Scroll of Honor – Ralph Buel Bradshaw

To Them We Owe Everything

Written by: Kelly Durham

Ralph Buel Bradshaw came to Clemson in the late summer of 1938 from his hometown of Cartersville, Georgia. Like many of the other boys in the Class of 1942, Bradshaw was an agriculture major.  He remained at Clemson only for his freshman year and then returned to Cartersville and took a job processing dairy products.

In August 1941, Bradshaw left Cartersville with his friend Arthur Rhodes.  The two men enlisted in the Army, reporting first to Fort McPherson south of Atlanta and then being ordered to Jefferson Barracks, Missouri for basic training.  From Missouri the pair next headed to Las Vegas.  Rhodes would remain there, training to become a mess sergeant.  Bradshaw volunteered for the Army Air Forces and was posted as an air cadet to Gardner Field at Taft, California.  Bradshaw married Sara Frances Moss of Los Angeles on July 1, 1942.  He was commissioned as a second lieutenant on July 28, 1943.  He would subsequently train at Luke Field in Phoenix, Arizona and at Santa Clara, California before returning to Georgia and completing his Stateside training at Waycross.

In July 1944, Second Lieutenant Bradshaw was assigned to the 65th Fighter Squadron which was part of the 12th Air Force operating from airfields on Corsica, the large island west of Italy’s Tyrrhenian Sea coast.  Flying P-47 Thunderbolt fighters, the 65th carried out a variety of missions including interdiction of railroads, communications targets, and motor convoys behind enemy lines. The P-47 was a rugged and versatile aircraft which was employed in both dive bombing and strafing missions. The squadron also supported the Allied invasion of Southern France in August 1944.

In September, the squadron relocated its base of operations to the Italian mainland, flying missions from Grosseto, about one hundred miles northwest of Rome.  In a letter home, Bradshaw recounted a mission on which his aircraft had malfunctioned.  From a high altitude, he glided to a forced landing in a forest and was able to rejoin his outfit later that same day.  Letters went in both directions, of course, and Bradshaw was anticipating the one from the States that would announce the arrival of the baby Sara was carrying.

Even though Rome had been liberated in June and the Allies were advancing on practically every front, German resistance in northern Italy remained determined.  The 65th’s aircraft continued to attack enemy targets in an effort to disrupt resupply and reinforcements.

On November 22, Bradshaw was assigned to fly an eight-aircraft mission to attack railroad facilities in northern Italy’s Po River Valley.  At about 1300 hours, Bradshaw pushed the stick of his P-47 forward, launching the aircraft into a steep dive.  Second Lieutenant Sylvester Hendricks was flying as Bradshaw’s wingman.

As we peeled off into our dive-bombing run, I followed Lt. Bradshaw down and saw him make about a 45 degree dive.  He went very low and got a direct hit on the track.  I saw him pull out in a very shallow pull-out straight ahead.  As his bombs exploded, I saw parts fly off his airplane.  It looked like about four or five feet of his left wing blew off.  His aircraft did two sort of rolling tumbles to the right and started to burn badly before it hit the ground.  His aircraft hit the ground about one quarter of a mile past his bomb hit.  The ship did not explode but it was almost completely in flames.  I did not see the pilot get out and I believe it was impossible for him to do so.

Although Bradshaw was officially listed as Missing In Action, Hendricks’ judgment proved correct.  In a letter written three days after the crash, squadron commander Gilbert Wymond attempted to console Bradshaw’s father. “I know that Brad never even knew what happened as a concussion great enough to tear off a wing would positively knock the pilot out.”

Brad participated in thirty-eight missions and he inflicted heavy damage on the enemy. He was developing into a superb leader. I have seen many pilots come and go through the squadron, but none that I had more confidence in or showed more promise than Brad. … We know the anguish that is in your hearts and each and every one of us extend our deepest sympathy. Guys like Brad are saving our heritage for us; to them we owe everything.

Although “special efforts” had been made to inform Bradshaw of his daughter’s birth on November 7, a letter written by him to Sara on the night before his final mission advised that he had not yet heard the news he was so anxiously awaiting.

