Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Excerpts from 'Bob Crane: The Definitive Biography' (Chapter 1)

Bob Crane was a fascinating, kind, gentle, caring, and generous person. He was not without faults, but then, the same is true for all of us. That his addiction and murder are continually scrutinized, to the exclusion of nearly all else, is wrong and just plain sad to me. There is a lot more to his story—660 pages worth!

More than anything, I want you to discover who Bob Crane was as a person. It's so important to understand that he was so much more than Colonel Hogan, should never be defined by his sexual addiction, and was not just a murder victim. He was a son, a husband, a father, a cousin, a friend, a coworker. He was a human being. And he was a good human being at that.

I want you to read Bob Crane: The Definitive Biography so badly, but not because I want to get rich off of it. 

All author profits are being donated to charity in Bob Crane's memory.

That is how much this book—and Bob's life—mean to me, my two co-authors, Bob's family, his friends, and all who loved him and cared about him. It's not about the money. It's about the truth. Bob deserves better, much better, than what has been dished out about him since his death.

So I will give you some excerpts over the next few weeks, chapter by chapter, from Bob Crane: The Definitive Biography. All I ask is that you allow yourself the chance to discover and learn. 


The following excerpt is from "Chapter 1: The Spirit of Stamford"
Alfred John Crane (Al, Jr.) was Bob's older brother. Charlie Zito was Bob's best friend from school. Don (Sappern) was also a close high school friend who played in the jazz band with Bob.

World War II was at its peak when Bob was in high school. There was food rationing. No more than two pounds of meat per family. Butter was unheard of. Sugar from Cuba had been cut off for fear of the trade ships being sunk. Three and a half gallons of gasoline per week were permitted unless it was to be used for something pertaining to one’s job. The war affected every part of life. For many, it meant enlisting in a branch of the service and going “over there” to fight. For those who stayed on the homefront, it meant volunteering and sacrificing—doing any and all that could be done to support the United States Armed Forces and help the Allies win the war.

At night, windows were heavily draped, with no lights showing through. During air raid drills, Charlie Zito’s father, an air raid warden, went around to different neighborhoods ensuring lights were out. With the city of Stamford blacked out, Bob’s father would go to the rooftop of Stamford High School, where he and other volunteers would watch the night sky for enemy aircraft. If an enemy plane was suspected, it was reported.

Kids in school during that time had more of a “superman” approach to the war. Charlie explained, “You never really thought about dying at that age. If somebody was going to die, it wasn’t going to be us.”

Nevertheless, it was a very serious time for high school students. Gym class consisted of commando training, push-ups, and according to Charlie, “other more strenuous forms of torture.”

“We didn’t have gym,” Charlie recalled. “We went outside with gym shorts on—ice, snow, mud, whatever—and did calisthenics and ran around the track. They had somebody teaching us hand-to-hand combat. They really were trying to toughen us up.” 

Families with sons serving overseas on the front lines posted little flags in the shape of a pennant upside down in their windows. If you had one son in the service, you had one pennant or star. Some families had three sons in the service, so there would be three flags. If you lost a son, it was etched in black. Bob’s family displayed such a flag, and it came very close to being etched in black.

In August 1943, when Bob was fifteen years old, Al, Jr. joined the Navy, and on August 11, 1944, he reported for duty on the USS Bunker Hill (CV-17) aircraft carrier. The Bunker Hill saw action in the Pacific Theater, and Al saw at least four major engagements while serving on duty. Al was on board on the morning of May 11, 1945, just three days shy of his nineteenth birthday. While supporting the Okinawa invasion, the carrier was attacked by two kamikazes, severely damaging the ship. Her losses included three hundred forty-six men killed, forty-three missing, and two hundred sixty-four wounded.

When it was learned that the ship had been attacked and badly crippled, the Crane household went into turmoil. “The waiting and the waiting and the waiting,” Charlie recalled. “Wondering did Al survive? It was just terrible.”

Communications in 1945 were not as they are today, and nearly three weeks passed before word arrived about Al’s fate. During those weeks of not knowing, which Charlie said seemed like an eternity, Bob would go to Charlie’s house often.

Bob was devastated by the possibility that his brother might have been killed. He held it together most of the time, but when he was with his closest confidants, he would let his true feelings show.

“I’ll tell you,” Charlie said, “if you really got into it with him, and I didn’t like to do that too much—I didn’t want to see Bob that way—he would be brought to tears. And so consequentially, when it got to that point, I would change the subject. And then he caught on, and then he would change the subject, and we’d forget about it for awhile. It just wasn’t the same. He didn’t want to upset his parents. He didn’t want his parents to think he was still going on with his life and having all the fun he was having at the time. He thought maybe they would get the wrong impression. He used to bring a drum with him, and he’d play, and I’d play piano, and we’d listen to some of my records. But it wasn’t the same.”

Al survived the attack, but not without physical and psychological injury. Seeking an escape out of the burning hull, he climbed up a red-hot chain out of the fire to the ship’s surface, and he was badly wounded. Later, he learned that his shipmate who had relieved him of his radio post shortly before the attack occurred was killed in the attack. While Al had been very proud to serve in the war and on the Bunker Hill, he would carry these scars of guilt with him for the rest of his life.

When word reached Stamford that Al was alive, “it was like Christmas,” Charlie recalled. “It had been sad, especially the not knowing. Every time you’d see it—what we used to do to have fun, it was always in the background. There was a war on. Your neighbors were being killed. Brothers were being killed. And not knowing for a long time that Bob’s brother did survive was horrible.”

The school was preparing to graduate Bob, Charlie, Don, and many of their classmates and friends early so they could enter the war. Their report date was to have been May 20, 1945. With Victory in Europe (VE) Day occurring only a few days prior, on May 8, 1945, they just missed their draft date by a mere fraction. Their parents breathed a sigh of relief, and instead of going off to fight a war, their kids continued on with school.

Bob Crane: The Definitive Biography
© 2015 Carol M. Ford
Do not reproduce without written permission from the author.