Scroll of Honor – Charles Henderson Franks

Radar Training

Written by: Kelly Durham

The Allies shifted from defeat and defense to offense and victory in 1942.  Midway and North Africa had put the Japanese, Germans, and Italians on the defensive and operations in Guadalcanal and New Guinea would continue the trend into 1943.  With the American military expanding at an explosive pace, young men from all over the country were scattered at training bases all over the country.  Charles Henderson Franks, Class of 1942, was in Florida.

Franks was a general sciences major from Laurens.  He attended Clemson for only his freshman year and then continued his studies at Presbyterian College.  Franks enlisted in the Army Air Force in March 1942 and reported for training to Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama that September.  Subsequent training assignments carried him to Bennettsville and then south to Florida.

In July 1943, Franks was undergoing exacting and top secret training in the use of airborne radar at Boca Raton Army Airfield.  Franks was assigned to the 319th Air Base Squadron, a training outfit whose main mission was training Air Force personnel in the use of new radar technology.  Access to this critical system was tightly restricted and those being trained had to be both highly qualified and rigorously investigated.  In addition to classroom training, personnel had to learn to maintain and utilize radar equipment in flight.  With the growing demand for radar operators for all types of heavy and medium aircraft, Boca Raton’s field was in round-the-clock use.

Training was, in fact, heavy at large and small airfields all over the United States.  Thousands of pilots, copilots, navigators, radio operators, bombardiers, flight engineers, and gunners were learning to work together on dozens of different kinds of aircraft, from heavy bombers to single seat fighters.  The combination of aggressive, young men, sophisticated aircraft, and the hurried pace of training inevitably led to accidents.

On Wednesday, July 21, 1943, Franks was assigned to a radar operator training mission flown by Second Lieutenant Francis Van Cleave.  At 1708 hours, Van Cleave lifted off in a radar-equipped A-20 Havoc medium bomber.  He circled the field once and then landed in order to secure a loose gasoline tank cap.  At 1729, the aircraft took off again, climbing only fifteen to twenty feet before it “mushed into the ground.  In a nose up attitude, the aircraft’s tail dragged along the ground for about fifty feet, carving a groove in the sod and damaging the plane.  The airplane then climbed steeply to an altitude of two hundred to five hundred feet before rolling over and diving into the ground.  Franks, Van Cleave, and the two other crew members were killed in the crash.

Army Air Force officials recognized the hazards of flight training and though constantly striving to improve training safety, continued to accept a high accident rate.  On that single day, July 21, 1943, eighty-two aircraft training accidents were recorded at stateside military fields.  “Only” seven of these included fatalities.  Remarkably, that Wednesday’s record was an improvement over the previous day’s when eighty-three accidents had been reported.  The cost of winning the war was steep, even outside the battle zones.

Corporal Charles Henderson Franks was survived by his parents, a brother, and two sisters.  He is buried in the Laurens City Cemetery.

For more information about Charles Henderson Franks see:

https://soh.alumni.clemson.edu/scroll/charles-henderson-franks/

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

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

 

 

 

Scroll of Honor – James Edward Vernon

A Fitting Day to Die 

Written by: Kelly Durham

The 1918 edition of Taps, the Clemson College annual, included a dedication “To those of our class-mates who have departed their college halls in order to prepare themselves for service in the Army of Democracy.”  James Edward Vernon was one of the men to whom the dedication was addressed.

Vernon, from Spartanburg, was a civil engineering major who found time to participate in many of the activities available on the small, rural campus.  He was a member of his class’s dancing clubs, serving as vice president as a senior.  As assistant athletics editor of Taps, he helped guide coverage of Clemson’s early intercollegiate sports teams.  He was a member of the Hobo Club, the Thalian Society, and the Spartanburg County Club, which he served as president during his senior year.  Vernon’s classmates described him as “Being endowed with a good intellect, a remarkable amount of common sense, and a determination that never knows defeat.”

Vernon was awarded his degree with the Class of 1918 despite having already left campus to join in the Great War in France.  Over there, Vernon became one of America’s early military aviators reaching the rank of first lieutenant in the Army’s Air Service.

Following the war, Vernon returned to Spartanburg and joined Harwood Beebe, a newly established engineering firm.  When America entered the Second World War, Vernon set aside his career and once again answered the call to duty, this time as a lieutenant in the Naval Reserve.  Rather than assigning him to sea duty, the Navy utilized Vernon’s engineering expertise and his personal experience as an aviator.

Naval Air Station Olathe in the 1940s

With the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, the Navy suddenly had urgent need for new training facilities.  Thousands of carrier-borne pilots would eventually be needed to drive the Japanese back across the Pacific to their home islands.  Vernon was dispatched to the new Naval Air Station at Olathe, Kansas.  While it was a long way from the ocean, Olathe was still described by one of its pilot trainees as a sea—of mud.  Vernon and his colleagues set about turning the prairie land into a modern, working airfield with all of the operations, maintenance, and training facilities required to support it.

On July 4, 1944, Vernon “died suddenly at his post,” according to a newspaper report.  It seemed a fitting date for the passing of this patriotic veteran of two World Wars.  At age fifty, Vernon is the oldest Clemson alumnus to die while on active duty during World War II.  He was survived by two daughters and a son, then a Navy aviation cadet in Pensacola, Florida.

For more information on Lieutenant James Edward Vernon see:

https://soh.alumni.clemson.edu/scroll/james-edward-vernon/

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

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

 

 

 

Scroll of Honor – Ralph Alexander Kelley

Thunderbolt Pilot

Written by: Kelly Durham

 

Ralph Alexander Kelley of Charlotte, North Carolina enrolled at Clemson College as a member of the Class of 1946 and attended school during the 1942-43 academic year.  When the term came to a close in the spring of 1943, Clemson’s campus transitioned into Army training facilities under the direction of the War Department.  Underclassmen like Kelley were scattered across the country, ordered to attend basic training.  Those who demonstrated aptitude could apply for officer candidate schools.  This is likely the path that Kelley took on his way to becoming an Army Air Force fighter pilot.

Following flight training, Kelley shipped overseas and was assigned to the 522nd Fighter Squadron of the 27th Fighter Group.  In June 1944, the group transitioned from the older, slower P-40 Warhawk fighter to the faster and more heavily armed P-47 Thunderbolt.

The P-47 had gotten off to a rocky start.  Fighter pilots used to the sleek design of their streamlined aircraft initially balked at this huge, new fighter. Its wingspan was five feet wider and it possessed nearly four times the fuselage volume of the vaunted Spitfire. It was the heaviest single-engine, one-man aircraft of the World War II, weighing as much as eight tons when fully loaded with fuel and armaments.  The fighter’s conventional landing gear meant that visibility on the ground was difficult as the pilot had to maneuver the airplane from side-to-side in order to see around the big radial engine encased in its massive nose.  As first fielded, the Thunderbolt’s climb performance was disappointing, but in actual combat, its pilots soon came to trust its speed in a dive and its rugged durability.  By mid-1944, the P-47 was well-established as both a capable escort for heavy bomber formations and an effective ground attack aircraft. From airfields in Corsica, Kelley’s squadron flew P-47 missions to attack German communications and supply routes in northern Italy.

After a long, costly campaign through the winter and spring, Rome was finally liberated on June 5, 1944.  On July 1, Kelley was killed at the beginning of a mission when his aircraft likely collided with another P-47 on the ground at some point during his take off acceleration.

Kelley was awarded the Purple Heart and the Air Medal.  He is buried at Hamor Creek Baptist Church Cemetery in Mount Gilead, North Carolina.

For more information on Second Lieutenant Ralph Alexander Kelley see:

https://soh.alumni.clemson.edu/scroll/ralph-alexander-kelley/

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

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

 

 

 

 

Scroll of Honor – Joseph L. Ruzicka, Jr.

Arts and Science

Written by: Kelly Durham

 

Joseph L. Ruzicka, Jr. of North Augusta was a man of both arts and sciences.  A chemistry major in the Class of 1967, Ruzicka participated in Clemson’s Honors Program, maintaining a high grade point average throughout his academic career.  He was a four-year participant in Air Force ROTC and was selected for membership in Arnold Air Society.  He was  also a member of the Aero Club, serving as the organization’s secretary.   During his junior and senior years, Ruzicka served as vice president of Phi Eta Sigma, the national academic honor society.  He was a member of the Canterbury Club, the campus organization for Episcopal students, and served as president of the Jaberwocky Coffee House.

Ruzicka was also a member of Tiger Band, which he served in a variety of roles including assistant librarian, supply officer, and band master.  He also played in the Concert Band and served as the music chairman for Tigerama.  Friends remembered his “boundless energy and enthusiasm” and his striving for excellence in everything he attempted.

Ruzicka was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Air Force at Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama in 1967.  Next, he attended Aerospace Munitions Officers School at Lowry Air Force Base near Denver.  In April 1970, Ruzicka reported to Mather Air Force Base in California to train as a navigator and bombardier.  While there, he met Calista Muck and they were married in March 1971.  In February 1972, during a subsequent  assignment at the Strategic Air Command’s Beale Air Force Base in California, the Ruzickas welcomed a daughter, Jennifer.  In June, Ruzicka, now assigned to the 744th Bomb Squadron, was ordered to Guam and then to Thailand the following month.

The 744th was flying Arc Light missions in support of American combat operations in Vietnam.  These missions, flown by B-52D bombers, were mounted in three-aircraft formations known as “cells.”  Flying in the stratosphere, the big bombers were too high to be heard or seen from the ground.  Their targets included enemy bases and supply routes as well as troop concentrations behind the lines.

On July 30, 1972, Captain Ruzicka was assigned as the navigator on an Arc Light mission originating from U-Tapao Royal Thai Air Base in Thailand.

The three-plane cell, designated “Snow,” was scheduled for take-off at 1857 hours, but Ruzicka’s aircraft, Snow 3, reported a hydraulics problem that required maintenance attention.  As a result, the cell’s departure was delayed until 1905.  The subsequent climb to 35,000 feet was without incident.  Instrument flight conditions existed in cirrus clouds with an increasing number of thunderstorms in the vicinity.  At one point, the cell, with Snow 3 flying eight miles behind the lead aircraft, turned to avoid thunderstorms.  Moderate turbulence, moderate icing, and heavy St. Elmo’s fire were experienced by the cell.  St. Elmo’s fire is a weather phenomenon in which a luminous discharge is created by a ship or aircraft during a storm.  The discharge itself is not considered dangerous, but it indicates the presence of potentially deadly thunderstorms containing heavy precipitation, damaging hail, and violent updrafts and downdrafts.

At 2025, Snow 1 directed an increase in true airspeed to 470 knots.  Three minutes later, Snow 3 transmitted, “Three’s in a dive, bail out, bail out, bail out!”  Of the six crewmembers on board, only the gunner was able to cleanly exit the aircraft.  He reported that “G” forces and the nose down attitude of the aircraft made it difficult to escape.  The bomber crashed into the ground and exploded.  A search and rescue mission arrived on the scene about two hours later.  The gunner was picked up at 2325.  The bodies of the remaining crew member were recovered the following morning.

 

Captain Ruzicka was survived by his wife and their five-month-old daughter, his mother, sister, and grandmother.  A memorial service was held at Beale Air Force Base.  Captain Ruzicka’s decorations include the Air Force Commendation Medal, National Defense Service Medal, and Vietnam Service Medal.  He is buried in the Mount Vernon Cemetery, Fair Oaks, California.

