Cohoes Remembers Vets Craner Park Cohoes, NY Saturday, May 20, 2006Robert Craner was born in 1933 to Grace and Alfred Craner and grew up at 27 Church Street in the "Orchard" section of Cohoes. He graduated from the local Catholic Central High School in 1950 and enlisted in the Air Force at the age of 19. Craner decided he would be a pilot when he first flew at the age of 5. He found great satisfaction in military service and felt fortunate that he was able to pursue his life's ambition and love of flying. Craner worked his way up through the ranks, receiving his navigator and pilot training at Hanscomb Air Force Base in 1953 through the Aviation Cadet program. His early military career included piloting F89 aircraft in Labrador and F100's in France and Germany, and he served as weapons instructor at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada. While in Labrador at Goose Bay Air Force Base he met Audrey, a native of England, who worked at the base as a civilian employee. They married in 1959 and had two children.
As a fighter pilot with the 37th Tactical Flight Wing Pacific Air Forces (PACAF), Craner was on his second volunteer tour in Southeast Asia in December of 1967 when his plane was hit, forcing a bail out over North Vietnam. He was captured and imprisoned in Hanoi; for the first three years of captivity he was kept in isolation and subject to beatings and interrogations. Despite this, Craner had a powerful sense of duty and courage that sustained him and those around him during their ordeal. He communicated with fellow prisoners of War by tapping on walls and leaving notes hidden in a water hole where the prisoners were taken once a week to wash. "I had a great friend in the next room," said Colonel Craner. "I never saw him but it was the closest relationship I've ever had." This friend was John McCain III (later a U.S. Senator). McCain credits Craner as being most instrumental in helping him survive imprisonment. Craner was also praised by other POWs for his courage and moral support throughout their time of captivity. He was, as a fellow POW stated, "the glue that held us together." Repatriation and freedom were secured in March 1973, over five years after Craner was first imprisoned. After his release, he said, "My world had ended in 1967. I came walking out of prison thinking 1967. We landed a man on the moon July of 1969, but I didn't find out about it until 1973."
Pilot's HomecomingOn March 23, 1973, Craner flew into Albany Airport, where a crowd of thousands welcomed him and his family. He said simply and with deep sincerity, "I want to thank all of you who came here today...this has been a most wonderful welcome. It feels real good to get back to my old hometown." A caravan of well-wishers accompanied Craner to Cohoes City Hall, where the enthusiastic crowd gathered. It proclaimed "Robert Craner Day" in Cohoes. The Cohoes American Legion Post color guard and city officials saluted him. A key to the city was presented to him during the ceremonies and he was given lifetime memberships to the E.T. Ruane American Legion Post and the Cohes Community Center. Craner said, "I suppose it would be insufficient if I merely said thank you once again. However, it is the only word I can come up with. Anything else that I feel I don't think I could put into words very well."
Cohoes again saluted Craner by declaring March 23, 2006 Robert R. Craner Day.
Eternal TributeThe City of Cohoes honored its hero Robert Craner by renaming the Devlin Street Park in the "Orchard" section of the city, near the place where he lived, as Craner Park. The rededication of the park was held on Memorial Day, Saturday May 25, 1974. Five hundred neighbors and supporters attended and further expressed their admiration by signing a full-page testimonial in an issue of the Times Record.During the park dedication, Mayor Virginia B. McDonald said, "This park will serve as a tribute to one of Cohoes' most honored sons, and as a constant tribute to all Cohoesiers that as long as this park bears his name, the word patriotism will never die." In his speech at the dedication, Robert Craner accepted the dedication (shown here) "in the name of all those living and dead whom you really honor." He called upon Americans to transform their Memorial Day sentiments "into meaningful reality" by helping those Vietnam veterans who "now require assistance in regaining their place in society."
Colonel HonoredCraner received numerous military honors, including two Purple Hearts for wounds sustained during his internment. He also received the Defense Meritorious Service Medal in 1974 and the POW Medal. He was awarded two Silver Stars, the Distinguished Flying Cross, four Bronze Stars, eight Air Medals, the Legion of Merit, and the Air Force Commendation Medal. He was cited for heroism in combat, professionalism, and meritorious service in Southeast Asia. The 40 year old Cohoesier received his awards in a ceremony at Randolph Air Force Base in San Antonio on December 11, 1973 with his wife and children in attendance. While at Randolph AFB, Craner completed pilot requalification training.
Craner and his family moved to Worcester, Massachusetts, where he enrolled at Holy Cross College. He graduated Phi Beta Kappa and summa cum laude in 1976 with a bachelor's degree in Russian studies.
After graduation in May 1976, Craner traveled to Washington, DC, training as a military attache for assignment to Sofia, Bulgaria. He then trained in West Germany and served as air attache in Budapest, Hungary. He returned from overseas in September 1980 to study languages in preparation for his next appointment as Air Force attache in Honduras. But this was not to be. Following a massive heart attack, Col. Robert Craner passed away in Washington, DC on October 8, 1980. He received a burial with full military honors in Arlington National Cemetery. A Mass was offered in his memory at St. Bernard's Church in Cohoes the next day.
Cohoes can truly be proud of this fine citizen who never forgot his roots. In an obituary in the London Times Bernard Levin wrote, "...the language Robert Craner spoke is the oldest in the world, and the best, for it is the language of freedom, and it is spoken from generation to generation by the brave... I salute the memory of this valiant man."
|Placed By||The City of Cohoes|
|Marker Condition||No reports yet|
|Date Added||Tuesday, October 7th, 2014 at 9:26am PDT -07:00|
|UTM (WGS84 Datum)||18T E 605567 N 4737610|
|Decimal Degrees||42.78376667, -73.70935000|
|Degrees and Decimal Minutes||N 42° 47.026', W 73° 42.561'|
|Degrees, Minutes and Seconds||42° 47' 1.56" N, 73° 42' 33.66" W|
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|Closest Postal Address||At or near 220 N Mohawk St, Cohoes NY 12047, US|
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