Bob Granchi of Port Charlotte, Fla. was a “Screaming Eagle,” a member of the 101st Airborne Division that jumped behind German lines on D-Day. He was also surrounded by the enemy at Bastogne, Belgium, during “The Battle of the Bulge” in December 1944.
When the war ended, his unit, the 326th Airborne Engineering Battalion of the 101st Airborne was at Berchtesgaden, Adolf Hitler’s “Eagle’s Nest” retreat in southern Germany. Grachi’s sergeant, James C. Cox of Gary, Ind., liberated Hitler’s sporty Mercedes-Benz at Hitler’s retreat. The car made the young sergeant famous and got him a promotion.
Sgt. Cox became 1st. Lt. Cox. He and Der Füehrer’s car went on a War Bond tour around the northeastern United States in November 1944. The tour raised more than $6 million in bonds for the U.S. Treasury Department. Cox received a letter of commendation for his support of the war effort, but he didn’t get to keep the famous automobile.
By the time Cox had captured the sports car, Granchi was recovering from his third war wound during World War II in a hospital in England. Later he was sent back to the States to recuperate. It was during his recuperation period he happened to see his former sergeant making the bond tour with Hitler’s Mercedes.
He met Lt. Cox standing beside the blue, 17-foot-long, two-seat German roadster with its 12-cylinder, super-charged 185-horsepower engine that could do 120 mph. It had armor-plated doors and an armor plated back panel behind the seats. It also had an inch-thick glass windshield for protection.
Granchi didn’t think any more about Hitler’s car until he was invited to attend a week-long annual soirée put on by the 101st Airborne Division at its headquarters in Fort Campbell, Ky.
When Granchi and his wife arrived at Campbell it was one of the first things they spotted–Hitler’s old Mercedes that the now dead Lt. Cox confiscated almost a half-century earlier. He couldn’t believe his eyes.
The current owner of the car had put it on display at the 101st’s annual get-together because he knew the history of the car. When Granchi told him he was in the unit that captured the sports car during World War II, he was invited to take it for a spin.
Since it was a $1 million, vintage stick shift he declined the offer. He opted to get his picture taken in Der Füehrer’s car.
Granchi contacted Lt. Cox’s son in California and asked him to send him more information on the car his father had liberated in Germany. A few weeks later, the Port Charlotte vet received a manila envelope containing old newspaper clippings, official letters and detailed info on the specially-made German roadster.
It was obvious from the material Granchi got from the son that the Mercedes made a big hit with the general public while it was on tour around the country in 1944. The 45-day bond tour took Lt. Cox and Hitler’s car to 20 cities in Pennsylvania, Ohio and Indiana beginning on Nov 2, 1944.
Unfortunately for Cox he didn’t get to keep the car. It became the property of the Treasury Department. Eventually it was sold after the war by the federal government to a private collector.
For Bob Granchi, seeing Der Füehrer’s Mercedes again brought back fond memories.
This story was first published in the Charlotte Sun newspaper, Port Charlotte, Fla. on Monday, Sept. 30, 2002 and is republished with permission.
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