For more information on Joseph L. Ruzicka, Jr. see:

https://soh.alumni.clemson.edu/scroll/joseph-l-ruzicka-jr/

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

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

 

 

 

Scroll of Honor – Henry Randolph Peebles

Carrier Pilot

Written by: Kelly Durham

When we think of the Navy’s role in World War II, we typically envision Pacific Ocean carrier battles like Coral Sea, Midway and the Philippine Sea.  But Thomas Franklin Kendrick of Laurens, Class of 1942, participated in the Navy’s little remembered carrier operations in the Mediterranean Sea in August 1944.

Kendrick, an  English major, attended Clemson as a freshman during the 1938-1939 academic year before transferring to Georgia Tech.  At Tech, Kendrick switched his major to industrial management.  He was a member of the Industrial Management Society, the golf team, and Sigma Alpha Epsilon.  Following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Kendrick volunteered for military service and upon graduation, he reported for duty with the Navy.

Kendrick earned his pilot’s wings and was assigned to a fighter squadron aboard the USS Kasaan Bay, one of the Navy’s smaller escort or “jeep” carriers.  These baby flattops had been developed in part to provide aerial support for trans-Atlantic convoys in an ultimately successful effort to counter the German’s U-boat threat.

In January 1944, Kasaan Bay was tasked with ferrying new aircraft and personnel to Pearl Harbor.  Following this mission, she returned to Norfolk, Virginia for overhaul and then embarked on a voyage to Casablanca in North Africa on another ferry mission.  Following her return to the States, Kasaan Bay again headed east, this time bound for Oran for anti-submarine warfare operations in the western Mediterranean before practicing for the Allied invasion of southern France.  Kasaan Bay arrived on station for the invasion on August 15, 1944.  Kasaan Bay’s aircraft flew missions in support of the Allied landings.

On August 25, Lieutenant (jg) Kendrick flew a mission near Montpellier, west of Marseille.  Dipping below a 600-foot cloud ceiling, Kendrick’s flight discovered an enemy convoy and began a strafing run.  Kendrick fired on a string of four ammunition wagons, descending to just fifty feet above the ground.  One of the wagons exploded, throwing debris into the air and damaging Kendrick’s aircraft.  On subsequent strafing runs, Kendrick felt that the aircraft was not responding crisply and radioed one of his squadron mates to close on his airplane for a visual inspection.  Lieutenant Thomas, the flight leader, observed extensive damage to Kendrick’s starboard stabilizer, the small tail wing on the right side of the aircraft.  Thomas ordered Kendrick to return to the ship.  After an uneventful landing, inspection of the damage revealed that Kendrick’s control cables had been nearly severed.  For his “heroism and extraordinary achievement while participating in aerial flights as pilot of a carrier-based naval fighter bomber during the Allied invasion of Southern France in August 1944,” Kendrick was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.  But Kendrick’s war was not yet over.

Following Kasaan Bay’s return to the States in September, Kendrick’s squadron was decommissioned and he was assigned to the recently organized fighter-bomber squadron VBF-89 aboard the new USS Antietam, an Essex class fleet carrier.  From mid-1943 until the end of the war, Essex class carriers (such as the Yorktown now at Patriot’s Point in Charleston) formed the heart of the Navy’s combat power in the Pacific.  Antietam was commissioned in January 1945 and completed her shakedown cruise at the end of April.  Post cruise repairs were completed on May 19 and Antietam sailed from Philadelphia that same day, bound for the Pacific via the Panama Canal.

Flight operations aboard Antietam continued while the ship was in transit.  On May 31, as the carrier approached Cristobal, on the Caribbean side of the Canal, Kendrick was killed in the crash of his F-4U Corsair while on a training flight.

Kendrick was survived by his wife, the former Frieda Dekker of Boston, Massachusetts, his parents, and his sister.  Following the war, Kendrick’s remains were returned to Laurens where he was buried in the city cemetery.    

For more information about Lieutenant (jg) Thomas Franklin Kendrick see:

https://soh.alumni.clemson.edu/scroll/thomas-franklin-kendrick/

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

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

 

Scroll of Honor – Henry Randolph Peebles

Flight from Iwo Jima

Written by: Kelly Durham

46th Fighter Squadron P-51s with Iwo Jima’s Mount Suribachi in the background

The idea was to capture Iwo Jima, one of the Pacific’s Volcano Islands, in order to prevent the Japanese from continuing to use the island’s airfields.  Iwo Jima, about seven hundred sixty miles south-southeast of Tokyo, was home to Japanese fighter aircraft that were attacking American B-29 strategic bombers as they flew missions to bomb Japanese cities from recently captured bases in the Marianna Islands.  After a bloody campaign in which American casualties were higher than the enemy’s, Iwo Jima finally fell to US Marines in late March 1945.  Even before the battle was won, American Army Air Force units began to operate from airfields newly-wrested from Japanese control.  The 46th Fighter Squadron was one of these units.  At the controls of one of the 46th’s P-51 Mustang fighters was Second Lieutenant Henry Randolph Peebles, Clemson College Class of 1945.

Peebles was born in North Carolina, but his family moved to Clemson and in 1941, he enrolled in his hometown college as a freshman.  A mechanical engineering major, Peebles quit school in 1942.  He traveled to Miami Beach and enlisted on February 28, volunteering for the Army Air Force.  Selected for flight training, Peebles was designated a fighter pilot, earning his wings and being assigned to the 46th Fighter Squadron.  The 46th was one of the Army Air Force units surprised by the Japanese attack on Hawaii in December 1941.  It was largely destroyed by the strike on Hickam Field, but by the spring of 1945, the reconstituted squadron was on the offensive.  It had long since retired its P-39 and P-40 fighters in favor of the long-range P-38 Lightning and the Mustang.  Flying these aircraft, the squadron flew long missions over the empty Pacific escorting B-29 Superfortresses on their fire bombing missions against Japanese cities.

On May 10, 1945, rather than escort duty, Peebles was assigned to fly an offensive strafing and dive bombing mission against Japanese facilities on Chichi Jima island, about one hundred fifty miles to the north.  At approximately 1000 hours, Peebles, flying in the fourth position of the formation, started his dive bomb run from 10,000 feet above Chichi Jima.  His airplane disappeared through an overcast.  After about five seconds, the next pilot in the formation, First Lieutenant George Dunstan, pushed his control stick forward and followed Peebles down.  Dunstan then saw a big explosion east of the target.  He could not discern whether the explosion was from a bomb or was Peebles’s P-51. There was no further contact with Lieutenant Peebles and despite a thorough search of the area, no trace of the aircraft or of Lieutenant Peebles was found.

Peebles was listed as missing in action.  He was awarded the Air Medal and the Purple Heart.  On May 11, 1946, he was declared dead.  He is memorialized at the Honolulu Memorial in Hawaii.

For more information on Henry Randolph Peebles see: https://soh.alumni.clemson.edu/scroll/henry-randolph-peebles/

For additional information about Clemson University’s Scroll of Honor visit: https://soh.alumni.clemson.edu/

Photo: https://www.worldwarphotos.info/gallery/usa/aircrafts-2-3/p-51-mustang/p-51d-44-63955-tiny-gay-baba-of-the-46th-fs-21st-fg-iwo-jima-1945/

Scroll of Honor – William Shepard Nicholson, Jr.

Ferry Flight

Written by: Kelly Durham

It was said to be the largest factory under one roof anywhere in the world.  Its main structure enclosed three and a half million square feet.  Its assembly line was more than a mile long.  By 1944, at the peak of its production, Ford Motor Company’s Willow Run assembly plant was turning out one B-24 J Liberator heavy bomber every sixty-three seconds—and they all had to go somewhere.  The 5th Ferry Group of the Air Transport Command was tasked with dispatching aircraft from manufacturing plants to domestic and international airbases.  One of its pilots was Captain William Shepard Nicholson, Jr. of Union.

Billy Nicholson already had one degree when he enrolled at Clemson College.  He earned a Bachelor of Science degree from Davidson College in 1938 and added a Clemson degree in textile science in 1940.

Following graduation, Nicholson was employed by Deering Miliken, the South Carolina-based operator of textile mills.  Nicholson was called to active duty in 1942 and  was sent to Fort McClellan, Alabama.  From there, he trained at Camp Forrest, Tennessee and then Kelley Field, Texas where he earned his pilot’s wings in January 1943.

B-24s awaiting delivery at Willow Run.

Nicholson was assigned to the 5th Ferry Group operating out of Love Field in Dallas, Texas.  Its primary mission was to pick up new aircraft from the many factories scattered all over the country and deliver them  to domestic stations and fighting fronts.  To accomplish this mission, the group’s pilots and crews had to qualify to fly “anything, anywhere, anytime.”  Likely their most common aircraft ferry mission was the B-24 bomber.  With nearly 18,500 aircraft built, the B-24 was the most produced heavy bomber in history.  Ford manufactured nearly seven thousand of the big bombers at Willow Run.

On April 27, 1944, then serving as the director of training for the 5th Ferry Group, Captain Nicholson picked up a B-24 J Liberator at Romulus, Michigan, site of one of the airports serving the Willow Run plant.  His intended delivery destination was Charleston, South Carolina.  Flying with a civilian copilot and an Army Air Force flight engineer, the Liberator encountered poor weather en route.  In heavy rain and low clouds, the aircraft crashed into a wooded hillside and exploded near Lillington, North Carolina, just north of Fort Bragg.  All three aboard were killed.

Captain Nicholson was survived by his wife, the former Sara Johnson of Asheville, North Carolina, their daughter, his parents and two sisters.  He was buried in the Grove Hill Cemetery in Darlington.

For more information on William Shepard Nicholson, Jr. see:

https://soh.alumni.clemson.edu/scroll/william-shepard-nicholson-jr/

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

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

Scroll of Honor – Derrell Sevier Jones

Whiskey Run

Written by: Kelly Durham

By mid-April 1945, the Eighth Air Force, America’s strategic bomber armada operating from English airfields, had run out of targets.  So effective, so devastating had been the bombing campaign against Axis targets, that American strategic air forces in Europe switched their mission to supporting Allied ground forces.  This change in tactics didn’t ground the big bombers, but it did ease the strain on its fliers as they, like so many others, waited for the inevitable German surrender. Derrell Sevier Jones

Derrell Sevier Jones of Anderson graduated from Clemson in 1930.  A horticulture major, he was a member of the Thalian Club, one of the campus’s non-fraternal social organizations which met downtown in the Masonic Lodge.

As the war in Europe struggled toward its finish, Jones was serving as a master sergeant in the 367th Bomb Squadron, the “Reich Wreckers,” based at Thurleigh Airfield in southeastern England.  Jones had been awarded the Air Medal, indicating that he had completed twenty-five combat missions over Europe.  On April 14, 1945, Jones departed Thurleigh on his final flight, one that was listed as a navigation training flight, but which in reality had a distinctly different purpose.

The flight, aboard a B-17G nicknamed Combined Operations, departed at 1500 hours into cloudy skies.  The pilot, First Lieutenant Robert Vieille, was briefed that lower clouds along his planned route would necessitate flying at an altitude of six thousand feet.  That route was to the northwest, across England, to the north of  Wales, over the Irish Sea, with the destination of Langford Lodge Airfield in Northern Ireland.  As this was a training rather than a combat mission, the aircraft’s aerial gunners would not be aboard.  Instead, the Saturday afternoon flight was accommodating several passengers bound for Northern Ireland and a weekend of rest and relaxation.  The passengers included the 367th Squadron’s executive officer, its operations officer, a female American Red Cross officer on leave from France, and Derrell Jones.  The flight would have had one additional passenger, but squadron flight surgeon Dr. McClung was unable to attract Lieutenant Vieille’s attention despite chasing the B-17 down the runway in a jeep.  Missing the flight saved the doctor’s life.

