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Robert Gaspar Leginus Sr., 98

Military EquipmentWorld War II (1939-1945)U.S. ArmyThe PentagonU.S. Department of Agriculture

Robert Gaspar Leginus Sr., who flew gliders during World War II and later served as a military intelligence analyst, died Feb. 20. He was 98.

Mr. Leginus died at Gilchrist Hospice Care in Columbia, said his son Robert Leginus Jr. He had lived in Columbia since the 1990s.

Mr. Leginus was born in 1913 in Wyoming, Pa. He learned to fly at the Wilkes-Barre Wyoming Valley Airport, developing a lifelong fascination with flying and aircraft.

"His biggest dream was to become an astronaut," his son said. "And he said he was just born too early."

Mr. Leginus worked as a pilot for a banner-towing company, early commercial airlines and an aircraft transport service, his son said.

He attended Pennsylvania State University's extension school at night, earning a certificate in aeronautical engineering. Throughout his life, Mr. Leginus collected news articles about aircraft, his son said.

In 1942, Mr. Leginus joined the Army Air Force as a private. After receiving a certificate as an airplane and engine mechanic, he was promoted to staff sergeant. In December 1943, he was commissioned as a flight officer and became a glider pilot.

In that role, he took part in D-Day operations and flew CG-4A glider supply missions behind enemy lines. He also flew C-47 military transport aircraft for troop and supply missions in Europe, Africa and the Middle East, his son said.

Twice, Mr. Leginus was captured by the German army. He escaped once and was liberated by Allied forces the second time, his son said.

He also was once captured by the Allies.

"The Allies didn't know whether he was a German pretending to be an American," his son said. "So they put him in their prison."

Mr. Leginus was freed when a U.S. general vouched for him, his son said.

Mr. Leginus' military honors included two Presidential Unit Citations and two Air Medals.

After being honorably discharged from the military in 1945, Mr. Leginus moved to Langley Park, where he lived until moving to Columbia in 1993. He worked as a military intelligence analyst at the Army Quartermaster General's office.

Mr. Leginus met his wife, the former Adele Marcik, when they were both guests at a wedding. They married in 1949.

Because of the nature of his job, Mr. Leginus could not reveal many details of his work to his family. His son said that he often sent his children postcards, purportedly from trips to places such as Pennsylvania and New Jersey, but that he was actually at the Pentagon.

He was an aide to military officials and was in the Pentagon war room during the Bay of Pigs invasion of 1961, his son said.

Mr. Leginus later worked as a cartographer for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, from which he retired in 1979.

He coached his children's baseball and basketball teams for the Boys & Girls Clubs. He and his wife loved to watch their children — and, later, their grandchildren — play sports, his son said.

Mr. Leginus also enjoyed working in his yard and traveling, his son said. He was a long-time member of the Knights of Columbus, the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the National World War II Glider Pilots Association.

A Mass of Christian burial was offered Saturday at St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church in Columbia. Mr. Leginus was buried at the Gate of Heaven Cemetery in Silver Spring.

In addition to his wife and his son Robert, of Upper Marlboro, Mr. Leginus is survived by another son, Joseph Leginus of Silver Spring; two daughters, Roberta Graves and Susan Miller of Columbia; five grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren.

alisonk@baltsun.com

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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