First Lieutenant Bradshaw was survived by his wife Sara and their fifteen-day-old daughter, Rita Sue.  He was also survived by his parents, a sister and brother.  Bradshaw was awarded the Air Medal and the Purple Heart.  His body was recovered and initially buried in a civilian cemetery in Villa Poma, Italy.  In 1949, Bradshaw’s remains were returned the United States and buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

For more information on Ralph Buel Bradshaw see:

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P-47 photo courtesy the Imperial War Museum,

Scroll of Honor – Horace Hagood Young, Jr.


Written by: Kelly Durham

The first American ground forces to go into battle in the European Theater during World War II fought not the Germans, not the Italians, but America’s oldest ally.  Clemson alumnus Horace Hagood Young, Jr. Class of 1942, was a member of the 6th Armored Infantry Regiment that stormed the North African port of Oran in the early morning hours of November 8, 1942.

Young grew up in Fairfax, graduating from high school there before enrolling at Clemson for the 1938-39 academic year.  He was a cadet private in Company E majoring in general science.  He did not return to campus for his sophomore year.  Instead, he took a position with Thomas and Howard Company, a grocery supply business in Allendale.

It is unclear when Young began his military service, whether he volunteered or was drafted.  By September 1942, he had completed his basic training and was a member of the 6th Armored Infantry Regiment, a storied unit that traced its lineage all the way back to 1789.  The regiment was now part of the new 1st Armored Division.  That September, the division left Fort Knox, Kentucky on its way overseas to Northern Ireland.  Young and his comrades conducted additional training in the United Kingdom, but they didn’t remain there long. They were destined to take part in the first major Anglo-American invasion of the war, Operation TORCH, to seize French North Africa.

RESERVIST was the code name given the Allies’ attempt to seize intact the port of Oran on the Mediterranean coast of French Algeria.  It was timed to coincide with supporting Allied landings at Algiers to the east and on the Atlantic coast of French Morocco to the west.  RESERVIST was a British plan and was commanded by Royal Navy Captain Frederick Thornton Peters.  The French regard for their erstwhile British allies had been shattered by the Royal Navy’s attack on the French fleet at Mers-el-Kebir, Algeria shortly after the French signed the armistice with Nazi Germany in  June 1940.  The British, fearful that the powerful fleet of their former ally would be turned over to the Germans, had attacked and sunk the French ships at the moorings.  For that reason, American troops were designated to lead the assault on Oran.  It was hoped that the French would give a friendlier welcome to Americans, that they might even refuse to fire.  To increase the chances of  such a reception, the American soldiers would be transported aboard two Great Lakes Coast Guard cutters which had been transferred to the Royal Navy under the Lend Lease program.  The two cutters, now under British command, had been renamed HMS Walney and HMS Hartland, but for this mission would fly large American flags.  The problem was that the invasion was scheduled to commence in the dark of night.  As British prime minister Winston Churchill warned, “In the night, all cats are grey.”

The other problem was that the British had already proven the folly of a frontal assault on a defended harbor.  The August raid on the French port of Dieppe had cost more than 3,500 Allied casualties, most of them Canadian.  Objections to the plan came from American flag officers in both the Army and Navy, led by Rear Admiral Andrew Bennett, the senior American officer in the Oran task force.  Bennett protested to General Eisenhower, Allied commander, that the plan was “suicidal and absolutely unsound.”  Despite these objections, Eisenhower supported the British scheme to seize Oran’s harbor before the French could sabotage it and render it unusable.

Walney and Hartland steamed out of Gibraltar on the night of November 7, so overloaded by the contingent of American soldiers that the ships wobbled badly across the sea.  At 0300 on November 8, the ships attempted to enter Oran’s harbor while broadcasting “Ne tirez pas.  Nous sommes vos amis”—“Do not shoot.  We are your friends.”  It didn’t work.

As Hartland attempted to ram its way through the double boom protecting the harbor, French shore batteries opened fire.  They were soon joined by French warships inside the port.  By 0400, both Hartland and Walney were sinking.  Casualties aboard the two ships topped ninety percent, a grisly score even more hideous than Dieppe’s.  The first major American casualties of the war in the European Theater came not at the hands of the hated Germans or the ridiculed Italians, but from the French, the first country to come to the aid of the newly independent United States in 1777.

