Scroll of Honor – Roy Sellars

Cold War Heats Up

Written by: Kelly Durham

The start of the Korean War in June 1950 caught the United States by surprise.  American forces were quickly pushed south, retreating to the “Pusan Perimeter,” the extreme southeastern corner of the Korean Peninsula.  From there, South Korean and American troops held out desperately while they awaited reinforcements.

In Washington, President Truman, fearing that Taiwan or even Japan might be the next objective of the Communist invaders, made the grave decision to transfer nuclear weapons from the United States to the Pacific island of Guam, that much closer to the battlefront.

Roy Sellars of Gaffney was an Air Force corporal.  He had attended Clemson for two years, from 1947 to 1949, and had been a member of the Cherokee County Club.  On August 5, 1950 he was assigned as the tail gunner of an Air Force B-29 Superfortress about to embark on a top-secret mission to transport a Mark 4 atomic bomb to Guam.  The core for the bomb would be flown separately.

The pilot for the mission was Air Force Captain Eugene Steffes.  Flying in the copilot seat and acting as mission command pilot was Brigadier General Robert Travis, a veteran of thirty-five combat missions over Nazi-occupied Europe during the previous war.  At 2200 Pacific Standard Time the B-29 with its ominous cargo was cleared for takeoff from runway 21 Left at Fairfield-Suisun Air Force Base near Sacramento, California.  Just prior to liftoff, the B-29’s number 2 engine malfunctioned.  Steffes ordered the propeller feathered and attempted to raise the landing gear to reduce drag and get the plane safely into the air, but the gear would not retract.

Faced with rising terrain ahead, Steffes rolled the lumbering aircraft into a 180-degree turn hoping to make it back for a landing at the base. According to the Air Force accident report, “Upon completion of the turn, the left wing became difficult to hold up.”  Steffes allowed the aircraft to slide to the left to avoid crashing into a trailer park, but by now the plane was only a few feet above the ground and a crash was imminent.  The B-29 hit the ground at a speed of approximately 120 miles per hour and slid through a field, caught on fire, and broke into pieces. The impact had warped the airframe such that some escape hatches were jammed and unusable.  The ten crew and passengers in the rear compartment of the big bomber suffered fatal injuries.

The Crash Site—notice the trailer park in the background.

Paul Ramoneda, a sergeant assigned to the Ninth Food Service Squadron, was one of the first to reach the aircraft.  He pulled Steffes from the cockpit.  Alerted by the noise of the crash, airmen and civilians converged on the accident scene to assist.  Flares and .50 caliber ammunition began to ignite in the burning wreckage making the scene even more hazardous.  Despite orders from the squadron commander to get away from the plane and let it burn, Ramoneda wrapped his baker’s apron around his head for protection and returned to the burning aircraft to search for more survivors.  At about that time, some twenty minutes after the crash, the high explosives contained in the Mark 4 detonated.  Ramoneda and five firefighters were killed.  General Travis was found nearby on the ground.

In addition to those killed in the crash, Sellars among them, the explosion claimed seven more lives while wounding 180 others, forty-nine of whom required hospitalization.  Travis too died from his injuries.  Fairfield-Suisun Air Force Base was renamed Travis Air Force Base in his memory.

Corporal Roy Sellars was survived by his parents, Mr. and Mrs. William H. Sellars of Gaffney. He is buried at Gaffney’s Oakland Cemetery.

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Crash site photo:

See also Command and Control, Eric Schlosser, Penguin Books, New York, NY, 2013

Scroll of Honor – John Dendy McBrearty

On His Way

Written by: Kelly Durham

John Dendy McBrearty was a young man on his way.  After graduating from high school in Pelzer in 1931, he enrolled at Clemson College as a general science/pre-medical major.  As a Clemson cadet he was promoted to corporal in H Company as a sophomore and served as a sergeant in I Company the following year.  He also served as a member of the Junior Council before transferring to the Medical College of South Carolina to continue his studies.

