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Mars Vet Reunites With Mothership

By Megan Esau

July 25, 2016 - Clifford Graveen, an 89-year-old veteran who worked on the Martin Mars, was reunited with the flying boat Sunday, July 24, after 70 years.

Graveen was an aviation technician and his duties were to maintain and test electrical equipment on the airplane while it was stationed at the Patuxent River, Maryland, Naval Air Station.

The particular Mars Graveen worked on was originally intended to return wounded soldiers back home should Japan be invaded.

“It came to the base as a hospital plane,” Graveen said. “It had litters in it and of course the war was over so they didn’t want to use it that way anymore. When I was there the litters were all taken out and it was converted to a cargo plane.”

During his time at the Patuxent River station the Mars was one of the few planes Graveen was able to fly in. He said he originally worked out of a shop on various planes before being transferred to the JRM 2, the Navy’s designation for the Mars at that time.

“But here (on the Mars) I was on a crew and we had opportunities to fly whenever the plane flew,” Graveen said. “Being a pretty young guy at that time it was quite a thrill to be doing that.”

When he learned that a Martin Mars would be making an appearance at AirVenture, Graveen said he called EAA to tell them of his connection. On Sunday, July 24th, Chris Henry, EAA’s museum programs representative, met with Graveen to take him out to the seaplane base.

“I’m not very mobile anymore,” Graveen said. “So I didn’t try to crawl into the plane but the boat took us all the way around a couple times and I could ask a lot of questions because members of the crew were on the boat with me. It was a very nice experience to talk to people who are working on it today.”

While Graveen was never able to earn his pilot’s certificate due to his eyesight, he said working on the Mars helped him get to where he is today. After leaving the Navy he spent time in the metering department for the Wisconsin Public Service before working his way up into the engineering department.

“I have to say that my experiences on the Mars helped a lot because I worked with fellows that knew their job very well, and as a young fellow I learned a lot working with them,” he said.

EAA staffers said they were honored to help reunite Graveen with this important part of his past, and Graveen said he was grateful for the role the organization played.

“EAA were very helpful in getting me to see the plane up close and have an opportunity to talk with a member of the crew and learn about their history of the plane,” he said. “I thought that was really very nice.”

Learn more about the Martin Mars Tuesday, July 26th, at 3:30 at Forum Stage 7 and visit www.EAA.org/MarsOshkosh to see a video.

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