A little more than halfway through its planned two-hour flight, Combined Operations was about four miles to the north of it briefed course.  Over the sea, that would not have been remarkable, except that the aircraft was droning along only three hundred fifty feet above sea level, not the six thousand foot altitude for which it had been cleared.  While heading northwest underneath the low clouds, the pilot suddenly saw land directly ahead.  He pulled the airplane up and attempted to turn to the left, but his actions were too late.  The big bomber skipped across the ground and slammed into a stone wall, exploding and bursting into flame.  The drift off its planned heading had put the aircraft on a collision course with the Chasms, the steep, rocky southwest coast of the Isle of Man.

The noise of the explosion alerted local residents who rushed to the site.  Intense flames prevented them from getting too close to the wreckage.  All eleven aboard were killed.

Investigators examine the crash site the following day.

The official “cover” for the flight was navigation practice. Why would an experienced pilot, copilot, and navigator be practicing navigation the day after completing a combat mission?  They weren’t.  The real purpose of that fatal flight had nothing to do with training and everything to do with preparing for the German surrender.  That the flight was a “whiskey run” was confirmed years later by surviving members of the aircrew who didn’t go on the trip as well as other officers from the squadron.  In anticipation of the end of the war—and the celebration that would accompany it—the officers of the squadron had chipped in to buy a planeload of Irish whiskey and bring it back to Thurleigh.  Among the ironies of the tragic mission is that Lieutenant Vieille was a non-drinker.

Squadron commander Major Earl Kesling wrote Vieille’s father that the crash “was by far the most heartfelt accident this group ever had,” that despite the combat losses he had witnessed “never have I felt so badly about any misfortune… Army records,” Major Kesling continued, “don’t tell the whole story.”  The whole story didn’t emerge until Lieutenant Vielle’s niece and her husband began to piece the story together by reviewing those “Army records” and interviewing surviving members of the squadron.

Whether Master Sergeant Jones was in on the “whiskey run” or simply an unlucky passenger is unknown.  He is buried in the Cambridge American Cemetery, Cambridge, England.

For more information about Master Sergeant Derrell Sevier Jones see:

https://soh.alumni.clemson.edu/scroll/derrell-sevier-jones/

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

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

Scroll of Honor – Robert Murrah Bailey

Extraordinary Heroism

Written by: Kelly Durham

Robert Murrah Bailey of Anderson attended Clemson for just one year, 1903-04.  He took the standard freshman course load and had not declared an academic major by the time he left campus.

According to his sister, Cleo, Bailey enlisted in the Army on June 6, 1916, at age 32,  in order to serve along the Mexican border.  In March of that year, Mexican revolutionary Pancho Villa had led a raid against Columbus, New Mexico on the US-Mexican border.  The United States responded by dispatching an expeditionary force commanded by General John J. Pershing to capture Villa and bring him to justice.  Although more than 140,000 National Guardsmen were called up, only two regiments were actually deployed to the border—and Villa was never captured.

Nonetheless, Bailey remained in the Army, serving with the 118th Infantry Regiment of the 30th Division, composed of National Guard units from the Carolinas, Georgia, and Tennessee.  When the United States entered World War I in April of 1917, Bailey was promoted to sergeant and shipped overseas with his division.  The 30th division took part in the Battle of Lys and the Somme offensive and was one of only two US divisions to break through the Hindenburg Line during the Battle of St. Quentin Canal.

Bailey’s leadership ability was recognized and he was sent to officers’ candidate school in France.  His promotion to Second Lieutenant on September 30, 1918 was accompanied by a transfer to the 114th Infantry Regiment of the 29th Division.  The 29th was another National Guard division. It was composed of units from New Jersey, Maryland, and Virginia, states that had fought on opposite sides during  the Civil War,  earning it the nickname the “Blue and Gray” division.  The 29th, as part of the US First Army, participated in the Meuse-Argonne offensive.  With outstanding battlefield leadership, it advanced seven kilometers in twenty-one days of combat.

While leading his platoon against an enemy position of October 12, 1918, Lieutenant Bailey was wounded.  Even so, he refused to retire from the field until his platoon reorganized and repulsed a German counterattack.  Bailey’s wound proved fatal, but his “extraordinary heroism” enabled his men to hold their position.  Bailey was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, the Army’s second highest award for valor.

Robert Murrah Bailey was survived by his mother and his sister.  He is memorialized on the Tablets of the Missing at Meuse-Argonne American Military Cemetery in France and in the Westview Section of Old Silver Brook Cemetery in Anderson.

For more information on Robert Murrah Bailey see:

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

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

https://soh.alumni.clemson.edu/scroll/robert-murrah-bailey/

 

 

 

Scroll of Honor – Vallentin Tulla

Superfortress Pilot  

Written by: Kelly Durham

It was described as a technological marvel, a quantum leap forward in aviation science and engineering. The B-29 Superfortress very heavy bomber demonstrated the ingenuity and capability of American science and engineering under the grave pressures of a world at war.  Even before the war began, the Army Air Corps realized that the B-17 Flying Fortress would not be adequate for the vast distances encompassed by the Pacific theater.  To fulfill anticipated mission requirements, the Air Corps required a new, very heavy bomber that could carry greater bomb loads longer distances at higher altitudes and at greater speeds.  Boeing Aircraft’s answer was the B-29, at $3 billion the most expensive weapons system ever developed, surpassing even the Manhattan Project with which it would be inevitably linked.  One of the pilots training to fly this modern marvel was Vallentin Tulla, Clemson College Class of 1943.

Vallentin Tulla, left, and Jesus Bardia were both members of the Class of 1943, both from Puerto Rico, both Army Air Force pilots, and are both listed on the Scroll of Honor.

In an era in which more than eighty percent of Clemson’s upper classmen were from South Carolina, Tulla was a rarity.  He wasn’t a Palmetto State native, nor was he from the continental United States.  Tulla was from Santurce, Puerto Rico, one of five upper classmen from the island attending Clemson in 1942.  Tulla was a civil engineering major and a member of the Newman Club, the Catholic students’ organization.  Tulla left Clemson at the end of his junior year in the spring of 1942.  He volunteered for the Army Air Force, perhaps eager to put his engineering skills to use.

Tulla advanced through the phases of flight training and qualified as pilot on the B-17, the Army Air Force’s workhorse heavy bomber.  He was assigned to the 501st Bomb Group, activated June 1, 1944 at Dalhart, Texas.  The 501st would transition to the new, state-of-the-art B-29 Superfortress.  In August, the Group moved to Harvard Army Airfield in Nebraska.  In November, air crews were formed for the transition training to begin.  Long distance flights were part of the training regimen as the B-29s would undertake long-range missions from Pacific Islands like Tinian to attack Japan’s home islands some fifteen hundred miles distant.

On March 12, 1945, Tulla was the pilot for a navigational training flight that departed Harvard at 1025 Central War Time.  The aircraft carried a full crew and was scheduled to remain airborne for fourteen hours, simulating the length of a round trip mission.

The urgency of the war and the need to field a bomber that could reach Japan fromthe greatest possible distance rushed the development of the B-29.  Its advanced design and challenging specifications inevitably resulted in setbacks.  The second prototype of the big bomber had experienced an engine fire on its very first flight on December 30, 1942.  Less than two months later, the prototype was back in the skies, having lifted off from Seattle’s Boeing Field with chief test pilot Eddie Anderson at the controls.  Once again, an engine caught fire, but this time the results were fatal.  All eleven aboard the aircraft were killed, along with twenty workers and a fireman when the plane crashed into a Seattle meat-packing plant.

Despite its sleek appearance and modern design, the B-29 continued to experience engine problems.  Engineering changes were being designed so rapidly that aircraft came off of the production lines and were immediately flown to modification centers for continued adjustments.  The most common problem with the advanced aircraft continued to be catastrophic engine failure.

Tulla with his wife, the former Betty Goodman of Clemson.

Ten hours into the flight, Second Lieutenant Tulla radioed the control tower at Alexandria, Louisiana stating that he was coming in for an emergency landing due to engine trouble.  The tower granted an emergency clearance, but according to the subsequent accident report, an engine backfire sucked fire into the aircraft’s induction system.  The aircraft veered to the left of the runway and dropped steeply, resulting in a cartwheeling crash, explosion, and fire.  All ten aboard the aircraft were killed.

Vallentin Tulla was survived by his wife, the former Betty Goodman of Clemson, his parents, two brothers and four sisters.  His sister, Haydee Tulla, then a graduate student at the University of Pennsylvania, attended her brother’s burial service at Clemson’s Old Stone Church Cemetery.  After the war, Tulla’s remains were returned to Puerto Rico and buried at the Puerto Rico Memorial in Carolina.

For additional information on Vallentin Tulla see:

https://soh.alumni.clemson.edu/scroll/valentin-tulla/

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

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

Scroll of Honor – Jake S. Colvin, Jr.

High Level

Jake Stone Colvin, Jr. achieved at a high level in so many different walks of life: academics, athletics, leadership, and service to his country during time of war.

Colvin, the son of Mr. and Mrs. Jake S. Colvin, Sr. of Chester, was a member of the Clemson College Class of 1942.  An industrial education major, Jake was an honor student.  He marched with the Pershing Rifles and as a senior, served as commanding officer of L Company, 3rd Battalion, 2nd Regiment with the rank of cadet captain.  He attended ROTC summer training at Clemson in 1941, qualifying as a marksman.  His military prowess earned him an invitation into Scabbard and Blade, the military honor society.  He was also a member of Blue Key and the Central Dance Association, which he served as president.  A boxer, Colvin punched in the 155 pound weight class and served as the team’s alternate captain, earning membership in the Block “C” Club.

With his impressive collegiate record, it’s not surprising that Colvin was accepted into Army Air Force flight training following his graduation and commissioning. Flight training carried Colvin to Maxwell Field, Alabama; Douglas, Georgia; Greenwood, South Carolina; Lawrenceville, Illinois; and Columbus, Ohio.  As he progressed through the stages of flight training, he qualified as a pilot on the Army Air Force’s workhorse heavy bomber, the B-17 Flying Fortress.

By February 1944, First Lieutenant Colvin was flying the big bombers with the 730th Bomb Squadron of the 452nd Bomb Group based at Deopham Green airfield in England. On Leap Day, February 29, Colvin and his crew were alerted to fly a mission with a twist.  Instead of flying one of the bombers from their own group, their orders were to report to the 388th Bomb Group at nearby Knettishall air base to fly Cock O’ the Walk, one of that group’s aircraft.

Despite this change of station, the mission started off routinely with more than two hundred 8th Air Force bombers sliding into formation in the skies over East Anglia before heading east across the North Sea.  A good beginning was essential, because this day’s mission was no “milk run.”  The target was aircraft production factories in Brunswick, Germany.

By the time the formation reached Brunswick shortly after 1100 hours, cloud cover was solid.  That may have accounted for the absence of enemy fighters.  Still, the bombers had to be concerned with German anti-aircraft fire, or flak, which with radar guidance could “see” through the clouds.  Likewise, the bomber formation was relying on its own radar to identify its target.  Lead aircraft, equipped with targeting radar, signaled the rest of the formation to release bombs by firing flares.  Bombs away occurred at 1116 hours from an altitude of 21,000 feet.

Immediately after releasing its bomb load, while its bomb bay doors were still open, Colvin’s aircraft was struck in the bomb bay by German flak, creating a great explosion.  According to the plane’s navigator, Second Lieutenant Allan Johnson, the blast killed Jake Colvin and mortally wounded the copilot.  The ball turret gunner and one of the waist gunners were also killed.  With the plane on fire and falling earthward, Johnson and five other crew members were able to bail out.  They would be taken prisoner.  The plane crashed just outside of Brunswick.  Although fifty-four bombers were damaged during the mission, Colvin’s was the only one lost.

