• Last modified 8021 days ago (June 11, 2002)
  • Return to Checkerboard

99th member Bob Maurer inventor of fiber optic cable years ago

As you well know there are a few 99'ers around the country who have achieved fame in various fields. Hoyt Wilhelm is the greatest knuckle ball pitcher there ever was in major league baseball. George Kennedy has been a longtime, well-known Hollywood actor. Vernon McGarity is the only 99'er to receive the Congressional Medal of Honor. Two other members have distinguished themselves by rising to high political office: Tim Babcock was governor of Montana and John Rarick was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Louisiana.

I would like to add to the list Bob Maurer. He is recognized by his peers as the greatest inventor living today since the invention of the Lear jet. He was a member of I/393.

Al "Babe" Rood was a sergeant in the fourth platoon, weapons platoon, I Company, 393rd Infantry. Holder of two Bronze Stars for bravery in combat, he was a fireman, came to annual conventions, and is now buried in Malden MA. His story was printed in George Meloy's book on experiences of men in I/393.

Rood's story concerning Bob Maurer:

"Some nights I wake up in a cold sweat and he probably does too. I know he doesn't know what happened on that patrol . . . 8 p.m., Sunday, November 1944 . . . eight-man patrol to a German town seven miles . . . to capture a high German official after church services. I was number seven and Maurer was eight — last. We were dug-in in a pine forest. It had snowed all day but now stopped but drifted in places especially on the slopes. But we had pretty good cloud cover.

"We went left and came into the Siegfried Line just off the biggest damned pillbox on the 'S' Line. Bob stepped on a mine that partially blew up his leg. We all had stepped on the same mine. It was frozen. We were walking step on step in the snow five to 10 yards apart.

"Bob was yelling in pain and was carried to the corner of the pillbox where Lt. Schwab and Sgt. Swartz gave him a shot of morphine. This time I took it upon myself to station two riflemen on each side of the pillbox and yelled loud and clear, 'If anyone moves, shoot.' That was just in case any Germans inside the pillbox had any ideas and could understand English. I also sent back a runner with two rifles so we had carriers for Bob and to tell our guys we had a problem and needed medics.

"We had one carrier that was yours truly. We went back the shortest distance right in front of the pillbox. The patrol went ahead of me. We were step on step in the snow with Bob on my back. He was good sized. Also he was still yelling in pain. A lot of flares were going off now so it was stop and go. What a feeling! So I said to Bob, 'I know you are in a lot of pain and we're in a lot of trouble if them Germans in that pillbox open up on us they will blow us into the English Channel.'

"He said 'OK,' and stopped yelling and quietly kept saying, 'I will never forget you Rood,' until he passed out. One runner came back and we tried to pass Bob to him but it was too dangerous with the flares and we wanted to stay in our own footprints in the snow because of the mines. This was a steep incline and the snow had drifted in spots over our knees. It took a long time to get Bob back to our lines but we made it.

"When Bob stopped talking I thought he had died because I never heard anything about him until after the war."

When the patrol reached our I Company outpost Maurer had recovered consciousness and was greeted by his best friend from our ASTP days at Huntsville TX, Wingate S. Barron. Wingate told me that Maurer was very upset, knowing that for him the war was over, because he could never again fight the Germans. This was because he came from a military family.

After stepping on the land mine Maurer spent more than 20 months in the hospital before getting a disability discharge. He subsequently was awarded the Purple Heart.

In 1948 Maurer graduated from the University of Arkansas with a BS in physics. He received his Ph.D from MIT in the winter class of 1951. He went to work for Corning Glass Works in New York "because of his interest in the area of materials and condensed matter. In 1966 Maurer elected to look into the fiber optic technology."

He led the research team at Corning that invented the fiber optic cable which has literally sent communications at high speed all over the world. Bob spent 40 years in science and research in applied physics at Corning. He worked with two other members of his team that made the optical fiber discover. Bob says, "Last year, more than 70 million kilometers of fiber were made worldwide. This year there will be even more."

Al Nelson I/393