Horace Hagood Young died on November 8, 1942.  He was awarded the Purple Heart and was survived by his mother.  He is memorialized at the North Africa American Military Cemetery in Carthage, Tunisia.

By November 10, through diplomatic negotiations, the Allies induced the French to cease all resistance.  Eisenhower, in a private meeting with the British and American chiefs of staff, took responsibility for the disaster at Oran.  As historian Rick Atkinson writes, “No consequence attended the gesture.”

For more information about Private Horace Hagood Young, Jr. see:

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For a history of Operation RESERVIST see An Army at Dawn: The War in North Africa, 1942-1943, by Rick Atkinson, Henry Holt and Company, 2002.

Scroll of Honor – Robert Lee Atkinson


Written by: Kelly Durham

COVID-19 is not the first pandemic to make an appearance on the Clemson campus.  Just over a hundred years ago, the Spanish Flu spread to the small college in the South Carolina Foothills with a far more deadly effect.

Robert Lee Atkinson of Chester was a member of the Clemson College Class of 1919.  As a cadet, he participated in the Columbian Literary Society, Clemson Agricultural Society, and the Agricultural Journal.  Atkinson had arrived on campus in 1916, while war was raging in faraway Europe.  With America’s declaration of war in April 1917, many Clemson cadets turned their attentions to participating in what would come to be known as the Great War.  In 1918, the autumn of his senior year, Atkinson volunteered for the new Student Army Training Corps, a War Department program created to encourage young men to pursue a college education while simultaneously training for military service.

Clemson was one of the many land grant colleges to participate in the Student Army Training Corps which brought young men to campus who were not necessarily Clemson students.  Regardless of whether the participants were Clemson cadets or came from other backgrounds, all SATC participants were enlisted as Army privates.

The SATC offered two sections.  The A, or Collegiate section, was an accelerated officer preparation program which trained and commissioned candidates over a three-month period.  The B, or Vocational section, focused on training mechanics, blacksmiths, wheelwrights, carpenters, radio operators, topographical draftsmen, and other critical skills needed in the support troops.

Just as the Great War hastened the establishment of the SATC, it also facilitated the spread of the Spanish Flu.  Merchant mariners, soldiers, and support personnel sailing back and forth to Europe, helped the disease proliferate.  Eventually, it would infect 500 million people, a third of the world’s population at the time.  In 1918, it reached Clemson.

Young men living in the close confines of barracks life precipitated the spread of the influenza.  School officials considered closing the college, but feared that sending the boys home to all parts of the state would simply extend the reach of the disease.  Instead, they responded by turning Barracks One into a sick ward and isolating the most serious cases in the Main Building’s college chapel and the upper floors of the Textiles Building.

Atkinson was one of the boys among the severely afflicted.  After several days, his influenza developed into pneumonia and his mother was called to his bedside.  According to the full-page eulogy in the 1919 edition of Taps, Atkinson fought a brave fight for more than a week, facing “Death with a smile always on his face.”  He passed away on Sunday, October 20, 1918.  The war ended the following month with the November 11 Armistice and the SATC was disbanded before the end of the year.

Atkinson was buried in the Armenia United Methodist Church Cemetery in Chester.

For more information about Robert Lee Atkinson see:

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Scroll of Honor – D.J. Ross ’41

A Life of Service and Promise

Written by: Kelly Durham

Dewitt Javan Ross was arguably the outstanding member of an outstanding class, the Class of 1941.  Its ranks included not only campus leaders, but also men who would rise to high military rank in the coming World War and those who would go on to great success in business once peace returned.

“De” Ross came to Clemson from West Columbia and majored in textile engineering.  An outstanding student, he was selected as a member of the textile engineering honor society Phi Psi, as well as Phi Kappa Phi, the national scholarship honor society.  De was awarded the National Textile Association’s bronze medal as a senior.  He was recognized by his classmates as a leader, someone who, according to the 1941 Taps, could be counted on to handle problems arising from student activities.

Ross served across campus in a variety of leadership roles, from the Baptist Student Union, where he was elected vice president, to the Senior Council, and the YMCA Council.  He was a member of Blue Key and Tiger Brotherhood and served as a Commencement Marshal.

On a campus dominated by military routines, Ross may have shown most brightly in his performance as a cadet.