Following his June 1938 graduation from the Medical College, McBrearty interned at Greenville General Hospital where he endeared himself to the members of the staff by the faithful performance of his duties.  He joined the Medical Reserve Corps as soon as he was qualified.  McBrearty, a member of the Greenville County Medical Society, practiced medicine in Williamston for two-and-a-half years before being called to active duty.

McBrearty entered the Army and reported to Randolph Field near San Antonio, Texas in preparation to becoming an Army Air Force flight surgeon.  McBrearty was soon transferred to Tulane University in New Orleans and then was attached to the Anti-Submarine Command in New York.

On July 22, 1943, Captain McBrearty was flying with pilot Second Lieutenant Neal T. Bish on a routine training flight in a UC-78 Bobcat.  The Bamboo Bomber, as it was also known, featured wooden wings and tail surfaces, a welded steel-tube fuselage covered with a wooden and fabric skin, a single low wing, and two engines.  The aircraft was primarily used for personnel transportation, liaison and communications flights.

Bish’s and McBrearty’s aircraft was about twelve miles from Albany, New York when it encountered difficulties in a summer storm.  It crashed near Earlton, killing all on board.  The aircraft was destroyed by fire.

John Dendy McBrearty was survived by his wife, the former Sarah Hepburn of Florence, his mother, and a sister.  He is buried at Woodlawn Cemetery.

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Scroll of Honor – Alexander Fraser Henderson, Jr.

Deadliest Season
Written by: Kelly Durham

Clemson’s Scroll of Honor, which lists alumni who died while on military duty, includes four hundred ninety-three names reaching back to 1918 and the Great War, now better known as World War I. The list continues through the Twentieth Century and includes Clemson’s fallen from the Nicaraguan Campaign, Korea, Vietnam, and the Cold War. The Scroll also lists Clemson alumni who have fallen in this century’s War on Terror. The deadliest conflict was World War II, which claimed the lives three hundred seventy-four Clemson men, seventy-six percent of all those listed on the Scroll of Honor.

Alexander Fraser Henderson, Jr. is one of those World War II veterans. Henderson died in France on July 6, 1944, only a month after the D-Day landings began the liberation of western Europe. Henderson attended Clemson from 1934 to 1936 as a general science major in the Class of 1938. Born in Ehrhardt, Henderson also attended Davidson College.

After leaving school, Henderson worked as the assistant cashier at the Farmers and Merchants Bank in Walterboro before volunteering for Army service. Following his initial training, Henderson was stationed in Iceland, where the Army assigned him to the finance office. Apparently, Henderson wanted to make a greater contribution to the war effort, so he volunteered again, this time for the Infantry. He was ordered to Fort Benning, Georgia where he completed officers’ candidate school and earned his commission as a second lieutenant in early 1944.

As a freshly minted officer, Henderson shipped out to England, where he joined up with forces destined for the invasion of Europe. On July 6, Henderson was killed in action in France and buried at Blossville.

Henderson fell during what would become the deadliest season of the deadliest war for Clemson men. From the United States’ entry into the war through May 1944, one hundred thirty-nine Clemson alumni died on military duty—in training accidents, from illness, and in combat—an average of less than four per month.

Following the D-Day landings in June 1944, the casualty rates for the United States in general and Clemson men in particular soared. From D-Day until the end of the year, a period which included not only the liberation of France but the invasion of the Philippines and the Battle of the Bulge as well, Clemson men died at a rate of more than sixteen per month—a somber four-fold increase.

The dying would continue into 1945, but the rate of death would—mercifully—begin to decline, dropping to thirteen per month as first the Germans and then the Japanese were battered into surrender. Clemson’s last combat death of World War II occurred on September 1, 1945, the day before the formal surrender ceremony in Tokyo Bay that marked the formal end to a conflict that claimed more than fifty million lives worldwide.
Following the war, Henderson’s remains were returned to the United States and buried in Colleton County’s Live Oak Cemetery. He was survived by his parents, a brother and a sister.

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Scroll of Honor – Thomas Albert McTeer

Non-Battle Death

There were surely many ways to die in World War II.  The National World War II Museum estimates that sixty million died world-wide during the conflict, a staggering figure that includes forty-five million civilians.  The United States military recorded 416,800 deaths and while most of these were attributable to enemy action, a startling 83,400 fell into the category of  “nonbattle deaths.”

