Scroll of Honor – Rueben Lafayette Thomas, Jr. & Deckerd Jefferson Gray

Crew Mates

Written by: Kelly Durham ’80

The first shots fired by the Germans against the English in World War II came at sea on September 3, 1939—and they came by accident.  The young captain of the German submarine U-30 mistakenly identified the passenger liner Athenia as a British warship, firing two torpedoes and dispatching the vessel to the bottom of the North Atlantic.  One hundred seventeen passengers and crew were killed, including twenty-eight Americans.  Unwittingly, the German commander had violated the rules of submarine warfare by striking a liner without warning and without concern for the safety of its passengers and crew—a strategy that would soon be adopted by other belligerents.  This was the opening encounter of the Battle of the Atlantic, the longest continuous military campaign of the war running from that September evening until the defeat of Germany in May 1945.

As the British battled the Germans at sea and in France, Rueben Lafayette Thomas, Jr., and his fellow cadets of Clemson’s Class of 1940 were preparing for their June 3 commencement ceremonies.  Thomas, a textile engineering major from Spartanburg, soon found himself among the growing number of young men swapping their cadet uniforms for the uniform of the US Army.  Thomas volunteered for the Army’s aviation program, earning his wings and being assigned to fly multi-engine bombers.

Deckerd Jefferson Gray, a general sciences major from Ware Shoals, had been a member of the cadet corps as well.  A member of the Class of 1941, Gray stayed remained on campus only for his freshman year.  He too soon found himself in an Army Air Forces uniform.

Fate and the crucial Battle of the Atlantic were about to bring these two Clemson men together.

The British suffered severe losses of men, ships and goods to the German U-boat fleet during the first years of the war.  Numbering just fifty-seven at the war’s outbreak, the Germans’ U-boat fleet would add 1100 more boats by war’s end.  Once the United States was pulled into the conflict by the Pearl Harbor attack, U-boats quickly deployed to the waters off the American east coast.  There they found, initially at least, good hunting.

Beginning in January 1942, U-boats exacted a heavy toll on US and Allied merchant shipping transporting raw goods and finished products along the east coast and in the Gulf of Mexico.  Over the first three months of the year, fifty-three ships were sunk.  Based on March losses, the US was on pace to lose more than two million tons of shipping for the year.  The “exchange rate,” defined as the ratio of merchant ships lost to U-boats sunk, would reach 89 to one for the year—a clearly unsustainable figure.  American leaders scrambled to train the men and to create the organizations and equipment needed to counter the increasing U-boat threat.

The Navy had responsibility foroperations beyond the coastline, but, according to a 1945 Army Air Forces report entitled The Antisubmarine Command, “the shock of Pearl Harbor found the Navy quite unable to carry on the offshore patrol necessary to the fulfillment of its mission.”  As a result, the burden for antisubmarine patrols fell mainly on the Army Air Forces whose units were neither trained nor equipped for this type of mission.

American strategists sought assistance from their British allies, whose survival as an island nation depended on defeating the U-boat menace which sought to encircle Great Britain and choke off its supply of food, petroleum and other vital goods.  US forces learned from their British allies that close coordination between sea and air forces along with continuous offensive action were necessary to defeat the U-boat threat.  As Army Air Forces and Navy units developed their command and control relationships and procedures, their coordinated attacks began to slowly push the U-boats out

of coastal waters.

The Army Air Forces’ 1st Bomber Command, including the 40th Bombardment Squadron, was given the task of protecting coastal shipping and attacking the U-boats.  As coordination between air and sea units improved, shipping losses in coastal waters began to slowly decrease.   Even as the U-boats gradually withdrew from the east coast and the Gulf, the Army established an Antisubmarine Command in November 1942.

The withdrawal of the U-boats from American waters did not mark victory in the Battle of the Atlantic, only a change of venue.  German submarines continued to achieve remarkable success, sinking one hundred forty-two Allied ships in November alone, almost all of these in the North Atlantic.  To help counter the continuing threat,   the 40th Bombardment Squadron was redesignated the 4th Antisubmarine Squadron and moved its headquarters to the Royal Canadian Air Force base at Gander, Newfoundland.  From there, the squadron flew antisubmarine patrols and convoy escort missions along North Atlantic shipping lanes.

By the spring of 1943, the Battle of the Atlantic had clearly swung in the Allies’ favor.  Sinkings were down and the Allies pressed their advantage by forming the 479th Antisubmarine Group.  The 4th Squadron moved its headquarters again, this time to the Royal Air Force base at Dunkeswell in southwestern England and began to hunt the hunters.

