General Robert Walker Grow

Commanding officer of the 6th Armored Division

Most of the data available for Major General Robert W. 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 1943–1945 in WWII; and, 
  2. His 1952 court-martial. For that reason, this bio focuses on those actions.

Prior to his command of the 6th Armored Division, Grow had a number of other commands. During 1940–41, he was Assistant Chief of Staff, G-3, of the 2nd Armored Division, the "Hell-on-Wheels" outfit, when General George S. Patton was its Division Commander. In 1941–42, he was Commanding Officer of the 34th Armored Regiment and, for a brief
time later in 1942, he was Commanding Officer, Combat Command B, 8th Armored Division. During the latter part of 1942 and in early 1943, he was commanding officer, Combat Command A, 19th Armored Division.

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 ampaign, 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 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 Lt. Gen. 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 Div. at Ft. Benning, GA.

"These maps are too small. Give me a map large enough so that I won't run off it today." Gen. 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!" Gen. Patton told Gen. Grow on 4 August. Gen. 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 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 on the Fatherland. When the last square foot of France in the division's zone was cleared 5 December, the count showed 1216 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 Div. 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, bombs. For 23 snowbound, freezing days, 6th Armored
and the Nazis fought a see-saw 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

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 January 9th 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," Gen. Robert W. Grow said in praise of his men and officers.

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, in 1950–51, he was the Senior Military Attaché to Russia, in Moscow.


In 1950, Major General Grow was appointed as senior U.S. Military Attache 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

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 United States 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.]

Lieutenant General Maxwell D. Taylor, the Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations and Administration, 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.

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