of "an inside job." Interestingly though, the Army never questioned whether the story told by Squires was true. And because Grow had been ordered by the Army's Chief of Staff not to speak of the matter publicly, there wasn't any official denial whatsoever of Squires' allegations. [Some of the published "excerpts" were total falsehoods; Squires had distorted others to offer a false perception of Grow's actual views. After the trial, the public learned that many of the views that Squires attributed to Grow were complete fabrications.]

The Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations and Administration, Lieutenant General Maxwell D. Taylor, and Major General Alexander Bolling, Assistant Chief of Staff for Intelligence, decided to probe into the matter after discussing the issue with the State Department. In due course, the Army told Grow that he could choose voluntary retirement, or a court-martial. Grow believed that he was an effective collector of intelligence and that his diary didn't contain any information that wasn't already known to Soviet State Security. He thought this was simply an attempt by the Russians to have him sent home from Moscow. He also argued that the fact that the diary excerpts were allowed to be published attested to their lack of intelligence value. For that reason, he chose a court-martial.

Although both the State Department and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) objected, Grow was charged under Army Regulation 380-5, which deals with the security of Army information. The Army officially stated that it was charging Grow with "improperly recording classified information in private records and failing to safeguard that information." The Army then classified the matter as 'Secret' so the press could be excluded from the trial and the release of information to the public restricted. The trial of General Grow was to be the first high-profile court-martial under the recently-enacted Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) that became effective on 31 May 1951.

Grow chose Colonel Robert E. Joseph, a Judge Advocate General (JAG) Corps attorney, to defend him. Joseph experienced great difficulties as he attempted to put together Grow's defense. Consider these examples: His request to declassify the "Secret" charge sheet, with all its material intact, was denied. When he requested a temporary duty assignment in Europe so he could interview potential witnesses, permission was denied. Joseph wasn't allowed to view all the pertinent documents, and his numerous requests for copies were denied. He moved to suppress and return the diary, pointing out that Generals Dwight Eisenhower, Mark Clark, and Omar Bradley had all kept-and published-personal journals. When he questioned Generals Bolling and Taylor about their influence over the proceedings, they were totally uncooperative.

After the pretrial investigation was over, the Army filed an additional charge against Grow. The Army alleged that he violated Article 134 of the UCMJ when he recorded the reported plans of the Soviet Far Eastern Revolutionary Committee for a large offensive in Korea in April 1951, by the Chinese Army. Colonel Frederick Matthews, the pretrial investigating officer, recommended a general court-martial that, like the pretrial hearing, was closed to the public.

Argument about the Army's classification of the diary as "Secret" took over the proceedings. Witnesses for the prosecution said its contents were secret; defense witnesses testified that the contents were common knowledge in Moscow's diplomatic circles. When Grow took the stand, he testified that he hadn't recorded anything that wasn't already widely known. "I treated the diary in about the same manner as you would treat a personal letter," he said. "I did not treat it in the sense of a military document, but rather in the sense of a personal classified document."

However, this statement, combined with an earlier remark that the diary had been photographed "in Germany when my security was lax," counted against him. After deliberating for under an hour, the court convicted him of two counts of dereliction of duty and two counts of security infractions. The punishment handed down by the court was a reprimand and a six-month suspension from command. Grow appealed and, in 1957, the case came before President Dwight D. Eisenhower who approved the findings; but commuted the sentence. Grow's trial was a classic case of how the influence of high command can impact the military justice system.

Following the court-martial, in August 1952 MG Grow was assigned to the Center of Military History at Fort McNair in Washington, DC, where he remained until his retirement.

Major General Robert W. Grow, an excellent combat commander, retired in 1953.

Medals and Awards

Distinguished Service Cross
Distinguished Service Medal
Silver Star Medal with Bronze Oak Leaf Cluster
Legion of Merit
Bronze Star Medal
Army Commendation Medal
Mexican Border Service Medal
World War I Victory Medal
Occupation of Germany World War I
American Defense Medal
American Theater Campaign Medal
European, African, Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with Silver and 3 Bronze Stars
World War II Victory Medal
Army of Occupation Medal
National Defense Service Medal with Bronze Service Star

Distinguished Service Cross Citation

The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress, July 9, 1918, takes pleasure in presenting the Distinguished Service Cross to Major General Robert W. Grow (ASN: 0-4621), United States Army, for extraordinary heroism in connection with military operations against an armed enemy while serving as Commanding General of the 6th Armored Division, in action against enemy forces in France, from 10 November 1944 to 22 November 1944. General Grow, while commanding the 6th Armored Division in the Nied and Saar River operations, repeatedly demonstrated a superior degree of personal courage and leadership which inspired his troops to press successfully and relentlessly against the enemy. In the vicinity of Han-sur-Nied, Gros-Tenquin and St. Jean-Rohrdach, with utter disregard for his own safety, he personally directed difficult operations which resulted in the reduction of those strong points. Many times when his troops encountered exceptionally strong enemy resistance, General Grow personally led forward elements under heavy fire to the successful completion of their missions. General Grow's conspicuous heroism, fearless leadership, and loyal, courageous devotion to duty exemplify the highest traditions of the military forces of the United States and reflect great credit upon himself, the 6th Armored Division, and the United States Army.

General Orders: Headquarters, Third U.S. Army, General Orders No. 60 (March 18, 1945) Action Date: November 10 - 22, 1944

In Retirement

After retirement from the Army, Grow became a Director of the Falls Church, VA, Chamber of Commerce.


Robert and Mary Lou Marshall Grow were married on 5 November 1917 in Hamilton, TN, and had three sons: Robert Marshall Grow (1927); infant death (1929); and Walter Thomas Grow (1932-1953). Colonel Robert Marshall Grow (U.S. Army, Retired) is a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy, Class of 1950, and served in Korea and Vietnam. Walter Thomas 'Tommy' Grow, Cadet, U.S. Military Academy Class of 1954, died from smoke inhalation in a tragic fire on 12 August 1953, while visiting his parents at their home in Falls Church, VA.

The month before his death, General Grow and members of his family attended what his son, Robert, described as a 'great' 6th Division reunion in Florida.

Death and Burial

Major General Robert Walker Grow died on 3 November 1985. He is buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, VA.


Honoree ID: 3279   Created by: MHOH




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