On August 8, 1943, Thomas, now a captain, the pilot of a modified B-24 heavy bomber, and a veteran of over one hundred twenty-five operational missions including eight hundred hours of combat time, took off on a patrol mission over the Bay of Biscay.  The body of water separated western France from northern Spain and included the heavily fortified German U-boat base at Brest.  The B-24D Liberator bombers flown by the 4th Squadron were modified with a special radar to help the crew locate—and attack—U-boats.  The radar operator assigned to this flight was Technical Sergeant Deckerd Gray.

Between 1159 and 1225 hours, Thomas’s aircraft radioed that it was under attack from enemy fighter planes.  No additional transmissions were received and the aircraft was listed as “overdue” at 1920 hours.  Over the next day and a half, search aircraft failed to find any signs of the aircraft or its crew.

Thomas, Gray and the eight other members of the crew were listed as missing.  Gray was awarded the Air Medal with oak leaf clusters.  Thomas was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Air Medal with oak leaf clusters.  The official history of the 4th Antisubmarine Squadron noted that “This was an old crew.  Capt. Thomas had been in the thick of the antisubmarine warfare since Dec. 7, 1941… It was impossible to replace him…”

Both Gray and Thomas are memorialized at the Cambridge American Cemetery, Cambridge, England.

For more information on Deckerd Jefferson Gray visit:

https://cualumni.clemson.edu/page.aspx?pid=1606

For more information about Rueben Lafayette Thomas, Jr. see:

https://cualumni.clemson.edu/page.aspx?pid=1539

For additional information about Clemson University’s Scroll of Honor visit:

https://cualumni.clemson.edu/scrollofhonor

Additional resources: http://uboatarchive.net/

http://www.newenglandhistoricalsociety.com (Dixie Arrow photo)

Twenty Million Tons Under the Sea: The Daring Capture of the U-505

by Daniel V. Gallery, Rear Admiral, USN (Ret.)

 

 

 

Scroll of Honor – Roy Donald Bratton

Fighter Pilot

For a kid born during World War II, it must have seemed like the ultimate goal: becoming a fighter pilot!  The fighter aces of that war had been heroes, their names familiar to a whole generation of boys growing up in the 1950s.  And now, Roy Bratton was following in their footsteps.

Roy Donald Bratton grew up in the Union County crossroads town of Adamsburg and attended Lockhart High School.  A football, basketball and baseball letterman, Roy continued to be active in athletics when he arrived at Clemson in the fall of 1962.  He worked as a manager of the football team and was a member of the weightlifting club.  A mechanical engineering major, Roy was selected for membership in the American Society of Mechanical Engineers and served as president of the Union County Club.  He also excelled as an Air Force ROTC cadet.

“Roy was our squadron commander in Air Force ROTC at Clemson 1965-66. He was not fake or flashy, just quiet and very human,” remembered Larry Lott, who like Roy would go on to serve in Vietnam.  “He was about the nicest person you could know, always ready to help and easy to be around,” classmate James Stepp recalled.  “The things about Roy I most remember are his grin – it was kinda a wiry crooked grin… and the fact that he was such a nice and likeable person.”

“Roy was a happy and upbeat guy who always had a joke,” said classmate Harold Allen, a description amplified by Allen Hobbs who lived down the hall from Roy.  “I remember Roy as being a very cheerful guy who was always upbeat and greeted everyone with a smile…he had lots of friends at Clemson.”

Following graduation in the Class of 1966, Roy reported for active duty in February 1967.  After a year of flight training, he earned his wings and was soon on his way to Vietnam. By now a first lieutenant, Roy was assigned to the 421st Tactical Fighter Squadron based at Da Nang Air Base.  The 421st flew the F-4D Phantom fighter in ground support missions—missions that put the pilots and their aircraft in harm’s way.

Roy Bratton continued to excel as an Air Force pilot. For a mission on May 10, 1969, He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for making repeated, dangerous low level bombing and strafing runs that led to the rescue of a reconnaissance team.  A second award of the DFC was made for a June 21 mission in which Roy attacked a “vital military supply link in an extremely heavily defended area.”  The success of this mission destroyed the target and denied its use to the enemy.

On August 4, while flying a support mission for ground operations, Roy’s aircraft was shot down in Quang Nam Province.  His body was recovered and buried in the cemetery of the Philippi Baptist Church in Union.  First Lieutenant Roy Donald Bratton was survived by his mother Sadie Adams Bratton and his sister, Mrs. Ruth Sweatt.  He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross with one Oak Leaf Cluster; Purple Heart; Air Medal with four oak leaf clusters, National Defense Service Medal, Vietnam Service Medal, Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross Unit Citation with Palm, and the  Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal.  He is listed on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall on Panel 20W, Line 94; His name is also listed on the Vietnam Conflict Memorial to Union County natives in Union.