Cadet Colonel Ross pins silver eagles to the shoulders of Colonel H. M. Pool, Clemson’s military commandant.

As a senior, he was named the commander of Clemson’s Cadet Brigade, with the rank of cadet colonel.  He was a member of the Senior Platoon, as one of the best-drilled cadets in his class.  He marched with the Pershing Rifles and was tapped for membership in Scabbard and Blade, the military honor society.

Following his graduation, Ross reported for active duty as a second lieutenant in the Army of the United States in September 1941.  The war in Europe was threatening to spread into the Western Hemisphere with US Navy destroyers now escorting merchant convoys into the North Atlantic—and facing off against German U-boats.

Ross was assigned to the 8th Infantry Regiment of the 4th Infantry Division.  In the fall of 1941, the Army, mindful that war with Germany seemed likely, was engaged in an unprecedented expansion.  The 4th Infantry Division participated in the Carolina Maneuvers, large-scale exercises in October.  Training continued after the United States was attacked and formally entered the war in December.  The division moved to Camp Gordon, Georgia that same month.  The summer of 1942 found it back in the Carolinas for another round of maneuvers before relocating to Fort Dix, New Jersey in April 1943.  In September, the division was transported to Florida’s Camp Gordon Johnston for amphibious training.

By this time, Captain Ross was serving as the adjutant to Colonel James Van Fleet, commanding officer of the 8th Infantry Regiment.  As adjutant, Ross assisted Van Fleet with the regiment’s administrative matters, to include personnel.

On Monday, November 8, 1943, Van Fleet and his staff, including Captain Ross, took a break from their arduous training.  The men relaxed at a swimming party at a river near Apalachicola on the coast of the Florida panhandle.  During the party, Dewitt Ross drowned, cutting short a life of service and promise.

Dewitt Ross was survived by his parents, sister, and brother, a member of the Naval Reserve then attending the Medical College of South Carolina.  He was buried at the West Columbia Baptist Church.  The honorary pall bearers included Dr. Robert Franklin Poole, president of Clemson College.

For more information about Dewitt Javan Ross see:

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Scroll of Honor – Henry Kent Segars

Squadron Commander

Written by: Kelly Durham

It was the largest airborne operation of World War II, in fact the largest in history.  Operation Market-Garden’s objective was to drop American, British, and Polish paratroopers into Holland to seize key bridges leading up to the Rhine River bridge in the Dutch city of Arnhem.  Ground forces under the command of Field Marshall Montgomery were to cross the bridges and drive into Germany.  It was September 1944 and Major Henry Kent Segars, accustomed to autumn action, was a squadron commander helping resupply the paratroopers until ground forces could link up with them.

Segars, a member of Clemson’s Class of 1937 from Hartsville, played many fall football games for head coach Jess Neely’s Tiger teams. His senior season, the Tigers recorded five wins and five losses, including a 19-0 Big Thursday win over South Carolina.  Segars, playing at 180 pounds, was a lineman nicknamed “Sac.”  Segars also ran track for the Tigers and was a member of the Block C Club.  An animal husbandry major, Segars served as the commander of Company B, 1st Battalion, 1st Regiment in the Clemson ROTC Brigade.

Segars entered the Army as a second lieutenant at Fort Benning, Georgia but transferred into the Army Air Force.  He earned his pilot’s wings at Kelly Field, near San Antonio, Texas in 1942.  He was assigned to the 330th Bomb Squadron of the 93rd Bomb Group.

The 330th flew antisubmarine patrols above the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea until its deployment to the European Theater of Operations in late 1942.  It was one of the initial heavy bomber squadrons assigned to the Eighth Air Force and began flying missions that autumn.  In support of the Allies’ November invasion of North Africa, the squadron was transferred to IX Bomber Command and operated from airfields in Libya and Tunisia, attacking enemy targets in Italy and the southern Balkans.  It also flew tactical missions against Afrika Korps defensive positions in support of the British Eighth Army’s 1943 offensive.  The squadron then returned to England and resumed flying strategic bombardment missions over occupied Europe and Germany.