Thomas Albert McTeer of McClellanville was a member of Clemson’s Class of 1942—the first class to graduate following America’s entrance into the war.  McTeer was an honor student in civil engineering who served as vice president of the campus chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers.  He was a member of the Episcopal Student Association and marched with the Sophomore, Junior and Senior Platoons.  He completed ROTC summer training and qualified as an expert on the firing range.

The son of a Great War veteran, McTeer’s parents must have felt a mixture of pride and trepidation when their older son entered the Army following graduation.  Lieutenant McTeer trained at Camp Blanding, Florida and participated in maneuvers at Camp Edwards, Massachusetts before shipping overseas to North Africa in May 1943.

McTeer was assigned to the 111th Engineers Combat Battalion, a unit of the 36th Infantry Division.  The 36th was a Texas National Guard outfit called to federal service.

On June 25, 1943, McTeer died in North Africa of gunshot wounds.  He was awarded a Purple Heart, but the cause of his wounds is not known and his death was listed as “nonbattle.”  Nonbattle deaths included those resulting from vehicle accidents, airplane crashes, illness, disease, and other causes not occurring from enemy action.

Thomas Albert McTeer was buried in the North Africa American Cemetery and Memorial, Carthage, Tunisia.  He was survived by his parents and his younger brother.

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Scroll of Honor – Benjamin Robert Briggs

Stuck Throttle

The F-100 Super Sabre was the United States’ Air Force’s first fighter aircraft capable of supersonic speed in level flight.  Designed by North American Aviation, the F-100 served the Air Force from 1954 to 1971.  By the time Benjamin Robert Briggs departed Tucson, Arizona on a mission in June 1974, the Super Sabre had been relegated to Air National Guard units.

Briggs, of Greenville, attended Furman University and the Air Force Academy before enrolling at Clemson College.  He earned his mechanical engineering degree as a member of the Class of 1961.

In June 1974, while assigned to the 162nd Tactical Fighter Training Group of the Arizona Air National Guard, Major Briggs was ordered to fly a passenger to New Orleans, Louisiana.  Upon returning to his base at Tucson’s International Airport, Briggs was cleared by air traffic control for an enroute descent and was observed at an altitude of 31,000 feet forty-six nautical miles east of the field.  He followed vectors from Tucson Approach Control for a landing on runway 29-right.  Approach Control transferred Briggs to the Tucson Tower for landing instructions and clearance.  Briggs requested a straight-in approach to his landing runway rather than a time-consuming overhead entry into the airport’s traffic pattern.

Up until this point, the flight seems to have been routine, but then Briggs reported a “stuck throttle,” meaning that control of the F-100’s turbojet engine was problematic.  Apparently Briggs’s aircraft’s throttle was jammed at a low power setting because he reported that he might “land short.”  It is possible that Briggs was at this point either too low to eject or he was concerned about abandoning the aircraft in a populated area where there was increased danger to people on the ground.  Briggs’s F-100 crashed 5,430 feet from the approach end of the runway at 2012 hours Mountain Standard Time.

Major Briggs was buried at East Lawn Palms Cemetery in Tucson.

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Scroll of Honor – John Walker Stalnaker

Target Tokyo

The night was filled with the roar of more than two thousand powerful Wright-Cyclone 2,200 horsepower engines as the bombers lined up along the miles of Tinian’s taxiways.  Five hundred sixty-two B-29 Super Fortresses assigned to the mission would begin taking off at 2100 hours, turn north, and fly fourteen hundred miles above the trackless Pacific Ocean to strike the target: Tokyo.  Staff Sergeant John Walker Stalnaker of Ninety Six, a member of Clemson College’s interrupted Class of 1946, was the flight engineer on the B-29 nicknamed The Gamecock.

Stalnaker had enrolled at Clemson as an architecture major in the late summer of 1942.  The United States was already at war and rumors about the cadets’ futures ricocheted all around campus.  In the middle of the spring semester of 1943, the rumors were swept away by fact.  All underclassmen would be ordered to active duty at the end of the academic year.