For more information about First Lieutenant Roy Donald Bratton see:

https://soh.alumni.clemson.edu/scroll/roy-donald-bratton/

For additional information about Clemson University’s Scroll of Honor visit:

https://soh.alumni.clemson.edu/

Written by: Kelly Durham

Scroll of Honor – James Crayton Herring, Jr.

Athlete, Scholar, Man of Letters

“At first we weren’t even sure there would a ‘Taps’ this year, what with a war going on and everybody’s yelling about film and copper shortages,” wrote the editors of Clemson College’s 1943 yearbook.  “But, in spite of all of our anxieties, we have succeeded in giving you an annual, one which we think compares favorably with the fine Clemson annuals of the past years.  If you like it, we’re glad.  If you don’t, keep it to yourself.  We’ll be hard to find.”

The editors got it right.  A lot of people liked the volume, for Taps was chosen, along with four others, as the best collegiate annuals in the nation for 1943.  They were right in another sense as well:  within weeks of graduation, they would indeed be hard to find, scattered like their classmates among military training bases all over the country as they prepared to fight a global war.

The editor-in-chief of the 1943 Taps was James Crayton Herring, Jr., a general sciences major from the Orr Mill community in Anderson.  “Cotton” Herring was a noted baseball player, having played at Anderson’s Boys’ High School and for the Orr Mills and local American Legion teams as well.  At Clemson, he was a four-year member of the baseball team, finishing his career on coach Frank Howard’s 12-3 1943 team.

In addition to working on the Taps staff and playing ball, Cotton Herring was involved in a variety of other campus activities.  Like all the boys of his day, Cotton was an ROTC cadet, rising to the rank of cadet second lieutenant by his senior year.  He was a member of the Block C Club, Blue Key, the Anderson County Club, served as a commencement marshal, and was listed in Who’s Who Among Students in American Universities and Colleges.

That cloud of uncertainty that hung over the Taps staff afflicted most of the cadets on campus in the spring semester of 1943.  By graduation, students, faculty and administrators knew that Clemson was undergoing an epic change.  Nearly all the students would leave the campus’s rolling hills that spring.  Those who would one day return would serve in all theaters of the world-wide war then consuming lives and futures at an alarming rate.  And many, students and graduates alike, would never return to campus, would never return at all.

Cotton Herring was assigned as a new lieutenant to the 79th Infantry Division’s 314th Infantry Regiment.  The division had been activated in June 1942 in Virginia and had trained in desert tactics in Arizona and winter operations in Kansas.  In April 1944, the division departed from Massachusetts for the voyage to Great Britain.  Upon its arrival in Liverpool, the division began training in amphibious operations.  The division landed at Utah Beach a week after D-Day as Allied forces were building up men and materiel and anticipating a breakout from the Normandy beachhead.  The division was committed to combat on June 19 with an attack on high ground south of Cherbourg, a key harbor needed to supply invasion forces, but still held by the Germans.  After a week of hard fighting, the division entered the city on June 25.

After a brief rest, the 79th resumed the offensive in early July.    In its two hundred forty-eight days in combat, the 79th would suffer more than 15,000 casualties, including 2,476 killed in action—among them Cotton Herring, who was killed on July 26, just eleven days short of his twenty-first birthday, as the division was forcing the Ay River.

James Crayton Herring, Jr. was survived by his parents and his sister.  For more information about James Crayton Herring, Jr. visit:

https://soh.alumni.clemson.edu/scroll/james-crayton-herring-jr/

For additional information about Clemson University’s Scroll of Honor see:

https://soh.alumni.clemson.edu/

Scroll of Honor – David and Rufus Henry

Six Years, Four Months

Brothers David Hill Henry, Jr. and Rufus Earl Sadler Henry of Clemson both attended their hometown college—and both answered their country’s call to arms in the cold, dark months following Pearl Harbor.

David, the oldest of the three Henry boys, had graduated from Clemson College in 1936 with a degree in textile engineering.  As a cadet, he had been active in campus life, serving as the chairman of the Central Dance Association’s placing committee and as president of Alpha Chi Psi social club.  A member of Tiger Brotherhood, David completed ROTC summer training at Camp McClellan, Alabama in 1935 and was commissioned a second lieutenant in the Army Reserve upon graduation.

Rufus, the middle son in the family, was six years younger than David.   Like his older brother, Rufus was remembered as “out-going and well-liked.”  He too was an engineering major, though his discipline was mechanical.  Rufus worked on the staff of The Tiger, and was a member of the Central Dance Association, ASME and Alpha Chi Psi.

Following graduation, David was employed by Union Bleachery in Greenville.  He was called to military service in January 1942.  Rufus was then in his senior year at Clemson, expecting to graduate in the spring.  Instead of completing his coursework, Rufus enlisted in the Army in February and volunteered for the Air Corps.