By September 1944, Segars had advanced to the rank of major and was the commander of the 330th.   Operation Market-Garden kicked off on September 17, but the operation was so massive that there was not sufficient airlift available to carry all of the airborne units to their drop zones in one day.  On September 18, the airdrops resumed, and not just the dropping of paratroopers, but aerial resupply to airborne units dropped into action the previous day.  The 330th, normally accustomed to dropping high explosive and incendiary bombs on its targets, was now pressed into service to deliver ammunition, rations, and other supplies to the lightly equipped paratroopers of the 101st Airborne Division already engaged in difficult fighting in the vicinity of Eindhoven.

Fog over east England delayed the September 18 resupply mission for several hours.  Two hundred forty-eight B-24s, including aircraft from the 330th, finally launched to deliver supplies to the Allied paratroopers.  Major Segars, as squadron commander, flew from the copilot’s seat of a B-24J nicknamed Sweet Chariot, piloted by Captain John Geer.  Segars’s job was to lead the squadron’s mission while Geer flew the airplane.  By this point in the war, the German Luftwaffe had largely been suppressed and enemy fighters were not much in evidence over Holland.  But alert German ground forces were battling fiercely and anti-aircraft fire was intense.  The bombers approached their resupply drop zones flying low and slow, making them easier targets for enemy gunners.  Seven B-24s were shot down and six more damaged beyond repair.  One hundred fifty-four out of 248 B-24s sustained damage.

Sweet Chariot was hit by enemy ground fire and set ablaze.  It was able to clear the Dutch coast, but went down in the North Sea.  Eight crew members were declared missing in action, including Segars.  Three others were rescued.

Segars, who had been overseas for nineteen months, was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Air Medal with two Oak Leaf Clusters, and the Purple Heart.  He was survived by his parents and brother.



For more information about Henry Kent Segars see:

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The photograph of Sweet Chariot above is courtesy of the Imperial War Museum,

Scroll of Honor – Frank Pierce Salter

A New Kind of War

Written by: Kelly Durham

It was a new kind of war, one in which men soared above the battle lines in machines that few had ever seen and in which fewer still had ridden.  Heavier-than-air airplanes, which had not existed at all at the turn of the century, were now helping generals see beyond the horizon and were increasingly being used as aerial weapons to deliver death from above.  The United States had been slow to enter the Great War, joining Great Britain and France only in 1917.  It had also been slow to develop its own air power. When Congress declared war that April, the Army’s air power consisted of a small section within the Signal Corps composed of only twenty-six pilots.  Within months of America’s entrance into the war, Congress authorized $640 million, the largest appropriation in its history, for the construction of an air force.  Of course, all of these new  airplanes would need pilots.  That’s where Frank Salter would come in.

Frank Pierce Salter came to Clemson Agricultural College from the tiny crossroads of Trenton in Edgefield County.  Salter was a Chemistry major and was a member of the Dancing Club, Tennis Club, and Chemical Club.  He graduated in 1914.

Salter took a job as chief chemist for Buckeye Cotton Oil Company.  When America entered the war, Salter left his job and enlisted in the Army. By September 1918 he was training to be an Army pilot at Rich Field in Waco, Texas.  In a sign of the times, Salter, though only a private first class in rank, was a cadet pilot learning his new craft in a Curtiss JN-4 biplane.  Salter had already completed ten hours of solo flying when he took off for a training flight on September 12, 1918.  One of his objectives on this flight was to practice spin recovery.  Unfortunately, on this warm and pleasant evening, Salter’s wasn’t the only airplane in the sky over Rich Field.  Cadet Frank Oliver was also in the air, also flying a Curtiss biplane and, like Salter, also practicing spins.

At approximately 6:10 p.m., both cadets put their aircraft into spins, Salter spinning to the left and Oliver to the right—apparently contrary to instructions given him on the ground.  Neither pilot saw the other as the angles of their wings obstructed their vision.  The two airplanes collided in mid-air and plummeted to the ground.  Oliver was killed and Salter seriously injured. He died a short time later.

The board of officers investigating the accident judged it to have been avoidable and noted that Oliver’s spin to the right was “in disobedience to instructions.” But the board stopped short of pinning the blame for the tragedy on Oliver, saying “that it was impossible to determine if disobedience was willful or due to some necessity.”