First Lieutenant Jake Colvin was survived by his parents, two sisters and a brother.  After the war, his body was buried at the Ardennes American Military Cemetery, Belgium.  He is also memorialized by a marker in Chester’s Evergreen Cemetery.

For more information about Jake Stone Colvin, Jr. see:

https://soh.alumni.clemson.edu/scroll/jake-stone-colvin-jr/

 

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

Cock O’ the Walk photo courtesy Imperial War Museum, http://www.americanairmuseum.com/aircraft/4833

Scroll of Honor – Robert Adams Guy

Cassino

The slaughter got so bad that a German soldier carrying a white flag carefully picked his way down the slope among the snow sprinkled rocks.  Surrender wasn’t his intent.  It was to propose a temporary truce to allow both sides to collect their dead from the bloody battlefield just north of Monte Cassino.

By that Valentine’s Day in 1944, the Allies had been struggling for weeks to break through the Gustav Line, the German defensive belt that stretched across the Italian peninsula from the Adriatic Sea in the east to the Tyrrhenian Sea in the west.  The Gustav Line blocked the Allied advance through the Liri River Valley toward Rome.  The key terrain anchoring the line in the west was fifteen hundred foot high Monte Cassino which dominated the entrance into the valley.  Robert Adams Guy

Captain Robert Adams Guy, Clemson Class of 1939, was assigned to the 3rd Chemical Battalion which was involved in the battle to capture this critical ground.  Bob Guy, from Chester, majored in textile chemistry.  He served as vice president of Phi Psi Honorary Textile Fraternity and as president of the Catawba County Club.

Following graduation, Guy joined CIBA, the chemical company, in New York.  He resigned from CIBA and joined the Army in November 1940.  With his academic training and work experience, Guy was assigned as a chemical warfare officer.  He was initially stationed at Fort Benning, Georgia, then in April 1942 was sent to Fort Bliss, Texas.  Subsequent postings took him to North Africa, then Sicily, and finally to Italy, were he was assigned to A Company of the 3rd Chemical Battalion.  Guy was assigned to the same battalion as his Clemson classmate and fellow chemical warfare officer Harry Raysor.

By mid-February 1944, Allied forces had suffered heavy casualties in repeated attempts to capture the dominant high ground around Monte Cassino.  American, British, French, Algerian, and New Zealand troops had all taken their turn on the front lines.  With varying degrees of success, each force had spent itself against the well-fortified and determined German defenders.

The 3rd Chemical Battalion’s role was to provide indirect fire support to the infantry troops.  The battalion was equipped with 4.2 inch mortars for firing chemicals, smoke, and high explosive rounds in support of infantry operations.  While most of its rounds were high explosive munitions, the battalion also fired white phosphorous rounds which set fire to everything on which they landed—including bodies. 

On February 17, Bob Guy was killed in battle.  He was awarded the Purple Heart and the French Croix de Guerre.  Captain Guy was survived by his wife and daughter.   Following the war, his remains were returned to the United States and were buried in the family plot at Zion Presbyterian Cemetery near Lowrys.

For more information on Robert Adams Guy see:

https://soh.alumni.clemson.edu/scroll/robert-adams-guy/

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

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

Scroll of Honor – Clayton Lawrence Herrington

Reconnaissance Patrol

The November 1942 Allied invasion of French North Africa placed its German and Italian occupiers in a bind.  General Montgomery’s British Eighth Army was ascendant in the east, and now Eisenhower’s expeditionary force was strengthening in the west.  Axis forces , though caught between the proverbial rock and hard place, were not yet defeated however, as they were led by the legendary Desert Fox, General Erwin Rommel.

Clayton Lawrence Herrington, an architecture major in Clemson’s Class of 1941, was a lieutenant in the 34th Infantry Division, then attached to the First British Army under Supreme Commander Eisenhower.  Herrington had come to Clemson’s campus from Waynesboro, Georgia in 1937.  Upon graduation in June 1941, Herrington was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Army.

Herrington was ordered overseas in April 1942 to join the 34th Infantry Division, the first American division deployed to the European Theater of Operations.  The division, nicknamed the Red Bulls, was formed from Iowa and Minnesota National Guard units that had been federalized in February 1941.  Under War Department supervision, the division expanded, reequipped, and saw a large percentage of its officers replaced with more energetic leaders.  Herrington was one of these.

The quick shipment of the 34th Infantry Division to Northern Ireland after the attack on Pearl Harbor was intended to demonstrate American commitment to the “Germany First” strategy agreed upon by British and American leaders.  While the move was symbolic to an extent, it had the side effect of excluding the 34th from the large scale maneuvers in Louisiana and the Carolinas that provided its sister divisions with valuable large formation exercises and training.  As a result, the division’s own history noted that it “was not prepared for combat service.”

Nonetheless, when Prime Minister Churchill and President Roosevelt agreed to assault North Africa, the 34th’s positioning in Northern Ireland meant that it was immediately available for commitment.  The division, with Herrington assigned to F Company, 2nd Battalion, 168th Infantry Regiment, landed in Algiers as part of Operation TORCH’s Eastern Task Force on November 8, 1942.

Over the following months, the Allies gradually expanded their presence in North Africa and by February 1943 occupied a winter defense line running north to south through central Tunisia.  The southern portion of this line was manned by the US II Corps, to include Herrington’s 34th Infantry Division.  Highway 13 ran from the southeast—Axis territory—toward the northwest and Allied lines.  To control this highway and the critical Faid Pass through Tunisia’s Eastern Dorsal range, II Corps commander Lloyd Fredendall directed that elements of his 1st Armored Division occupy and strengthen two key hill tops: Djebel Lessouda and Djebel Ksaira.  Herrington’s 2nd Battalion/168th Infantry Regiment was detached from the 34th and attached to Lieutenant Colonel John Waters task force on Lessouda.  Despite occupying defensive positions, Fredendall ordered that the enemy should be harassed at every opportunity, including at night.  He also charged his subordinate commanders to conduct frequent reconnaissance patrols to ascertain enemy strength and intentions.

Fredendall’s subordinate commanders, notably Waters’s division commander Orlando Ward, voiced concerns over the disposition of forces at Lassouda and Ksaira.  The units were too far forward to be defended in the event of a major German attack and were also too far apart to offer each other mutual support.  Aggravating the tactical issue was the quality of replacement soldiers received by Herrington’s 2nd Battalion.  One hundred twenty-five new men had recently joined the unit, most of them without even rudimentary marksmanship training.

On the night of February 11-12, First Lieutenant Herrington was ordered to lead a reconnaissance patrol.  Under cover of darkness, Herrington’s patrol passed through friendly lines on the east slope of Djebel Lassouda and proceeded into no-man’s land and beyond.  During the night, Herrington’s patrol was attacked by German forces somewhere along Highway 13 and he was mortally wounded. The aggressive response to American patrols led some officers to believe that the Germans were hiding something.

On February 13, General Eisenhower toured Allied positions in II Corps’ sector.  Apprised of misgivings about the disposition of American forces, the Supreme Commander committed to looking into the matter the following day upon return to his own headquarters.

Before Eisnehower could make good on his pledge,  Rommel attacked.  At 0630 on February 14, more than one hundred tanks were unleashed along with supporting infantry and artillery, smashing through Faid Pass, isolating and destroying the Allied positions at Djebel Lassouda and Djebel Ksaira.  The Germans would drive all the way to the distant Kasserine Pass, far to the west, bloodying the green American troops and embarrassing their commanders.  It was Rommel’s first engagement against the US Army—and his last battlefield victory of the war.

First Lieutenant Herrington was survived by his wife, Mary and his foster parents, Mr. and Mrs. A. O. Butts.  He is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

For more information about Clayton Lawrence Herrington see:

https://soh.alumni.clemson.edu/scroll/clayton-lawrence-herrington/

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

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

Scroll of Honor – Donald Anthony Callia

Birthday Flight

Written by: Kelly Durham

The mission was supposed to be a routine training flight.  That it fell on the pilot’s birthday was a mere coincidence.  It turned out to be anything but routine.

Donald Anthony Callia of Inman was an electrical engineering major and a member of the Class of 1960.  He was a member of the American Institute of Electrical Engineers and Institute for Radio Engineers.

January of 1963 found Navy Lieutenant (JG) Callia at Oceana Naval Air Station at Virginia Beach, Virginia.  He was assigned to the 101st Fighter Squadron, the Atlantic Fleet’s readiness squadron.  The 101st trained air crews and aircraft maintainers on the F4 Phantom, the Navy’s versatile, new all-purpose fighter.

On January 16, 1963, Callia’s twenty-fifth birthday, he was assigned to an evening training mission, flying in an F4B fighter as the aerial observer.  As such, Callia’s duties would have been to operate and monitor the aircraft’s reconnaissance systems.   About ten miles off the coast of Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina, Callia’s aircraft crashed into the sea.  Although the airplane’s wreckage was located, Callia’s body was not recovered.

Callia was survived by his wife, Marie, and his parents.  He is memorialized at Arlington National Cemetery.

For more information on Donald Anthony Callia see:

https://soh.alumni.clemson.edu/scroll/donald-anthony-callia/

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

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

Scroll of Honor – Harry Burton Goodson, Jr.

Kamikazi Victim

Written by: Kelly Durham

Relatively few enrolled in college during the 1930s.  Of those who did, fewer still graduated.  The academics were rigorous and the economic status of many families prohibited the luxury of a college education.

Nonetheless, Harry Burton Goodson, Jr. of Florence matriculated at Clemson College as a member of the Class of 1943.  Goodson, an agriculture major, remained in school only his freshman year, 1939-40, before taking employment with the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad.  In December 1941, Goodson volunteered for the Navy.

World War II, as dramatically demonstrated at Pearl Harbor, ushered in the age of the aircraft carrier as any Navy’s primary offensive weapon.  The United States Navy included a handful of carriers at the outset of hostilities, but by the end of the war, one hundred forty-three carriers had been built in American shipyards.  Famous fleet carriers, like Yorktown now a memorial in Charleston Harbor, carried the fight in the Pacific ever closer to the Japanese home islands. Naval architects soon designed smaller escort carriers to handle varied other missions.  These smaller, lightly-armored carriers provided air cover for transoceanic convoys and served as ferries to move aircraft from the United States into combat theaters.  As the war progressed, escort carriers helped provide combat air patrol for the massive Allied fleets operating in the Pacific.  The most numerous class of escort carriers was the Casablanca class, which included CVE-61, the USS Manila Bay.

Among this ship’s crew was Harry Goodson, an aviation metalsmith.  By the beginning of 1945, Goodson was already a veteran of two years of Pacific duty, years that had seen the fortunes of war turn in favor of the United States.  America’s ability to mass produce airplanes and ships, like the Manila Bay, was one of the key factors in this turn of events.  The airplanes launching daily from the Pacific Fleet’s carriers required extensive maintenance in order to keep them flying in the demanding environment of combat at sea.  Goodson’s job was to maintain and repair aircraft, airframes, and components.

On New Year’s Day 1945, Manila Bay left Manu, north of New Guinea, and sailed north for the Philippines as part of Vice Admiral Jesse Oldendorf’s Bombardment and Fire Support Group.  Japanese air forces had grown continually weaker as the Allies, led by the United States, committed ever increasing resources to the battle.  But in October, during the initial stages of General MacArthur’s invasion of the Philippines, the Japanese had initiated organized suicide attacks.  These attackers, which became known as kamikazes, generated controversy among Japanese military leaders, according to Pacific War historian Ian Toll.  Many Japanese argued that such tactics misconstrued traditional samurai ideals.  Nonetheless, by late 1944, kamikaze attacks were increasingly employed as Japanese military and naval strength diminished under the relentless Allied onslaught.