As David shipped overseas in January 1943, Rufus was moving through training assignments first in Mississippi, then Maryland and Georgia.  He was sent to Illinois and later to Yale University where he received his second lieutenant’s commission in April.  Following his commissioning, Rufus completed training with Boeing aircraft in Seattle, Washington before earning his flight engineer wings in Kansas.

David was assigned to the 22nd Infantry Regiment of the 4th Infantry Division, landing on Utah Beach on D-Day.  For the next month, the 22nd fought to widen its section of the Allied beachhead on the Cotentin Peninsula. On July 11, 1944, while serving as commanding officer of A Company, 1st Battalion of the 22nd Infantry Regiment, Captain David Henry was killed in action in the vicinity of La Maugerie, France.

A year after earning his commission, Rufus was on his way to India as a member of the 677th Bombardment Squadron of the 444th Bomb Group (Very Heavy).  The 444th was the first group built around the new B-29.  The 677th planned to fly missions against Japan from forward bases in China.  On the day before David would land on Utah Beach, Rufus’s squadron launched its first combat mission targeting the Makasan rail yards at Bangkok, Thailand.  Ten days later, the 677th attacked Japan in the first raid against the home islands since the daring Doolittle mission more than two years earlier.

After completing seven combat missions over Japan, Rufus was lost when his B-29 crashed near Chengtu, China on November 21, 1944, just four months after David’s death.

David Hill Henry, Jr. was awarded the Bronze Star Medal, Purple Heart, and Combat Infantryman Badge.  He is buried at Normandy American Cemetery, Colleville-sur-Mer, France.

Rufus Earl Sadler Henry was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, Air Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster, and Purple Heart.  He is interred at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, Honolulu, Hawaii.

The Henry brothers were survived by their mother, Etta, and the youngest Henry son, Albert, then serving in the Army at Fort Benning, Georgia.  When word was received of Rufus’s death, Albert’s overseas deployment orders were rescinded and he remained in the United States for the duration of his service.

For more information on David Hill Henry, Jr. see:

https://soh.alumni.clemson.edu/scroll/david-hill-henry-jr/

For additional information on Rufus Earl Sadler Henry visit:

https://soh.alumni.clemson.edu/scroll/rufus-earl-sadler-henry/

To learn more about Clemson University’s Scroll of Honor see:

https://soh.alumni.clemson.edu/

 

 

Scroll of Honor – John Herman Lightsey, Jr.

An Excellent Account

John Herman Lightsey, Jr. couldn’t have had any idea what was in store for him and the other boys of the Class of 1942 when they arrived on the Clemson College campus in the late summer of 1938.  If Europe appeared to be on the precipice of war over Czechoslovakia, what concern was that to the new “Rats” sporting shaved heads and trying to survive the transition from rural high schools and farm life to the academic rigors of military school?

“Pie” Lightsey was from the Hampton County community of Brunson and enrolled as an agricultural engineering major.  Although his military record was undistinguished—he rose through the cadet ranks only as high as second lieutenant—Lightsey was nonetheless an active member of the Corps of Cadets.  He was a four-year member of the track team and also competed as a member of the rifle team.  He served as vice-president of the ABC Club, composed of cadets from Allendale, Barnwell and Hampton Counties, and marched with the Pershing Rifles drill team.  He also completed ROTC training at Clemson in the summer of 1941.

Lightsey’s class was the first to graduate after the attack on Pearl Harborthrust an unprepared America into a global war.  Most of his classmates were soon in uniform and Lightsey found himself in the Army Air Force.  After completing basic pilot training, Lightsey was ordered to multi-engine pilot training and assigned to fly bombers.

Eventually assigned to the 380th Bomb Squadron of the 310 Bomb Group (Medium), by 1944 Lightsey was serving in the Mediterranean Theater as B-25 pilot.  The B-25, made famous by the Doolittle Raid on Tokyo, was a twin-engine, medium bomber used to provide air support to front line troops and to attack transportation targets like road and rail bridges and harbors.

Operating from Ghisonsaccia Airdrome on the island of Corsica, west of the Italian mainland, the 380th flew missions to interdict German lines of communication and disrupt the movement of enemy forces.  By June of 1944, the 380th’s official unit history reported, the squadron had reasons to be optimistic.  Rome, the first of the Axis capitals to capitulate, had fallen on June 5.  The long-anticipated invasion of France had begun on the sixth and the Red Army had kicked off its massive spring offensive in the east.

The weather at Ghisonsaccia had grown hotter, but it was still much cooler than the previous summer which had been passed flying from air bases in North Africa.  There was little rain that June which meant that the squadron was flying missions practically every day.  At this point in the war, most of the squadron’s missions were directed against bridges—both road and rail—as the Germans tried desperately to transport and supply their ground forces resisting the advances of the US Fifth and British Eighth Armies.