Salter’s body was returned to Trenton and buried with full honors.  He was survived by his parents, three sisters, and two brothers, one fighting in France, the other a midshipman at Annapolis.

For more information on Frank Pierce Salter see:

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Scroll of Honor – Daniel Gardner McCollum

The Global War on Terror

Written by: Kelly Durham

Most current Clemson students hadn’t been born, but those of a certain age will never forget September 11, 2001.  It was one of those days, like December 7, 1941 and November 22, 1963, that marked a generation and changed the way we look at our world.  As the twentieth anniversary of that horrible day approaches, it is fitting that we remember Daniel Gardner McCollum, the first Clemson alumnus to fall in the Global War on Terror.

McCollum came to Clemson from Irmo and majored in mechanical engineering.  He joined the Marine Corps Platoon Leaders Course in 1993 while he was still a student.  According to friends, Dan McCollum dreamed from an early age of learning to fly.  While at Clemson, he joined the Dixie Skydivers and could frequently be found at Oconee County Airport which sits on a plateau across the Seneca River from campus.  Acquaintances, from friends to professors, described him as a nice guy, someone who was easy to get along with.  Following his 1996 graduation and commissioning as a Marine Corps Second Lieutenant, McCollum attended flight school.

By the summer of 2001, Captain McCollum was assigned to Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron 352 based at the Marine Corps Air Station in Miramar, California.  Following the September 11 attacks, McCollum’s squadron was deployed in support of Operation ENDURING FREEDOM, the United States’ official name for the War on Terror.  ENDURING FREEDOM included airstrikes targeting Al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan.

On January 9, 2002, Captain McCollum was copiloting a resupply flight originating in Jacobabad a small city just above sea level some three hundred miles north of Karachi, Pakistan.  The flight was bound for Shamsi Airfield, a desert runway not quite two hundred miles to the east.  Stretching between Jacobabad and Shamsi was a mountain range rising up more than four thousand feet.  To add to the challenge of this winter night’s flight, Shamsi airfield sits in a barren desert, nestled between two rocky ridges.

As McCollum’s KC-130R aerial refueling tanker approached Shamsi from the west, its crew requested clearance to land on a runway normally used for departing flights.  Air traffic control denied the request in order to reduce aircraft noise over the nearby town.  McCollum’s aircraft had to circle to reposition itself for an approach to the inbound runway.  It was now dark on a no moon night.  The airfield was not equipped with radar or navigational aids and only expeditionary lights were in place to illuminate the runway.

Compounding the relatively primitive facilities at this airfield, just over a hundred miles south of the Afghan border, was the absence of any night vision equipment onboard the airplane.  None of the Marine Corps KC-130s in the theater was equipped with night vision capabilities, flight planning software, or global positioning systems.  As the flight crew attempted to line up their aircraft for its approach, they were flying in combat conditions utilizing their onboard flight instruments.

Due to the airfield’s precarious position between the two ridges, aircraft on approach to Shamsi must maintain an altitude of seven thousand feet for maneuvering and five thousand, six hundred feet from which to commence final landing approach.  Witnesses said McCollum’s plane circled twice in attempting to land.  The aircraft then crashed into the side of a ridge and exploded. McCollum and the six other members of the tanker’s crew were killed in the crash.

Post-crash investigations revealed that the KC-130 hit the ridge at three thousand, eight hundred feet, well below the minimum safe altitude.  Investigators opined that just two hundred more feet of altitude would have enabled the plane to clear the mountain and continue its approach. In response to the tragedy, the Marines began retrofitting KC-130s with night vision landing equipment.

The reputations of the crew members, “all seven of them,” said squadron commander Lieutenant Colonel Carl Parker, “were stellar.” “All of our service members have made great sacrifices to take the fight to the enemy a long way from America’s shores.”  Parker’s comments are a reminder that the freedoms and security we take for granted are purchased only by sacrifice, not just by service members, but by their families.

McCollum’s wife, Clemson alumna Jennifer Harkey McCollum, was then six months pregnant.  Their son, Daniel Gardner McCollum, Jr. was born in the summer of 2002.

McCollum’s remains were interred at Arlington National Cemetery along with those of his crewmates.  There is also a memorial marker to him at Bush River Memorial Gardens in Columbia.