Japanese attacks against Oldendorf’s task group commenced on January 4 in the vicinity of the Mindoro Strait.  Carriers were primary targets for kamikaze pilots.  American airpower was decimating Japan’s war making capability and carriers were, with their distinctive flight decks, easy targets to identify from the air.  Despite combat air patrols protecting the fleet from above, a kamikaze crashed into the flight deck of USS Ommaney Bay, an escort carrier similar to Manila Bay, causing her to sink.

January 5, 1945. Image of Manila Bay, taken just moments after she was crashed by a kamikaze at the base of her island. Official U.S. Navy photograph

Enemy air attacks intensified on January 5, with repeated waves of attackers sweeping in during the morning and afternoon.  Just before 1750 hours, two kamikazes dove on Manila Bay.  The first plane plunged into the ship just behind the bridge, igniting fires on the flight deck and just below on the hangar deck where airplanes were maintained and repaired between operations.  The second plane, mercifully, missed, crashing into the sea just off the starboard fantail.  Firefighting parties quickly brought the blaze under control, but fourteen men had been killed, including Harry Goodson.

Goodson was survived by his wife Belva and their son Harry B. Goodson, III.  He was also survived by his father and sister.  Although no remains were recovered, Goodson is memorialized on the Manila American Military Cemetery’s Tablets of the Missing and on a marker in Florence’s Mount Hope Cemetery.

For additional information about Harry B. Goodson, Jr. see:

https://soh.alumni.clemson.edu/scroll/harry-burton-goodson-jr/

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

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

 

 

Scroll of Honor – Charles Alex Brown

Blunting the Bulge

Written by: Kelly Durham

Charles Alex Brown of Starr spent two years on the Clemson campus.  An agriculture major, Brown arrived in 1938 as a member of the Class of 1942.  He was a member of the Animal Husbandry Club and was assigned to H Company, 2nd Battalion, 2nd Regiment of the Cadet Brigade.  Brown left Clemson after his sophomore year and took a job with C. M. Best Construction Company.  When he Charles Alex Brownentered the Army in 1941, the service took note of his work experience and classified him as a construction foreman.  He was assigned to the 33rd Engineer Battalion of the 7th Armored Division.

The 7th Armored Division was formed in March 1942 as America ramped up for the war it had been trying to avoid.  The division trained at Camp Coxcomb, California and arrived in England in June 1944.  The roles of combat engineers in an armored division were varied. The main task of Brown and his battalion would have been to facilitate the movement of their division.  This would have involved erecting tactical bridges, clearing enemy minefields, breaching trenches and other obstacles.  Engineers were also trained as infantrymen and tactical circumstances would often dictate that they fight alongside their frontline comrades.

The 7th Armored spent little time in England.  On August 13 and 14, 1944, it landed on Omaha and Utah Beaches in France and was assigned to General George Patton’s Third Army.  The division participated in the offensive on Chartres which fell on August 18.  It crossed the Seine River on August 24, no doubt under the watchful eyes of Brown and his fellow engineers.  The division pushed on to liberate World War I battlegrounds Château-Thierry and then Verdun on August 31.  After a brief halt for maintenance, rest, and refueling, the division resumed the offensive on September 6.  It made several attempts to cross the Moselle River northwest of Metz, but the deep river valley was unsuitable for tanks.  By linking up with elements of the 5th Infantry Division, the 7th finally was able to cross the river on September 15.

On September 25, the division was transferred to General William Simpson’s Ninth Army as part of the ground support forces for the Airborne Market-Garden offensive into the Netherlands. The division marched north to protect the operation’s east flank from German counterattacks.

In early November, the division was moved into a rest area in order to receive and train replacements for the many men who had fallen in France and the Netherlands.  By the end of the month, the division had moved to positions straddling the Dutch-German

The December 22, 1944 situation map shows the 7th Armored Division’s success in blunting the German offensive that came to be known as the Battle of the Bulge.
Library of Congress

border.  Part of the division was attached to the neighboring 84th Infantry Division on what was thought to be a relatively quiet sector of the front.

When the Germans launched their surprise Ardennes offensive in mid-December, the 7th Armored Division was transferred to General Courtney Hodges’ First Army and, along with the 106th Infantry Division, ordered to hold St. Vith, Belgium, a critical road and rail center the Germans needed to capture in order to sustain their offensive.  The German plan called for the capture of St. Vith by 1800 hours on December 17.  Over the course of a snowy, frigid week, the 7th Armored absorbed much of the weight of the German offensive, blunting its progress, and wrecking its precarious timetable.  Sergeant Brown was killed near Neundorf during vicious winter combat on December 22.  The weakened division was forced to withdraw the following day. By Christmas Eve, the Germans had reached the limits of their supplies, spelling the end of their final offensive.

The 7th Armored Division would recapture St. Vith from the depleted Germans in January 1945.  Brown’s body was recovered and buried at Henri-Chapelle American Military Cemetery.

Charles Alex Brown was awarded the Purple Heart. He was survived by his wife, the former Nell Acker of Anderson, his parents, five sisters, and two brothers, one of whom was fighting in Patton’s Third Army and the other who was recovering from wounds in England.

For more information about Sergeant Charles Alex Brown see:                                                   

https://soh.alumni.clemson.edu/scroll/charles-alex-brown/

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

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

 

 

Scroll of Honor – Baylis Whitner Harrison, Jr.

The Most Hazardous Service

Written by: Kelly Durham

It wasn’t simply the valor of soldiers, marines, sailors, and airmen that won the Second World War.  Each combatant had to be supplied with equipment, weapons, spare parts, ammunition, uniforms, rations, medicines and all of the other various items required to keep armies in the field, aircraft in the skies, and ships on the seas.  The massive logistical challenges overcome to supply American and Allied forces in a war reaching to the corners of the earth are rarely remembered today, but served as the basis for victory.  The critical—and most hazardous—link in this logistical supply chain was the Merchant Marine.  Baylis Whitner Harrison, Jr., was a member of Clemson’s Class of 1943 and a merchant seaman sailing on the SS John Harvey.

Harrison came to Clemson from his hometown of Marion, North Carolina as a freshman in 1939.  He majored in civil engineering, but left campus after his first year.  By 1943, when the remaining cadets in his class graduated, Harrison was serving in the Merchant Marine.  His vessel, the Liberty ship John Harvey, was completed in mid-January of that year after six weeks of construction at the North Carolina Shipbuilding Company in Wilmington.

The war had put a severe strain on American shipping.  Not only were massive amounts of food, weapons, ammunition and equipment needed in combat theaters, but German U-boats were sinking large numbers of US merchant vessels off America’s east coast in what the U-boat captains called “the Second Happy Time.”  To meet Allied shipping needs, and fulfill its role as “the arsenal of democracy,” the United States committed to an unprecedented shipbuilding program.  At its peak in 1943, American shipyards were completing more than one hundred Liberty ships per month.  These ships were easy to build, reliable, and versatile.  Their strength lay not in cutting edge technology, but in sheer numbers.  More than twenty-seven hundred Liberty ships would be completed during the war, including the John Harvey.

The Geneva Protocol signed in 1925, had banned the use, but not the stockpiling, of chemical weapons which had been employed with devastating effect in World War I.  While the United States had no intentions of offensive use of such weapons, President Roosevelt in August 1943 approved the secret shipment of mustard gas munitions to the Mediterranean theater.  The mustard gas was to be positioned for retaliatory use should the Germans employ similar weapons in their defense of Italy.  The SS John Harvey was selected for this classified and hazardous mission.

A World War II Liberty Ship

The ship, with Harrison aboard, sailed from Oran, Algeria on November 18, 1943. It arrived off of Bari, on Italy’s east coast, but the harbor was packed with Allied vessels unloading all manner of cargo needed to support the British and American forces then engaged against the Germans.

A harbor full of Allied ships proved to be a tempting target for the German Luftwaffe.  The Germans were aware of the port’s inadequate anti-aircraft defenses and believed that crippling the harbor might slow the Allied advance.  At 1925 hours, well after dark on December 2, one hundred fifty German Ju 88 medium bombers attacked from the east, flying over Bari from the Adriatic Sea.  To facilitate unloading, the harbor was well illuminated and the German bombers had no trouble hitting their targets.  Two ammunition ships exploded and a bulk petroleum pipeline was ruptured spreading a black sheet of flaming fuel over much of the harbor and engulfing previously undamaged ships.  John Harvey was also hit and destroyed in an enormous blast which released liquid sulphur mustard into the harbor and into the roiling clouds of smoke generated by burning ships, dock facilities, and warehouses.

Allied Ships Burn During the Attack on Bari

Twenty-eight merchant ships containing 31,000 tons of cargo were sunk.  Another twelve were damaged. Medical authorities at Bari concentrated their treatment on those suffering from blast and fire injuries unaware that a more insidious killer was attacking sailors covered with oil from the harbor and those who had breathed in the toxic fumes mixed in with smoke from the explosions and fires.  Within a day, six hundred twenty-eight patients were exhibiting symptoms of mustard gas poisoning, but medical staff members were unaware of the presence of the gas due to the highly classified nature of John Harvey’s cargo.  By the end of the month, eighty-three military patients had died from mustard gas poisoning.  The toll would have been higher without the efforts of Colonel Stewart Alexander, an expert in chemical warfare.  Dispatched to Bari to investigate, Alexander traced the gas to John Harvey and confirmed mustard gas as the responsible agent when he located a fragment of a US mustard gas bomb.  Alexander’s sleuthing alerted doctors in Bari to change their treatment to address mustard gas poisoning.

The Allied High Command attempted to conceal the disaster to avoid provoking the Germans into pre-emptive use of chemical weapons.  Given the multitude of witnesses to the catastrophe, the US Chiefs of Staff finally admitted the accident in a February 1944 statement.  The statement emphasized that the US had no intention of using chemical weapons except in retaliation.

Baylis Whitner Harrison, Jr.’s remains were never recovered.  He was awarded the Mariner’s Medal and Combat Bar with Star.

Whether in coastal waters, on the high seas, or in the relative safety of a friendly port, merchant mariners in World War II experienced the highest casualty rate of any service. One in twenty-six merchant mariners died during the war, one reason why Congress extended veterans status to the 215,000 merchant mariners who comprised the most hazardous link in America’s wartime logistics network.

For more information about Baylis Whitner Harrison, Jr. see:

https://soh.alumni.clemson.edu/scroll/bayliss-whitner-harrison-jr/

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

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

 

 

 

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:

https://soh.alumni.clemson.edu/scroll/ralph-buel-bradshaw/

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

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

 

P-47 photo courtesy the Imperial War Museum, http://www.americanairmuseum.com/aircraft/21479.

Scroll of Honor – Horace Hagood Young, Jr.

Operation RESERVIST

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:

https://soh.alumni.clemson.edu/scroll/horace-h-young/

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

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

 

 

 

 

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

Pandemic

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:

https://soh.alumni.clemson.edu/scroll/robert-lee-atkinson/

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

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

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:

https://soh.alumni.clemson.edu/scroll/dewitt-javan-ross/

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

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

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:

https://soh.alumni.clemson.edu/scroll/henry-kent-segars/

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

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

 

The photograph of Sweet Chariot above is courtesy of the Imperial War Museum,  https://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205360859

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:

https://soh.alumni.clemson.edu/scroll/frank-pierce-salter/

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

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

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:

https://soh.alumni.clemson.edu/scroll/daniel-gardner-dan-mccollum/

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

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

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:

https://soh.alumni.clemson.edu/scroll/stuart-star-abell-jr/

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

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

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.