On Thursday, June 22, Lightsey was assigned to fly as copilot in a B-25 commanded by Lieutenant Frank Peterson.   Their aircraft would be part of a small, three-plane formation targeting enemy shipping in Leghorn Harbor near Livorno, on the northwest coast of Italy.  It would be a short flight for the speedy B-25s which could cover the eighty-five miles to the harbor in less than twenty-five minutes.

The three planes likely came in low over the water, making use of their forward mounted cannon and machine guns.  According to the unit history, “Our planes gave an excellent account of themselves as several vessels in the Leghorn Harbor were sunk.” But the enemy could shoot too.  “Heavy, intense, and very accurate” anti-aircraft fire was directed at the attacking planes.

Peterson’s and Lightsey’s B-25 was hit on the right wing by enemy flak.  The right engine caught fire and the conflagration quickly spread, covering the entire right side of the aircraft.  One parachute was seen coming from the plane which nosed over into a vertical dive and crashed into the sea.    Lightsey and the other five members of the crew perished.  One other aircraft from the formation was so badly damaged by enemy fire that it crashed into the Mediterranean Sea before it was able to reach its home base in Corsica.  The trip to Leghorn brought Lightsey’s combat mission total to more than fifty.  It was his thirteenth mission of the month.

First Lieutenant John Herman Lightsey, Jr. was awarded the Air Medal with two oak leaf clusters in a posthumous ceremony at Hunter Field, Georgia in December 1945, three months after the end of the war he had helped to win.

Lightsey was survived by his parents and two sisters and is memorialized at the Florence American Military Cemetery, Via Cassia, Italy.

For more information about First Lieutenant John Herman Lightsey, Jr. see:

https://soh.alumni.clemson.edu/scroll/john-herman-lightsey-jr/

For additional information about Clemson University’s Scroll of Honor visit:

https://soh.alumni.clemson.edu/

Scroll of Honor – “D. E.” Aiken

Hedgerow Hero

Seventy-five years ago this week, Allied forces were struggling to expand and reinforce the Normandy beachhead bought with such sacrifice on D-Day.  During the first week on French shores, the Allies faced the daunting task not only of fighting the German defenders, but of supplying two armies with rations, ammunition, fuel, vehicles, weapons, clothing, equipment—and replacements for the dead and wounded—via a tenuous supply line stretching from British ports to the artificial harbors the Allies had anchored off of Omaha and Gold Beaches.

The 2nd Infantry Division had crossed the English Channel on D+1, landing over Omaha Beach near Saint-Laurent-Sur-Mer.  With the division was twenty-two year-old Second Lieutenant David Edgar Aiken, Jr. from the Clarendon County community of New Zion.

“D. E.” Aiken had entered Clemson in 1938, before most Americans perceived the threat posed by happenings in Europe and the far Pacific.  An agronomy major, D. E. was a member of the Sumter-Clarendon County Club and earned the Marksman badge at ROTC summer training held at Clemson in 1941.  D. E. had served as a cadet second lieutenant during his senior year, suggesting that while he had continued to work toward a commission through the ROTC, his military record on campus had been undistinguished.  When the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor in December of that year, the future prospects for all the cadets took on a new, more ominous cast.

Following graduation in June, D. E., like most of the young men in the Class of 1942, reported for military service.  He was sent first to Camp Wolters, Texas and was assigned to the 38th Infantry Regiment of the 2 Infantry Division.  In October 1943, the Division shipped out to Northern Ireland where it continued to train and prepare for the anticipated invasion of France.

D-Day found the young platoon leader and his men anxiously awaiting their turn to cross the Channel and join the largest amphibious operation ever attempted.  Landing on the day after the initial invasion, the 2nd Infantry Division was quickly committed to battle.  On June 10, the division liberated the French town of Trévières, then attacked and secured key high ground on the road toward Saint-Lô.

Allied planners, despite the initial success of the invasion, had overlooked a key terrain feature of Normandy: its hedgerows.  Hedgerows, known by the French as “bocage,” were small, man-made earthen walls that surrounded the Norman fields.  Dating back to Roman times, they were topped by thick hedges, as much as six feet wide at the base, and were used to enclose pastures and mark property lines.  They created nightmares for tactical movement, offering the defending Germans ample cover and concealment while making perilous the advance of American troops.

On June 13, a week after the initial landings, D. E.’s platoon was protecting the flank of the battalion as it advanced through the bocage.  As D. E. led his platoon across a hedgerow, he encountered a sunken road over which the platoon had to advance.  Following sound tactics, D. E. dispatched scouts to cross the road and reconnoiter the other side before sending the entire platoon across.  As the scouts crossed the open road, they were cut down by a hidden enemy machine gun.  According to the posthumous Silver Star citation, “Lieutenant Aiken personally directed the neutralizing of the position and then ordered his platoon to cover his advance as he went forward to draw fire from other enemy emplacements.”  D. E. was killed by another enemy machine gun, “but his actions enabled the platoon to knock out the position and continue its advance.”