For additional information about Daniel Gardner McCollum see:

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Scroll of Honor – Stuart Star Abell, Jr.

Engine Failure

Written by: Kelly Durham

Stuart Star Abell, Jr. came to Clemson in 1936 from the Chester County crossroads of Lowrys.  A member of the Class of 1940, Abell attended Clemson for two years and majored in agriculture.

By the summer of 1943, with the world at war, Abell had entered military service, volunteered for the Army Air Force, and earned both his pilot’s wings and a second lieutenant’s commission.

In this era of a small, all-volunteer military, it is challenging to imagine the size and scale of the United States military that in mid-1943 was still growing at a rapid pace.  New Army and Marine divisions were being activated, manned, and trained in preparation for the invasions still to come in both the Pacific and European theaters.  Factories and shipyards were turning out tanks, ships, and aircraft at a previously unimagined rate.  Training commands were tasked with preparing the young warriors who would ride these conveyances into battle.

Abell in that summer of 1943 was assigned to the 6th Squadron, 2nd Air Force based at Gowen Field near Boise, Idaho.  Army Air Force training was gradually shifting.  The activation of new bombardment groups and squadrons was slowing down, as more groups were being deployed to combat theaters.  The need now was to train replacement pilots and aircrew members to replace combat losses.  Airmen trained at Gowen would be shipped into existing bombardment groups in Europe or the Pacific after they completed their training on the types of aircraft they would crew in combat operations.

On the afternoon of August 16, 1943, Abell was assigned as the copilot on a B-24E Liberator heavy bomber piloted by Second Lieutenant John W. Erb.  The afternoon mission was a routine gunnery training flight.  Five members of the ten-man crew of the big bomber manned fifty-caliber machine guns with which to protect their ship from enemy fighters.  This would be another opportunity for these aerial gunners to hone their skills.

The B-24 took off from runway 28E at 1639 hours in what at first appeared to be a normal takeoff.  The landing gear was retracted and at about 600 feet above the ground the airplane began to slowly bank to the left.  The bank quickly developed into a tight spiral as the airplane lost altitude and struck the ground nose-first.

The post-crash investigation revealed the pilot or copilot may have let the RPM on engines “#1 and #2 get too low when decreasing power after takeoff. As a result, it is possible that engine failure was encountered or that the pilot became confused and feathered #2 engine.  In any event, the loss of power in #1 and #2 engines appears to have caused the ship to crash.”  All ten aboard the aircraft were killed.

Abell was survived by his parents, a sister, and a brother.  His remains were returned to Lowrys where he was buried at Zion Presbyterian Church Cemetery.

For more information on Second Lieutenant Stuart Star Abell, Jr. see:

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Scroll of Honor – James Tinsley Whitney

Recapturing Guam

Written by: Kelly Durham

Perhaps James Tinsley Whitney knew about Guam from his classes at Union High School.  Maybe he had read about the island’s seaplane base serving the famous clippers of Pan-American World Airways. Even if he had, it is unlikely that Whitney would have linked his future to that far away island in the western Pacific.

Whitney, a member of Clemson’s Class of 1939, was an industrial education major from Union.  He played football as a freshman and was a member of the Block C Club.  He served on the YMCA Council, was an officer in the Union-Clemson Club, and marched with the Sophomore, Junior and Senior Platoons as one of the best-drilled cadets in his class.

Following graduation, Whitney took a job as the shop instructor at Walterboro High School, where he soon noticed the school’s music teacher, Dorothy Mae Graham.  Whitney, who had completed ROTC training at Clemson, entered the Army on March 5, 1942.  In June, he and Dorothy were married.

Lieutenant Whitney was assigned to the 307th Infantry Regiment of the 77th Infantry Division.  The division trained in the States for nearly two years before shipping out for Hawaii in February 1944.  In Hawaii, the division trained for amphibious operations and jungle warfare until early July when it departed for Guam.

Guam, the largest of the Mariana Islands in the western Pacific, had been a territory of the United States since its brief war with Spain in 1898.  The Navy exercised administrative control over the island, which included a refueling station for merchant and warships traveling to and from the Philippines, a Navy yard, and a Marine Corps barracks.  In addition, a trans-Pacific cable communications station was established on Guam along with Pan-American’s seaplane facility.  On December 10, 1941, following the daring attack on Pearl Harbor, Japanese forces stormed ashore and captured Guam, making it part of Japan’s Pacific defense perimeter.  Now, the United States intended to take it back.