For more information about First Lieutenant James Tinsley Whitney see:

https://soh.alumni.clemson.edu/scroll/james-tinsley-whitney/

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

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

 

 

 

 

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:
https://soh.alumni.clemson.edu/scroll/dock-graham-thomas-jr/

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

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

Scroll of Honor – Dibble Manly Rickenbaker

First to Fall

Written by: Kelly Durhan

Dibble Manly Rickenbaker of Summerton followed his older brother to Clemson in the fall of 1940.  Tourie was a year ahead of the younger Rickenbaker and would graduate in 1943. Dibble would major in agriculture but would remain at Clemson for only his freshman year. By 1943, Sergeant Dibble Rickenbaker was all the way on the other side of the United States, training at Lemoore Army Airfield in California.

World War II was the first conflict in which control of the air determined ultimate victory.  As such, the United States military committed unprecedented resources to the training of pilots, navigators, bombardiers, aerial gunners, and other airmen.  Army and Navy airfields sprang up all over the country, especially in areas with good year-round flying weather.  Lemoore, about eighty miles north-northwest of Bakersfield, was home to an Army Air Forces grass field used for phase two of the Army’s flight training program.

Army aviation training was divided into phases.  Primary training taught aviation cadets the fundamentals of flight with flying time in simple, low-powered airplanes. In phase two, pilots advanced to more complicated aircraft with larger, more powerful engines, adjustable flaps, radios, and navigation equipment. Pilot trainees at the 528th School Squadron at Lemoore flew the Vultee BT-13, a two-seat aircraft with a 450 horsepower engine and a two-position propeller.  Unlike the primary training aircraft, the BT-13 was capable of high speeds of up to 180 miles per hour.  The higher-powered, more complex aircraft prepared flyers for the front-line combat aircraft they would master in the later phases of training.

On July 9, 1943, Sergeant Rickenbaker boarded a BT-13 for a routine proficiency flight with pilot Second Lieutenant Ralph R. Ellis at the controls.  The aircraft was probably flying in a formation with other BT-13s because witnesses stated that the plane was flying straight and going “fairly slow” when it stalled and fell into a spin.  Ellis was unable to recover from the spin and the airplane made “9 or 10 more turns before crashing into the ground.”  Both Ellis and Rickenbaker were killed.

Dibble Rickenbaker was survived by his parents and his older brother, Tourie.  He was Summerton’s first casualty of the war. Sadly, he would not be the last.  Tourie would be killed in action in February 1945 while fighting in Germany.

For more information about Sergeant Dibble Manly Rickenbaker see:

https://soh.alumni.clemson.edu/scroll/dibble-manly-rickenbaker/

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

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

Scroll of Honor – James Henry Pressley, Jr.

A Time of Transition

Written by: Kelly Durham

The end of World War II was a time of transition on the Clemson College campus. The fall semester of 1945 brought a 40 percent increase in the student body as many young men returned from war armed with the educational benefits of the GI Bill.  The mix of returning veterans and traditional students caused college administrators to reconsider the school’s requirements for participation in military training: veterans were exempted.  The war years had interrupted the traditional flow of students to Clemson and fifty-six percent of the students on campus during the spring semester were freshmen, members of the Class of 1949.  One of these was James Henry Pressley, Jr. from Americus, Georgia.

Pressley spent two years on campus before leaving Clemson and joining the Navy.  Like the rest of the country, the Navy was also transitioning from war to peace and, like Clemson, it was involved in a significant restructuring.  The National Security Act of 1947 merged the Department of War and the Department of the Navy into what became the Department of Defense.  The new law also created a separate Air Force, the National Security Council, and the Central Intelligence Agency.  Unification of the national military establishment was deemed critical to help the United States face emerging threats as the Cold War continued to escalate.

Cold War tensions were heightened over the fate of eastern European countries now firmly under the control of the Soviet Union.  The United States had helped rebuild western Europe—including former foes Germany and Italy—and continued to promote collective defense of the continent through the 1949 establishment of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization or NATO.  France was one of the key participants in NATO.

By June 1954, Pressley had attained the rank of lieutenant (junior grade) and was serving as a flight instructor at the Navy’s aviation training command at Pensacola Naval Air Station in Florida.  Pressley conducted advanced flight training in the single-engine SNJ-4 aircraft manufactured by North American Aviation.

On June 29, 1945, Pressley was instructing a French aviation cadet in the SNJ-4.  Approximately one-quarter mile from Kings Field, Florida, the aircraft went out of control and crashed.  Pressley was killed instantly.  The French cadet was seriously injured and died a short time later.

Pressley was survived by his wife, Margaret, his parents, and sister. He is buried at Arlington National Cemetery. For more information about James Henry Pressley, Jr. see:

https://soh.alumni.clemson.edu/scroll/james-henry-pressley-jr/

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

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

 

 

 

 

Keeping the Tradition Alive

During this year’s Clemson Corps Senior Recognition Dinner, retired Brigadier General Hap Carr recognized three outstanding individuals for their efforts in promoting the awareness and education of Clemson’s long and rich military heritage and legacy.

The individuals were selected based on their efforts, outstanding leadership, dedication, and contributions to promoting, advancing and educating Clemson’s long and rich military history. Each recipient will receive a $1,000 check and a military challenge coin depicting the award. Their names will also be placed on a plaque that resides in the ROTC Departments and the Student Veterans Center.

From the Army ROTC department, Cadet. P. J. Campbell from Asheville, N.C., was recognized and awarded with the Keeping Traditions Alive award. Campbell has served as Commander of
Scabbard and Blade where he led efforts in five community service projects as well as provided education on Clemson Military Heritage to Clemson leadership including deans, the provost, and President Clements.  He is also a member of Pershing Rifles, in which he has participated in over forty hours of events. He has also served as the Cadet Recruiting Officer. Campbell will be attending The Army Transportation Basic Officer Leadership Course in June.

From the Air Force ROTC department, Cadet John Brandenburg from Charleston, S.C., was recognized.  Brandenburg has served as Director of Operations for the Arnold Air Society, coordinating service events. He has served as the third President of the Student Military Council.  He is currently the Executive Officer for Scabbard and Blade and serves as a Senator-at-large in the Clemson Undergraduate Student Senate. Cadet Brandenburg is headed for the New US Space Force, the Commander of which is General John Raymond, a Clemson AF ROTC alumnus. While he is waiting for results of the US Space Force Board, he will be serving an internship at the Pentagon this summer.

Veteran Tianna Jones from Wasilla, Alaska, was the third awardee.  She was a US Air Force Senior Airman, serving as a Broadcast Journalist at Dyess AF Base, Texas, and Kaiserslautern Germany. Jones is a senior at Clemson, majoring in accounting. She has served as an executive member of the Student Veterans Association as well as Treasurer. As a Student Assistant for Military and Veteran Engagement, she has demonstrated a commitment to educating the Clemson community in developing the Clemson Veteran Living Library where Clemson student veterans, alumni and family members can share their unique stories and experiences.  Jones is also a mentor to new student veterans as they navigate their transition into civilian life and the world of Clemson education. She has also hosted “Green Zone” training, which has allowed her to share her military and Clemson experience with students, some of which had never interacted with the military.

The “Keeping the Tradition Alive” Award was established in 2017 under the Clemson Corps umbrella of ROTC awards and scholarships. Together, these awards and scholarships have provided over $2 million in support to Clemson cadets and veterans throughout the years. This particular award was created to recognize cadets and veterans from each ROTC department for their contributions to the tenets of the Clemson Corps’ mission and motto of “Keeping the Tradition Alive.” The Student Military Council established the nomination process and then the award recipients are selected by the Award Committee and administered by the Financial Aid office

Scroll of Honor – Philip Aaron Porter

A Special Memorial Day

Written by: Kelly Durham

Next Monday is Memorial Day, a day on which we honor those who died while serving our country in its armed forces.  This year, Memorial Day weekend on the Clemson campus will include a special ceremony at the Scroll of Honor Memorial as we add Philip Aaron Porter to the names engraved around the Memorial’s barrow.  The service, to which the public is invited, will begin at 4 p.m. this Sunday.

Porter’s story is unusual in several aspects:  his passing is the most recent among all the heroes listed on Clemson’s Scroll of Honor; his military service predated his enrollment at and graduation from Clemson; and his sacrifice was not the result of a sudden catastrophe on the field of battle, but rather the consequence  of an insidious affliction incurred while serving in a Third World combat zone.

Porter was born in Easley and grew up in Pickens.  Following high school, he enlisted in the Army in August 1991.  After completing basic training at Fort Jackson, Porter trained to become a radio operator.  He also earned his parachutist jump wings.  With this training behind him, Porter was assigned to the elite 75th Ranger Regiment.

Porter and comrades in Somalia.

In December 1992, President George H. W. Bush ordered the US military to join United Nations Operation Restore Hope to stabilize order in Somalia.  That country had been racked by famine and civil war and was being ruled by competing warlords.  When President Bill Clinton took office the following month, he maintained the American commitment.

In May 1993, the parties involved in the civil war agreed to a disarmament conference proposed by warlord Mohamed Farrah Aidid, who had declared himself Somalia’s president.  But on June 5, UN forces were ambushed in Aidid-controlled Mogadishu and twenty-four Pakistani soldiers were killed.  The next day, the UN Security Council passed Resolution 837 calling for the arrest and trial of those responsible for the ambush.  Despite attacks on his stronghold by UN troops and US warplanes, Aidid remained defiant.

Following two more ambushes targeting American troops, President Clinton authorized the deployment of Task Force Ranger, consisting of four hundred Army Rangers and Delta Force operators.  Specialist Porter served with Task Force Ranger from August to October 1993 during what came to be known as the Battle of Mogadishu.  The fighting, in what was considered the most difficult close combat US troops had participated in since the Vietnam War, resulted in the apprehension of key Aidid allies but also the deaths of eighteen US, one Malaysian, and one Pakistani soldier.

During the course of the battle, Porter, on October 3 and 4, was engaged in the fighting.  According to the citation for his Joint Services Commendation Medal,

Porter helped his element fight through two ambushes and a roadblock, then met another Task Force Ranger element coming back from the objective with casualties… He quickly helped transfer them into the 5-ton he was traveling in, secured the area… all while under sporadic enemy fire.

Yet Porter’s heroic actions exacted a price.  During his active duty, Porter suffered a back injury that manifested as a protruding disc.  This injury was diagnosed by the Army prior to Porter’s honorable discharge from the service in May 1995.  Medications used to treat these issues brought on further health problems.

Despite these issues, Porter enrolled at Clemson in 1997, pursuing a degree in horticulture with a minor in urban forestry.  While attending Clemson, Porter worked to help restore the Schoenike Arboretum at the SC Botanical Garden.  He later served as Arboretum Manager. Professor Mary Taylor Haque remembers Porter as “strong, robust, and active.  What an addition he was to the Clemson University Department of Horticulture, the South Carolina Botanical Garden, and the surrounding community… He was always kind, caring, well-mannered, and supportive of his colleagues.”  Karl Pokorny, a friend who worked with Porter at Clemson, recalled Porter as “an honest, loyal friend; the kind of guy who would throw himself on a hand grenade to save you.  He was brave, a true gentleman, and patriot.  He applied himself to and studied everything he took an interest in and worked hard.  Doing tree jobs with him was more fun than work.”