Hundreds of acts of valor like D. E.’s would eventually allow the Allies to break out of the beachhead and push the Germans back across the Rhine River and into Germany.

David Edgar Aiken, Jr., was survived by his father, a World War I veteran of the famous Rainbow Division, who had served in France twenty-six years earlier.

For more information about Lieutenant David Edgar Aiken, Jr. see:

https://soh.alumni.clemson.edu/scroll/david-edgar-aiken-jr/

For information about Clemson University’s Scroll of Honor visit:

https://soh.alumni.clemson.edu/

 

 

 

Scroll of Honor – John Leumas Childress

All Around Leader

John Leumas Childress was one of those people who excelled at everything he attempted.  From the time he stepped onto the Clemson campus as a freshman member of the Class of 1951 from Augusta, Georgia, Childress was recognized as a leader.

He was promoted quickly in the Corps of Cadets, serving as a sergeant his sophomore year and as first sergeant during his junior year.  Childress returned to campus following ROTC training at Fort Meade, Maryland and was appointed a cadet lieutenant colonel and commander of 2nd Battalion.  His military aptitude was acknowledged by his selection to Scabbard and Blade, the military honor society.  But John Childress’s accomplishments were not limited to the military aspects of cadet life.

Childress was chairman of the Senior Council which handled student non-military disciplinary matters and made recommendations to Dr. Poole, the college president.  He was a member of Blue Key, the Aiken-Augusta-Edgefield Club, and served as president of both the Block C Club and his Senior Class.  And, among these activities and his textile manufacturing academic work, Childress also played on a pretty fair Tiger football team.

Coach Frank Howard’s 1950 Tigers could be forgiven if they weren’t keeping up with the United Nations’ response to the invasion of South Korea.  That late summer and fall Childress and his teammates were focused on another outstanding season.  Just two years earlier, the Tigers had recorded an undefeated gridiron campaign, completing their season with a Gator Bowl victory.  The 1950 Tigers also had high hopes for the season.

Childress, weighing 192 pounds, played end on a team that featured a high powered offense led by Tiger greats Fred Cone, Jackie Calvert, Ray Mathews and Billy Hair.  Clemson started the season with a 55-0 whipping of Presbyterian College, then shut out Missouri 34-0 and North Carolina State 27-0.  The next game was the annual Big Thursday match-up at the State Fair in Columbia.  After falling behind early, the Tigers rallied to salvage a 14-all tie with the Gamecocks.  That blemish fired the team which reeled off consecutive victories over Wake Forest, Duquesne, Boston College, and Furman before completing the season with a 41-0 drubbing of Auburn.  Over the course of the season, the Tigers had outscored their opponents 329-62.  The Tigers’ impressive record earned them a trip to the Orange Bowl, where they defeated hometown Miami 15-14.

Upon graduation, John Childress was commissioned a second lieutenant in the Army and sent to Fort Knox, Kentucky for training.    Before shipping overseas, Childress participated in additional tank training at Camp Irwin, the Army’s sprawling maneuver range in California. Childress was assigned to the 179th Infantry Regiment of the 45th Infantry Division.

Originally a division of the Oklahoma National Guard, the 45th had been ordered to federal service in 1951.  It deployed to Korea in December of that year.  The division was committed to the line against experienced Chinese forces and in bitter winter weather.  By spring, the division was on the offensive, participating in Operation Counter with the objective of establishing patrol bases around the Old Baldy Hill area in west-central Korea.

On June 26, 1952, as the war began its third year, Second Lieutenant Childress was leading his platoon of the regiment’s heavy tank company near Tumyon-dong.  The tankers were supporting infantrymen who were assaulting Hill 183.  As Childress’s tanks moved up the hill, enemy mortar and artillery fire became so intense that the riflemen had to halt their advance and seek cover.  Recognizing the perilous position of the infantrymen, Childress led his tanks through the enemy positions and to the crest of the hill, directing the advance and using his tank’s machine gun to fire on the enemy defenders.  According to the posthumous Silver Star citation, “Lieutenant Childress was subsequently mortally wounded by sniped fire, but only after he had inflicted many casualties on the attackers, and his accurate fire had enabled his comrades to withstand the assault. The gallantry and courageous leadership displayed by Lieutenant Childress reflected the greatest credit on himself and are in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Army.”

In addition to the Silver Star, John Childress was awarded the Purple Heart, the Korean Service Medal, the United Nations Service Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, the Korean Presidential Unit Citation and the Republic of Korea War Service Medal.  He was survived by his wife, Frances and was interred at the Westover Cemetery in Richmond County, Georgia.