Stalnaker found himself in the Army Air Force.  He trained on the most complex and expensive weapons system of World War II, the B-29 bomber, the development of which, at $3 billion, exceeded even the cost of the top-secret Manhattan Project with which it would soon be linked.  The B-29 had been engineered by Boeing to meet Army Air Force needs for a longer range bomber to cover the vast distances encountered in the Pacific Theater.  The aircraft was bigger, faster, could carry more bombs, and fly greater distances than the B-17s and B-24s used in Europe.  It combined a pressurized cabin with state-of-the art weapons systems, including a centrally-controlled gunnery system that allowed two men to operate four machine gun turrets.

The May 23, 1945 raid would feature the largest number of B-29s to take part in a single mission in the entire Pacific war.  Stalnaker’s B-29 was manned by a crew of eleven and was piloted by Second Lieutenant Robert T. Boggan.  Stalnaker’s position was directly behind the copilot in the aircraft’s forward compartment.  His job included the in-flight monitoring of the four sophisticated engines as well as all the other mechanical, hydraulic, and electrical systems on the aircraft.

The objective for the mission was Tokyo harbor.  The bombers would drop incendiary bombs from altitudes of eight to eleven thousand feet.  Arriving over the target from the west in the early hours of May 24, the bombers were greeted by an estimated one hundred fifty searchlights, a few enemy fighters, and intense anti-aircraft artillery fire.  In clear weather, with good visibility, many of the aircraft were struck and damaged by enemy fire.  Stalnaker’s bomber was one of these.

The Gamecock took a direct hit in its number four engine.  Boggan was unable to control the aircraft.  Three members of the crew—all gunners with duty positions farther to the rear of the aircraft—were able to bail out of the stricken bomber.  They were captured by the Japanese and spent the remaining three months of the war as POWs.  The other members of the crew, including Stalnaker, were killed.

After the war, Stalnaker’s remains were returned to the United States and reinterred at Elmwood Cemetery in Ninety Six.

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Clemson Alumnus Heads New US Space Force

The last time it happened was just two years after the end of World War II when President Harry Truman signed the National Security Act of 1947 creating a separate United States Air Force. Last December, President Trump signed the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act creating the United States Space Force, America’s first new military service in more than 70 years. What makes the event more historic is that a Clemson alumnus is the service’s first chief. General John W. “Jay” Raymond is the University’s highest-ranking alumnus and will be the first to serve as a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Raymond was an obvious choice as the first Chief of Space Operations. He previously served as commander of Air Force Space Command, Joint Force Space Component, and the United States Space Command. “The first decision the president made after establishing the Space Force was deciding who should be its first leader,” said Vice President Mike Pence prior to delivering the oath of office to Raymond. “I can tell you, he never hesitated. He knew right away there was no one more qualified or more prepared from a lifetime of service than General Jay Raymond to serve as the first leader of the Space Force.”

Raymond, the son of Barbara and John Raymond, grew up in Alexandria, Virginia. He graduated from Clemson with a Bachelor of Science degree in administrative management and was commissioned as an Air Force officer in 1984. Raymond earned Master’s Degrees in administrative management from Central Michigan University in 1990 and in National Security and Strategic Studies from the Naval War College in 2003. He also attended the Joint Forces Staff College.

As Chief of Space Operations, Raymond will be responsible for organizing, training, and equipping forces to protect US and allied interests in space and provide freedom of operations for the

United States in, from and to space. In establishing the new force, President Trump called for the United States to establish dominance in space.

Space is already of great importance to the US economy. From satellite-transmitted news, sports, and entertainment to the Global Positioning System, civilians as well as the military rely on space-based systems. A 2019 Pentagon report asserted that both China and Russia are attempting to develop technologies that could disrupt or even destroy US and allied satellites during a time of conflict or war. “We want to deter that conflict from happening,” Raymond said. “The best way I know how to do that is through a position of strength.”

