Colonel Robert W. Gruenhagen was born in Great Falls, Montana
on January 20, 1932. He attended high school and
joined the Montana Air National Guard on December 5, 1947.
After graduation from high school in 1949, he attended
the Air Force airplane and engine mechanic course at Sheppard
In August 1950, Colonel Gruenhagen was employed as an Air
Technician with the Montana Air National Guard
with duties as a crew chief on P-51 aircraft. In March
1951, he was called to active duty with the 186th
Fighter Squadron and served at stateside bases with SAC and
TAC and overseas with the Icelandic Defense Force. His duties
included assignments as flight chief, line chief and quality
In January 1953, Gruenhagen returned to technician status
with the Montana Air National Guard and was assigned
as a crew chief on F-86 aircraft. In December 1954,
he was assigned to establish a jet engine maintenance shop
and served in this function until May 1958 when he was appointed
as Warrant Officer, JG.
Gruenhagen continued a long and active career in the military – working
on numerous aircraft. In November 1978, Colonel
Gruenhagen was selected as the Technician Chief
of Maintenance. His military duty as the Deputy
Commander for Maintenance was assigned on July 12, 1983.
He served in this assignment until his retirement in 1987.
Colonel Gruenhagen is a member of the Air Force Association,
the American Aviation Historical Society, and the
Association of P-51 Historians and Enthusiasts. He
serves as consultant and advisor with matters related to
historic aircraft during the Second World War. He is the
author of “Mustang – The
Story of the P-51 Fighter” and a well-known expert
on the P-51.
His decorations and awards included the Meritorious Service
Medal, the Air Force Commendation Medal, two Air
Force Outstanding Unit awards, the Good Conduct Medal, the
National Defense Service Medal, the Air Force Reserve Longevity
Award, the Armed Forces Reserve Medal with two hour glass
devices, the Expert Marksmanship Medal, the Lone Star Distinguished
Service Medal, the Creek Party Service Award, the Texas State
Meritorious Service Award and the Texas State Longevity Award.
In October 1976, he was presented the Distinguished Service
Award by the Confederate Air Force.
He resides in Kennedale, Texas. He has two daughters
and four grandchildren.