For more information on John Leumas Childress see:

https://soh.alumni.clemson.edu/scroll/john-leumas-childress/

For additional information about Clemson University’s Scroll of Honor visit:

https://soh.alumni.clemson.edu/

Community Memorial Day Service Scheduled at Scroll of Honor

The Clemson Corps will host a community-wide Memorial Day service honoring America’s military dead from all wars on Sunday, May 26 at Clemson University’s Scroll of Honor Memorial.  This year’s ceremony, which will begin at 4 o’clock p. m., recognizes the seventy-fifth anniversary of World War II’s D-Day landings that led to the liberation of France.

The guest speaker will be retired Army Lieutenant Colonel Claude Cooper.  Cooper, a 1967 graduate of Clemson University, served two tours with the Green Berets in Vietnam and also completed assignments with the 82nd Airborne Division and the 7th Special Forces Group.  He is the recipient of the Legion of Merit, two Bronze Stars, Purple Heart, Combat Medic Badge,Combat Infantryman Badge, and the Master Parachutist Badge.  Upon retirement from the Army, Cooper served as director of administrative support services for Appalachian State University.  Cooper is the author of two books, a memoir entitled Leavings: Honeycutt to Cooper Ridge, and Finding Strong, co-written with his daughter Leigh Cooper Wallace.  Cooper and his wife Louise make their home in Clemson.  Cooper’s remarks will center on Clemson University’s military heritage and the upcoming 75th anniversary of D-Day.

The memorial service will feature the placing of a wreath, a twenty-one gun salute, and the playing of Taps.

Limited seating will be provided so participants are encouraged to bring their own lawn chairs.

In the event of inclement weather, the ceremony will be canceled.

 

 

Contact:  Kelly Durham

kellyd@fsmc256.com

864.710.9202

 

 

Scroll of Honor Dedication Committee Launches Website

Clemson University’s Scroll of Honor Memorial occupies a highly visible plot of ground—directly across the street from Memorial Stadium.  The Memorial is in the form of a barrow ringed with stones upon which are engraved the names of four hundred ninety-three alumni who died on active military service.  While the Memorial stands as a steady, silent tribute to these heroes, its companion, a comprehensive website, has recently undergone a major renovation.

A website that would more fully tell the story of the heroes inscribed on the Scroll of Honor Memorial was originally the idea of Dawson Luke, Class of 1956.  “I wondered: what did these people look like?  What’s their story?” recalls Luke, a member of the Clemson Corps, a constituent group of the Clemson Alumni Association.  “I asked the Scroll of Honor Dedication committee if we could somehow tell their stories.”  The committee gave Luke the green light and he embarked on what he describes as “a labor of love.”  Working with a group of committed volunteers, Luke led an effort to build a website for the Scroll of Honor, one that includes a page for each hero.

“We had a list of names,” Luke remembers, “but that’s about all we had.  If they had graduated, we could usually find their pictures in Taps, the college yearbook.  If not, we had to find them elsewhere.”  That meant a lot of research time and effort during a period in which Luke recalls, “resources were tight.”  Working on a university project is not without benefits however.  “John Seketa,” who at the time was the director of promotions for the Athletic Department, “helped find us some fantastic student helpers.”  Other volunteers, like Dave Lyle, Class of 1968, came from the Clemson Corps board and from ROTC classes.

“I was involved in the vetting of the names,” Lyle recalls.  “There were four hundred fifty or so to start with.  I searched through old copies of Taps and other papers and would occasionally get help from the Registrar’s office.  I also visited a lot of local libraries, from Oconee County to Sumter looking through compilations of that county’s war dead.  We would find a lot of misspellings, names that had been reversed and other errors.  The people who originally compiled the Roll of Honor in 1946 relied on hand-written lists and word of mouth.   It’s much easier now with the use of the internet.  We can double check spelling and other errors.”

In addition to visiting local libraries across the state, Lyle also took his camera along on trips with his wife Judy.  “We’d build some extra time into our travels and stop at cemeteries to take pictures of headstones which we’d include on the website.  Grave markers provided a lot of information,” Lyle points out, including correct spellings, dates of birth, and often the military unit to which the hero was assigned at the time of his death.

“I wanted to find out how they died,” Luke says.  “Dave’s passion was finding where they were buried and their obituaries.  One piece of information in a newspaper article might lead us to another. More and more stuff has shown up on the internet over the past ten years.”

“When you’re working with nearly five hundred names that span more than a century, it’s easy to make mistakes,” Lyle says—and that meant frequent updates to the website.  Both Luke and Lyle admit to getting frustrated with the intricacies of website maintenance.  With additional emphasis on website security and protecting content from unauthorized manipulation, Luke, Lyle and their Clemson Corps colleagues worked with University faculty, staff and students in the ROTC departments to maintain the old website.  Constant turnover and the continuing discoveries of more information about the Scroll’s heroes made keeping the website current a daunting task.