Space Force joins the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard as the United States’ national defense forces. The new branch will fall under the administrative control of the Department of the Air Force, but is a co-equal branch alongside its more senior services.

Photo credits: US Space Force; Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead

Scroll of Honor – John Oscar Mauldin

Night Mission

It seems odd to drive through campus without seeing students. The University’s response to the Coronavirus pandemic has left campus and downtown Clemson with only a tiny fraction of its normal population. It is strange to note the absence of students on the grassy expanse of Bowman Field–strange, but not unprecedented.

In response to military manpower needs during World War II, practically all of Clemson’s cadets left campus in the spring of 1943 to report for active duty. That year’s graduating seniors, most of whom had earned Army commissions through ROTC, reported as second lieutenants. Members of the Class of 1944, like John Oscar Mauldin of Greenville, reported for basic training.

Mauldin was a mechanical engineering major from Greenville, where his father, McHardy, had served as mayor. The younger Mauldin had marched and played in Tiger Band and had been a member of the Dance Association. Like many other Clemson men, Mauldin volunteered for the Army Air Force.

He earned his navigator’s wings in early September 1944 and then was ordered to report to the 422nd Base Unit at Tonopah Army Airfield in the Nevada desert. Tonopah was used as a training base for B-24 heavy bombers and their crews.

On October 25, 1944, Flight Officer Mauldin was assigned as the navigator on a night training mission piloted by Second Lieutenant Henry Rogers. At an altitude of 20,000 feet, one of the outboard engines began to overheat, so Rogers feathered it in an attempt to cool it off. According to the official crash report, the aircraft then became “hard to control” so Rogers feathered the other outboard engine as well. With two engines feathered, the aircraft could not maintain altitude.

Rogers reported an emergency and proceeded to descend over the airfield, but his attempts to unfeather his outboard engines were unsuccessful and the aircraft lost altitude so quickly that he was unable to turn on his final approach to the runway. Instead, Rogers straightened his glide

and attempted a crash landing. Rogers, his copilot, radio operator, and one gunner survived the crash with injuries. Mauldin and four others were killed. He was twenty-one years old.

Mauldin was survived by his mother. His body was returned to Greenville and was buried at Springwood Cemetery.

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Scroll of Honor – Guy Webb

Bloodiest Battle

In With the Old Breed, his classic memoir of combat in the Pacific Theater of World War II, Eugene Sledge described the feelings of “utter helplessness” when enduring enemy shellfire on Okinawa. Guy Robert Webb, Jr. of Saluda was plunged into the muddy and bloody battle of Okinawa as an officer in the 77th Infantry Division.

Guy Webb graduated from Clemson with a degree in civil engineering in 1941 and took a position with the South Carolina Highway Department.  That job didn’t last long. Following the Pearl Harbor attack, Webb was ordered to active duty in 1942.

Webb was assigned to the 77th Infantry Division which was activated at Fort Jackson in March 1942.  Two years later, the division set sail for Hawaii to join the assault on the Japanese Empire.

That fall, Webb and the 77th landed on Leyte Island in the Philippines as General MacArthur made good his pledge to return to the beleaguered archipelago.  In combat on Leyte, Webb was awarded the Bronze Star medal.

In keeping with MacArthur’s island-hopping strategy, the 77th’s next campaign was in the Ryukyu Islands, the largest of which was Okinawa.  US planners had targeted the island for the construction of airfields from which land-based Army Air Forces planes would be able to support the anticipated invasion of the Japanese home islands.

The landings on the island occurred on the quixotic convergence of Easter Sunday and April Fool’s Day in 1945.  This largest amphibious operation of the Pacific War was initially unopposed by the Japanese who hoped to lure the Americans into a campaign so costly that US leaders would seek a negotiated settlement to a war the Japanese were clearly losing.

On May 1, the 77th moved into the line to replace the exhausted 96th Infantry Division.  The 77th joined the 1st Marine Division in attacking the Shuri Heights a ridgeline which the Japanese defenders had fortified with concealed artillery, mortar and machine gun firing positions.  On May 5, Captain Guy Webb was killed when a Japanese artillery shell scored a direct hit on his fox hole.