American military leaders recognized the value of Guam, as well as nearby Tinian and Saipan, as a location for airbases from which the Army Air Force’s new B-29 Superfortress bomber could fly missions against the Japanese home islands.  The invasion of Guam and its recapture would allow devastating air raids to be conducted against Japan’s major war industries and cities.

The 77th Infantry Division assaulted Guam on July 21.  Landing craft carried the soldiers only as far as the reef. From there, the troops had to wade ashore through the surf.  Despite this soggy beginning, Whitney’s division secured the beachhead and on July 28th linked up with the 3rd Marine Division.  By July 30, the Japanese airfield at Orote and the harbor at Apra had been captured.

On August 3, while battling Japanese defenders at Mount Barrigada, Whitney was killed in action.  He was awarded the Bronze Star for gallantry and the Purple Heart.  In January 1945, the airfields that Whitney had helped capture were expanded to accommodate B-29s and their strategic bombing campaign against Japan.

First Lieutenant James Tinsley Whitney was survived by his wife then serving as executive secretary of the Colleton chapter of the American Red Cross, his parents, a brother serving in the Merchant Marine, and a sister.  Whitney is buried in the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Hawaii.

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Scroll of Honor – Dock Graham Thomas

Ball Turret Gunner

Written by: Kelly Durham

Dock Graham Thomas, Jr. attended Clemson as a freshman during the 1940-1941 academic year.  An English major from Greenville, Thomas was a member of the Class of 1944.  We know little about his Clemson career.

After leaving campus, Thomas volunteered for the Army Air Force and was trained as an aerial gunner.  By mid-1943, he was part of the 8th Air Force and on the frontlines of America’s fight against Germany in the skies over Europe.

Thomas was assigned to the 432nd Bomb Squadron of the 306th Bomb Group (Heavy), flying B-17 Flying Fortresses from Thurleigh, about sixty-five miles north-northwest of London.  The 306th was one of the first bomb groups to deploy to England, arriving in the autumn of 1942 and flying its first combat mission in October.  In January 1943, the 306th participated in the first penetration into Germany by 8th Air Force heavy bombers.  This was a period of evolving doctrine for the 8th Air Force. It was committed to the concept of massed, self-defending formations of heavily armed bombers flying daylight missions in order to deliver bomb loads with precision against specific military targets.

Staff Sergeant Thomas was the ball turret gunner on a B-17 piloted by 2nd Lieutenant Easley Courson.  Thomas’s turret hung from the belly of the aircraft and was often the domain of the smallest man on the crew due to the tight confines of the forty-two inch diameter turret.  The gunner lay with his eye to his gunsight and his hands on the turret’s hydraulic controls.  His job was to protect the bomber from enemy aircraft attacking from below.

On July 26, 1943, Courson’s crew took off from Thurleigh for a bombardment mission to strike the Limmer synthetic rubber factory at Hanover, Germany.  One hundred nineteen B-17s took off, but by the time they reached the target, more than twenty of the bombers had turned back due to mechanical issues or combat damage.  Ninety-six bombers dropped their bombs on the target beginning at about noon.  Shortly after releasing its bomb load, Thomas’s aircraft was hit by anti-aircraft fire, damaging the tail. Courson turned the aircraft west, back toward England.

Over the Netherlands, Thomas’s injured ship was attacked by a German fighter, a Messerschmidt Bf-109 piloted by Luftwaffe Major Anton Mader.  Mader’s attack finished off the aircraft, setting it on fire.  The crew, even Thomas from his constricted turret, was able to bail out and witnesses counted ten parachutes.  Seven of the crew landed safely and were taken prisoner by the Germans, but Thomas and two other crew members died, perhaps from wounds suffered during the anti-aircraft or fighter attacks.

Staff Sergeant Thomas was awarded the Purple Heart.  He is buried in the American Military Cemetery, Margraten, Netherlands.

For more information about Dock Graham Thomas, Jr. see:

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