Plus adds Luke, “The old site didn’t show up very well on iPads.”  In addition, what had started out as a website dedicated to the Scroll of Honor had evolved into one with a broader focus, covering everything from Clemson’s military heritage to ROTC news.

With these factors in mind, the Clemson Corps, with the cooperation of the Clemson Alumni Association, decided to build and host a new website solely focused on the Scroll of Honor.  The new site, https://soh.alumni.clemson.edu, is now live and features a revised format and enhanced search capabilities.  It also contains an ever-expanding body of information about the heroes listed on the Scroll of Honor and offers an interactive and engaging opportunity for site visitors to learn more about the lives and sacrifices of these fallen heroes.

The relative ease of updating the new site is important because, Lyle says, “I don’t think we’ll ever finish.  We’ll keep adding new information as it’s discovered.”

Highlighting the sacrifices of the Scroll of Honor heroes motivates Luke, Lyle and their colleagues to continue to expand the information available on the website.  “The name on the stone doesn’t tell who the person was, what they looked like, what they did and how they died,” Luke explains.

Lyle agrees.  “It’s our job to tell the stories of these men.  Every year on Memorial Day and Veterans’ Day we gather and we promise we will never forget these heroes,” he says. “But before you can forget someone you have to know who they were.”

 

–Kelly Durham, wkellyd@me.com

Scroll of Honor – Francis Carlton Truesdale

The First Victory

The Great Depression had blanketed the country in misery, yet some lucky, disciplined and intelligent young men still managed to pursue their educations.

Francis Carlton Truesdale of Kershaw entered Clemson in the late summer of 1930.  While he was attending Clemson, unemployment peaked at more than twenty percent and economic output plummeted.  In short, the country—along with much of the rest of the world—was experiencing an economic shock which would reverberate through the rest of Truesdale’s life.  An agricultural chemistry major, Truesdale was an Alpha Zeta Scholarship recipient and was selected for membership in Tiger Brotherhood.  As a member of the Junior Platoon, competing in competition at ROTC Camp held on campus in the summer of 1933, Truesdale and his comrades captured the championship of the Fourth Corps Area drill competition.

The seeds of Adolf Hitler’s rise to power were sown during Truesdale’s time on the Clemson campus, when economic calamity and the oppressive terms of the Versailles Treaty which had ended the Great War combined to create political and social instability in Germany.  Truesdale would soon be called to meet the threat posed by Hitler and his henchmen.

After the war ensnared the United States, Truesdale earned his pilot’s wings in May 1942 at Brooks Field, near San Antonio, Texas.  He was assigned to the 96th Fighter Squadron which was equipped with the new P-38 Lightning, one of the era’s more distinctive aircraft due to its twin-boom design.  The 96th deployed to Northern Ireland in the fall of 1942 to continue training for battle as part of the Eighth Air Force.  A month after the invasion of North Africa, the 96th deployed to Algeria and entered combat as an element of the Twelfth Air Force.

Truesdale and his squadron mates flew antisubmarine patrols over the Mediterranean coast of North Africa, escorted Allied bombers and attacked enemy shipping and airfields.  As Allied ground forces advanced against the German and Italian defenders, the 96th moved its air bases eastward through Algeria and Tunisia.  With the final Allied ground offensive underway in late April 1943, the squadron began attacking targets in Italy, earning a Distinguished Unit Citation for an attack on enemy airfields at Foggia.

On May 6, British troops captured Tunis and American forces captured Bizerte.  A week later, all Axis troops in Tunisia, about 240,000, surrendered.  The following day, on an unspecified mission, Captain Francis Carlton Truesdale was reported as missing in action.  German authorities later confirmed through the International Red Cross that he had been killed.  On May 15, British Admiral Andrew Cunningham announced that “the passage through Mediterranean was clear” enabling the resumption of vital supply convoys through Gibraltar to Egypt.

Captain Truesdale’s sacrifice had helped the Allies achieve their first victory over the Germans and paved the way for the long, advance to Berlin.

Captain Francis Carlton Truesdale was survived by his widow, the former Catherine Poole of San Antonio and their four-month-old son Francis Carlton Truesdale, Jr.  He was also survived by his parents, three sisters and three brothers, one of whom was in the Merchant Marine and another, Lieutenant Colonel  E. V. Truesdale who had just returned from the Pacific Theater. Captain Truesdale is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

For more information on Captain Francis Carlton Truesdale see:

https://soh.alumni.clemson.edu/scroll/francis-carlton-truesdale/

For additional information about Clemson University’s Scroll of Honor visit:

https://soh.alumni.clemson.edu