Continued treatment of Porter’s service-related conditions eventually led to the diagnosis of an even more serious infection, like the others connected to his time on active duty.  Veterans Administration doctors determined that conditions in Somalia, including the lack of clean drinking water and exposure to environmental toxins released into the air by the burning of tires—a tactic used by Somali militias to block roads—aggravated Porter’s afflictions.

Despite his bravery and toughness, Porter was unable to overcome these hidden enemies.  He died on April 21, 2020.  He was survived by his wife, Tiffany, and sons Eli and Grayson.  He is memorialized at the Dolly Cooper Veterans Cemetery in Anderson.

With his passing, Pokorny says, “The world lost one of the good guys – in fact, one of the best of the good guys.

For more information about Philip Aaron Porter see:

https://soh.alumni.clemson.edu/scroll/philip-aaron-porter/

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Scroll of Honor – John Thomas Lyles, Jr.

Lost to the Pacific

Written by: Kelly Durham

The 507th Fighter Group deployed to the Pacific theater of operations in March 1945.  Its planned mission was to provide fighter escort for the Army Air Force’s new B-29 Superfortress very heavy bombers, the most expensive weapons system ever developed up to that time.  Among the group’s pilots was Captain John Thomas Lyles, Jr., Clemson College Class of 1939.

Lyles was a  Newberry native and general science major.  At Clemson, he was a member of Sigma Epsilon, a social fraternal organization.  As a senior, he attained the rank of cadet second lieutenant.

A year after graduating with a Bachelor of Science degree, Lyles volunteered for Army service.  He initially served as an instructor with the 29th Infantry Division at Fort Benning, Georgia.  In January 1942, just after the Pearl Harbor attack landed the United States in the middle of the world war, Lyles volunteered for the Army Air Force.  He received his wings on August 5, 1942 at Fort Moultrie, Georgia and was designated to fly fighter aircraft.

Lyles was assigned to the 463rd Fighter Squadron of the 507th Fighter Group, flying the rugged P-47 Thunderbolt fighter.  In March 1945, the group headed for the wide expanses of the Pacific Ocean, where Allied forces, led by the United States, were slowly pushing the Japanese back from their island-based defensive perimeter toward Japan’s home islands.

With the capture of the Mariana Islands the previous summer, Army Air Force leaders moved quickly to establish operating bases from which B-29 bombers could launch air strikes against Japan’s major cities and production centers.  Previous attempts to conduct raids from airbases in China had been hampered by the difficulty of supplying operations by airborne logistics.  Since Allied forces did not at the time control the Chinese coast, all fuel, spare parts, rations, ordnance, and personnel had to be flown in from the west, over the Himalaya Mountains.  The logistics proved impractical and so General Hap Arnold, chief of the Army Air Force, looked for island bases in the Pacific that were close enough to Japan to accommodate the B-29’s 1,600 mile operating radius.  The first of these were established on Guam, Saipan, and Tinian, but Arnold intended to expand the use of his B-29s moving their bases ever closer as Allied forces tightened the noose around Japan.

Unlike the smaller, slower B-17s and B-24s flown in the European theater, the Superfortress featured a pressurized cabin, automated fire control systems, heavier bomb loads, and longer range.  Even with these advantages, the bombers still needed protection against Japanese fighters.  The 507th would be tasked with flying these escort missions once Army and Marine forces captured Okinawa and new bases for the B-29s were established there.

Even before the conquest of Okinawa was complete, the 507th was conducting training and test flights from airfields in the Marshall Islands.  On an altitude test flight on May 20, 1945, Captain Lyles and his wingman climbed to 30,000 feet above Eniwetok Atoll.  At that point, the wingman lost contact with Lyles.  Neither Lyles’s aircraft nor his body were recovered.  He was listed as missing and a year later, on May 21, 1945, was declared dead by the War Department.

Lyles was survived by his wife, the former Kathryn Crawford of Columbia, his parents, and one brother.

For more information about Captain John Thomas Lyles, Jr. see:

https://soh.alumni.clemson.edu/scroll/john-thomas-lyles-jr/

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

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

 

 

 

 

Scroll of Honor – Lewis Bryson Lawter

Fatal Formation

Written by: Kelly Durham

There was a threat of war in Europe in the fall of 1938 as Lewis Bryson Lawter and the Class of 1942 enrolled on the Clemson College campus.  Hitler was pressing for control of the Sudetenland, the eastern portion of Czechoslovakia inhabited largely by ethnic Germans.  When British and French leaders appeased the German dictator by giving in to his demands—without the consent of their Czech ally—war was avoided.  The danger must have seemed remote to Lawter and his classmates, but it would soon ensnare most of them in ways they could hardly imagine.

Lawter, an English major from Spartanburg, remained at Clemson for only his freshman year.  Instead of returning to school, he took a job with a sheet metal business.  The war that had only threatened in 1938 erupted in 1939 and by the end of 1941 had embroiled most of the globe. Lawter enlisted in the Army Air Force one month after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.  Lawter showed aptitude and was accepted into navigator training.  He was commissioned and awarded his navigator’s wings at Turner Field in Albany, Georgia on September 2, 1942.  Two days later, back in Spartanburg, Lawter married Sarah Frances Kinsland.

Lawter and his crew were assigned to the 489th Bomb Squadron of the 340th Bomb Group, since March 1943 operating from Sfax, Tunisia.  The 489th flew B-25 Mitchell medium bombers on missions in support of Allied forces squeezing the remaining German and Italian defenders of North Africa between Montgomery’s Eighth Army in the east and Eisenhower’s Anglo-American forces closing in from the west.

Lawter, flying as the navigator on Major Cyrus Whittington’s crew, had completed three combat missions when, on Easter Sunday, April 25, 1943, the crew was alerted for its next mission.  Flying in “Little Joe,” Whittington led his tight formation of bombers off the runway and into the sky.  Suddenly, the next aircraft in the formation flew upward and into the tail of “Little Joe,” wrecking it and sending both aircraft plummeting to the ground where the impact caused their bomb loads to explode.  All eleven crew members on the two airplanes were killed in the disaster, the 489th Squadron’s first combat deaths.

Lawter’s remains were recovered and buried with full military honors in a British cemetery in the Tunisian desert.  After the war, Lawter’s body was returned to Spartanburg and interred in Greenlawn Memorial Gardens.  Lawter was survived by his wife, his parents, and a sister.

For more information on Lieutenant Lewis Bryson Lawter, see:

https://soh.alumni.clemson.edu/scroll/lewis-bryson-lawter/

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

https://soh.alumni.clemson.edu

 

 

 

 

Scroll of Honor – William Mathew Able

Career Cut Short

Written by: Kelly Durham

William Mathew Able, an agriculture/animal husbandry major from Saluda, arrived on campus with the other boys in the Class of 1945, the last cohort of cadets to enroll at Clemson College before America went to war. Able and his class would have their days on campus curtailed by America’s expanding need for men to fight the global war.

At the end of the 1942-43 academic year, the War Department decreed that cadets who had completed their junior years of college would go directly into the military. Those who performed well in basic training were afforded the opportunity to advance to Officer Candidate Schools. Freshman and sophomore cadets, like Able, were drafted and sent to basic training.

Able entered military service on June 30, 1943. US forces were fighting in the Pacific and in the Mediterranean and the American military was growing at a fantastic rate as the nation grappled with the manpower and equipment demands of a world-wide conflict. Able went to Fort McClellan, Alabama, a post familiar to hundreds of Clemson cadets who, in more peaceful days, had completed ROTC summer training there.

Able trained to become a machine gunner. In January 1944, Able shipped overseas and was assigned to M Company, 23rd Infantry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Division then training in the United Kingdom for the eventual invasion of Europe.

On June 7, 1944, the day after D-Day, Able and his comrades crossed the English Channel and landed on Omaha Beach. Quickly, the division was committed to the attack, crossing the Aure River on June 10 and liberating Trévières. The division then assaulted Hill 192, a key enemy strong point on the route to the vital road junction of Saint Lo. Following a stint in defensive positions, the division was again committed to the attack in order to exploit the breakout of American forces around Saint Lo. The division attacked in the vicinity of Vire on August 4. During this action, Able was wounded in the leg and evacuated to an Army hospital in England. For exceptional meritorious service against the enemy from July 6 to August 6, 1944, Able was awarded the Bronze Star. He was also awarded the Purple Heart.

For five months, Sergeant Able rested and recuperated in the hospital. By the time he returned to his unit in January 1945, the Germans had exhausted themselves in their final offensive, the Battle of the Bulge. But, the work of the 2nd Infantry Division was not complete. In February, the division resumed the offensive, recapturing ground lost during the Battle of the Bulge. Able’s division reached the Rhine River on March 9 and from the 12th to the 20th helped guard the key bridge over the Rhine at Remagen. The division crossed the Rhine on March 21 and relieved the 9th Armored Division at Limburg an der Lahn, Germany. From there, in the face of collapsing German resistance, the division swept to the east, capturing Göttingen on April 8 and

establishing a bridgehead over the Saale River on the 14th. Two days later, as the division battled to capture Merseburg, Able was killed in action. The Germans would surrender just three weeks afterwards.

Able was survived by his wife, the former Mildred Barnes, his parents, two sisters, and one brother. After the war, his remains were returned to Saluda and buried at the Butler Methodist Church cemetery.

For more information about William Mathew Able, see: https://soh.alumni.clemson.edu/scroll/william-mathew-able/

For additional information about Clemson University’s Scroll of Honor, visit: https://soh.alumni.clemson.edu/

Scroll of Honor – William Clyde Preacher

Recalled to Duty

Written by: Kelly Durham

William Clyde Preacher of Ridgeland was older than most of his classmates, but there was a reason for that. Billy, as he was known to his friends, entered Clemson College as an animal husbandry major after serving from 1948 to 1949 as a paratrooper in the 11th Airborne Division based in occupied Japan. A veteran, Billy was exempt from military training, yet he enrolled in advanced ROTC as an upperclassman.

At six feet, one inch in height and weighing 195 pounds, Preacher was an end on coach Frank Howard’s football team, earning a letter his senior season.  Teammate Richard Sublette remembered Billy as “a great player.”  The Tigers’ 7-3 record in 1951 included a 34-0 shellacking of Auburn and a trip to the Gator Bowl.

After graduating from Clemson in February 1952, Billy was ordered to active duty.  He was assigned to Baker Company of the  32nd Infantry Regiment, 7th Infantry Division then fighting in the stalemate that had settled over the Korean peninsula.

The war started when North Korean troops flooded across the 38th Parallel dividing North from South Korea in June 1950.  United Nations forces held on to the Pusan Perimeter until the bold Inchon landings in September turned the tide of battle.  For two years, Communist forces including North Korean, Chinese and Soviet troops battled United Nations troops back and forth across the peninsula, capturing and retreating over the same ground on repeated occasions.  Old Baldy, a key terrain feature in west-central Korea, was the site of five major engagements, the last of which raged from March 23 to 26, 1953.

The 7th Infantry Division was augmented by a Colombian infantry battalion, the only South American ground unit to fight in Korea.  Placed on the front line within the 31st Infantry Regiment, the Colombians endured repeated heavy Chinese attacks, holding the line and preventing penetration of the division’s front.  On March 24, at the height of the battle, Billy Preacher led his platoon in an attack on enemy positions on Old Baldy.  Preacher “received a severe blast injury” from enemy artillery and was twice knocked unconscious.  Despite his injuries, Preacher rallied his men, refusing medical evacuation. Preacher “was valiantly leading his men in the attack, encouraging and rallying them to put forth their utmost efforts.”  Billy Preacher was twenty-five years old when he was killed in action.  For his gallant leadership under fire, Preacher was awarded the Silver Star.