Japan’s Okinawa strategy was partially successful.  By the time the campaign ended on June 22, it had become the bloodiest battle of the Pacific War, resulting in more than 240,000 deaths including nearly half of the island’s prewar civilian population and more than 14,000 American soldiers and Marines.  But rather than pursuing peace talks, the Americans remained committed to forcing the Japanese into the unconditional surrender demanded by the late President Franklin Roosevelt.

Guy Webb was survived by his wife, the former Lucille Hope, his parents, two brothers, and a sister.  In 1949, his remains were returned to the United States and buried at Travis Park Cemetery in Saluda.

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Scroll of Honor – Walter Bennett and Marion Innis Jenkins

Scroll Shared History

They were born two months apart in late 1918, studied agriculture, marched across campus in the same parades, graduated as members of the Class of 1941, and on a dark night in April 1945, ended up sharing a foxhole.

Walter Bennett graduated from Orangeburg High School in 1936, completed a business course the


following year and then enrolled at Clemson College.   A member of the cadet band, Bennett was a vocational education major and a member of the campus chapter of Future Farmers of America.  He participated in the Calhoun Forensic Society, the Tri-County Club and the Orangeburg County Club.  In the summer of 1940, Bennett and many of his classmates attended ROTC Camp at Fort McClellan, Alabama.  As a senior, Bennett served as a cadet second lieutenant.

Marion Innis Jenkins of Yonges Island attended public schools in Meggett before enrolling in Greenwood’s Bailey Military Institute.  As a Clemson cadet, he majored in animal husbandry and served as president of the Animal Husbandry Club.  He was a member of the rifle team and served as president of the Episcopal Students Association and the Block and Bridle Club.  Like Bennett, he attended ROTC training at Fort McClellan.  Jenkins was an editor for Agrarian, the campus agriculture publication and was a cadet first lieutenant as a senior.

Both newly commissioned alumni reported for active duty with the Army shortly after graduation.  Both were eventually assigned to the 307th Infantry Regiment of the 77th Infantry Division, an old New York National Guard unit reactivated in March 1942 at Fort Jackson.


After months of organization and training, the 77th, also known as the Liberty Division, landed in Hawaii on March 31, 1944.  Here the division practiced amphibious operations and jungle warfare.  In July, elements of the division took part in the assault landing on Guam.  By early August, Guam was secured, but the 77th was afforded little time to rest.  The division landed on the east coast of Leyte, the Philippines on November 23 and was attached to the XXIV Corps.  In action against the Japanese on Leyte, Bennett, now a captain, was awarded the Bronze Star for heroism.  The 77th remained in the Philippines until February 1945 when it was pulled out to prepare for the next major US invasion—Okinawa.

When US Army and Marine divisions landed on Okinawa on April 1, 1945—Easter Sunday—they kicked off what would become the bloodiest battle of the Pacific War.  The 77th did not participate in the initial landings, but remained at sea, suffering from intensified Japanese kamikaze attacks.  On April 16, the 77th landed on the island of Ie Shima, northeast of Okinawa’s Motobu Peninsula, to seize a Japanese airfield and key terrain.  The ensuing fighting was bitter as the Japanese defenders were committed to fighting to the death.

On Wednesday, April 18, a Japanese sniper killed famed war correspondent Ernie Pyle who was covering the 77th’s campaign.  Then came the night of April 19.  It was the “worst night of my life,” remembered A. J. Tiffany, a mortar man in Captain Bennett’s H Company.  “We were so close to the front lines we had our mortars pointing almost straight up.”  Tiffany recalls that Bennett and Jenkins were huddled together in the same foxhole.  A Japanese shell scored a direct hit.  “I was only a few yards from them when they were killed… both officers were very well liked…”

Both were posthumously awarded the Purple Heart.

Captain Walter Bennett was survived by mother and brother.  He is buried in Orangeburg’s Sunnyside Cemetery.

First Lieutenant Marion Innis Jenkins was survived by his parents, a sister, and brother who was then serving in the Army in India.  He is buried at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church Cemetery in Yonges Island.

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