Billy Preacher’s body was returned to the United States and buried at Ridgeland Cemetery.  He was survived by his mother, sister, and brother, then an Army lieutenant at Fort Jackson.

For more information on William Clyde Preacher see:

https://soh.alumni.clemson.edu/scroll/william-clyde-preacher/

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

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

 

 

Scroll of Honor – Arthur Brown, Jr.

The Bridge At Remagen

Written by: Kelly Durham

The Ludendorff Bridge showing the catwalk damaged by German demolitions. US Army photo.

The Associated Press called it a “military triumph rivaling in importance the Normandy landings.”  “It” was the capture of a crossing over the Rhine River, the great natural barrier behind which Hitler’s Third Reich awaited as the western Allies bore down in the winter of 1945.  Arthur Brown, Jr. was among the thousands of American troops exploiting the opportunistic bridgehead during those early days of March.

Brown was an agriculture major from Walhalla, a member of Clemson College’s Class of 1945.  In June 1942, at the completion of his sophomore year, Brown enlisted in the Army.  His unit, the 276th Engineer Combat Battalion, shipped overseas in November 1944.  Brown’s battalion was destined to participate in one of the United States Army’s key operations of the European War, an operation that came largely as a surprise to American forces—and to the Germans.

On the afternoon of March 7, 1945, a task force from General Courtney Hodges’ First Army was sent toward the village of Remagen, on the west bank of the Rhine River.  The task force’s mission was to secure the town and then turn south to link up with elements from General George Patton’s Third Army.  When the task force commander reached the ridge overlooking Remagen, he was stunned to see the great railroad double-track Ludendorff Bridge, still standing.  At that point, only three Rhine bridges remained intact, as retreating German forces were demolishing bridges once they reached the east bank of the river.  Realizing the opportunity to establish a bridgehead over the Rhine—which had not been crossed in battle since the days of Napoleon—US commanders moved boldly to exploit their opportunity.

American artillery fired white phosphorous rounds across the river to create a smokescreen while tanks fired on German bridge defenders.  A small squad of Americans raced onto the western end of the bridge, attempting to cross even as the Germans were preparing to set off pre-positioned explosives to drop the span into the river below.  The Germans’ first attempt to blow the bridge failed, probably because the wires connecting the electric detonator to the explosives had been severed by shell fire.  A German corporal raced forward under intense fire to light a primer cord in order to set off a secondary set of demolitions.  This effort resulted in a large explosion, but when the smoke cleared, both the Americans and the Germans were surprised to see that, despite damage to the bridge’s planking, support girders, and truss, the structure was still standing.

Combat engineers at work on the bridge on March 17, 1945, just hours before its collapse. US Army photo.

As darkness fell, Americans held the bridge with only a small force.  Throughout the night of March 7-8, US commanders rushed additional units up to and over the bridge, including technicians and engineers from Brown’s 276th Engineer Combat Battalion.  Over the next ten days, Army engineers worked ceaselessly to repair damage inflicted on the bridge from American bombs and artillery prior to its capture and to repair damage caused by the Germans who now mounted a furious air campaign against the span.  In addition, at Hitler’s order, the new V-2 rockets were redirected toward the destruction of the bridge.  Eleven of these new wonder weapons were fired at the structure, the closest landing some 600 meters away.  Every shell blast, bomb strike, and rocket impact, along with the constant stream of vehicles and soldiers passing over the bridge, created vibrations that slowly, invisibly weakened the span.

At about 3 p.m. on March 17, Lieutenant Colonel Clayton Rust, commander of the 276th, was standing in the center of the bridge inspecting repair efforts when he heard a “sharp rifle-like report” followed immediately by another.  The bridge began to tremble and the soldiers working on it dropped their tools and raced toward the ends.  It was too late.  The Ludendorff Bridge collapsed into the swirling, frigid water of the Rhine.  “The bridge was rotten throughout,” Rust later recalled. “Many members not cut had internal fractures from our own bombing, German artillery, and from the German demolitions… as the vibration continued, the condition of the previously buckled top chord was aggravated to such an extent that it buckled completely under a load it was not designed to carry.”  Although Rust survived his plunge into the Rhine, thirty-two other engineers were killed when the bridge collapsed. Arthur Brown, Jr. died the following day from his wounds.

The bold capture of the bridge and the work of the intrepid engineers who, though under repeated enemy fire, repaired it and kept it open long enough to expand the bridgehead, materially hastened the end of the war.  Supreme Commander Dwight Eisenhower’s chief of staff, Walter Bedell Smith, said the Remagen Bridge was “worth its weight in gold.”

Arthur Brown Jr. was survived by his parents, three sisters, and three brothers.  Following the war, his remains came home to Walhalla where they were laid to rest in Westview Cemetery.

For more information on Arthur Brown, Jr. see:

https://soh.alumni.clemson.edu/scroll/arthur-brown-jr/

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

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

See also The Bridge at Remagen, by Ken Hechler, Ballatine Books, 1957.

Scroll of Honor – Eldon Douglas Hunter, Jr.

Lost

Written By Kelly Durham

These days, we take transoceanic flight for granted.  With advances in aircraft technology—from efficient jet engines to satellite navigation systems—air travel between continents is routine, with hundreds of flights departing and arriving each day.  But, when the United States was plunged into World War II, air travel, particularly over the oceans, was still a novelty for most people.  As the country mobilized its armed forces, particularly the Army Air Force, getting aircraft to bases from which they could engage the enemy became a high priority.  Eldon Douglas Hunter, Jr., Clemson College Class of 1941, was one of the thousands of young men who would attempt to fly the Atlantic as a crew member of a heavy bomber.

Hunter was a textile engineering major from Edisto Island.  He worked on the staff of The Tiger, the campus newspaper, but served four years in the Corps of Cadets without advancing above the rank of private.  Nonetheless, when war came, Hunter volunteered for the Army Air Force.

By early 1944, Hunter was a staff sergeant serving as the flight engineer on a B-24 Liberator heavy bomber.  As flight engineer, Hunter was expected to be an expert on all the systems of the complex aircraft, particularly its four 1200 horsepower engines.  From his position behind the pilots, Hunter would assist them in monitoring engine performance and fuel usage.  He also served as the aircraft’s top turret gunner.

Army officials developed two main routes for ferrying aircraft to the European Theater of Operations.  The Northern Route originated from Army Air Bases in New England and continued along the Atlantic coast to Newfoundland, then to Labrador, Greenland, Iceland, and over the North Atlantic to airfields in Ireland and southwest England.  The short days and harsh weather of winter in these northern climes called for an additional route.  The southern route started from airfields in Florida.  From these, aircraft would fly to Puerto Rico, Antigua, and Trinidad before reaching Atkinson Field, in British Guiana on the northeast coast of South America.  Aircraft would then fly to fields in eastern Brazil, the closest portion of South America to the continent of Africa. Crossing the South Atlantic at this relatively narrow point reduced the flight time over water–and the risk.

On March 1, 1944, Hunter was the flight engineer on a B-24 piloted by First Lieutenant James Buchanan on a ferry flight from Waller Field in Trinidad.  The aircraft took off shortly after six o’clock in the morning bound for Atkinson Field, 350 miles away across open water.  Two hours later, Buchanan’s aircraft contacted Atkinson Field by radio to report it was on course.  Nothing more was ever heard from the crew.  A blimp-borne aerial search was mounted, by no sign of the aircraft or its crew was discovered.

Hunter is memorialized on the East Coast Memorial in New York for those missing in action or buried at sea.

For more information about Eldon Douglas Hunter, Jr. see:

https://soh.alumni.clemson.edu/scroll/eldon-douglas-hunter-jr/

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

Scroll of Honor – Robert Bankston Williams

A Young Man of the Highest Caliber

Written by: Kelly Durham

Robert Bankston Williams of Charlotte, North Carolina attended Clemson College for only his freshman year, enrolling in the general sciences curriculum in 1942.  By that fall, the cadets’ eyes were already focused on far-away places that many had never heard of just a few months earlier; places like Guadalcanal and New Guinea.  As the school year progressed, Williams and his classmates would have learned of additional exotic locales, places with unpronounceable names like Kasserine and El Guettar. American troops by the spring of 1943 were battling the enemy from sweltering Pacific jungles to the arid deserts of North Africa.

On campus, Clemson president Robert F. Poole encouraged the cadets to remain in school, reminding them that the country would need well-educated young men to lead its armed forces through the long struggle ahead.  Many cadets, impatient as only young men can be, rather than waiting on their country’s call volunteered for service when the school year ended.

By that winter, the Allies had chased the Germans from North Africa, conquered Sicily and invaded Italy.  Robert Williams was by then a medical corps sergeant assigned to the 30th Infantry Regiment of the 3rd Infantry Division. The division was engaged in bitter fighting, slogging northward along Italy’s mountainous terrain until it reached the vicinity of Monte Cassino.  It was then withdrawn from the line and sent to a rest area.  Allied commanders had big plans for the division.

Facing a well-entrenched enemy, Fifth Army commander Mark Clark attempted an end-run by launching an amphibious landing at Anzio and Nettuno, on the west coast of Italy on January 22 and 23, 1944.  The invasion threw 36,000 Allied soldiers ashore to the rear of the German lines.  The plan was for Allied troops in the south to link up with the Anzio invaders and open the way for the liberation of Rome.  The landings achieved tactical surprise and the Allies quickly built up a beachhead some fifteen miles deep.  But Clark’s subordinates failed to exploit their early successes and the Germans counterattacked swiftly and effectively.

What had begun as a daring stroke quickly bogged down into a series of bloody offensives and counter-offensives.  From high ground to the east of Anzio, German artillery could range the entire beachhead.  Allied soldiers waited out the shellings in trenches and dugouts reminiscent of the First World War.  For medics like Sergeant Williams, the battles were especially perilous as the medics often were forced to treat wounded men still exposed to enemy observation and fire.  The 30th Infantry Regiment would lose seven hundred men killed in the fighting.  No doubt Sergeant Williams and his fellow medics kept that number from being even more costly.  Unfortunately, the medics’ Red Cross brassards were no protection from the dangers of the battlefield.  Williams was wounded on February 29, 1944 and died a few days later in Naples.

In its obituary, the Herald Journal called Williams “a young man of the highest caliber.”  Sergeant Robert Bankston Williams was awarded the Purple Heart and buried among his comrades at the Sicily-Rome American Cemetery.

For additional information about Robert Bankston Williams see:

https://cualumni.clemson.edu/page.aspx?pid=1864

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

https://cualumni.clemson.edu/scrollofhonor

 

 

Scroll of Honor – Harold McGill Renwick, Jr.

“A Poem for My Daughter”

Written By: Kelly Durham

[Author’s note: Several years ago, I was serving as a host at the Scroll of Honor Memorial before a Clemson football game.  My job was to answer questions and help people find the names of family members and loved ones listed on the Memorial.  When a young woman approached, I asked if I could help her find someone. “No,” she replied with a smile, “I know right where he is.”  I watched from a respectful distance as she knelt before one of the stones and placed a rose on it.  After she left, I walked over and noted the name on the stone: Harold M. Renwick, Jr.]

He was an outstanding athlete, quarterbacking Winnsboro’s Mount Zion Institute football team to successive state championships in 1957 and ’58.  So it should come as no surprise that Harold McGill Renwick, Jr. walked on to Coach Frank Howard’s football team when he arrived on the Clemson campus in 1959.  Howard recognized Mac’s talent as an athlete and a leader and eventually awarded him a scholarship.  But the football coach wasn’t the only one to note Mac’s leadership ability.

An exemplary ROTC cadet, Mac worked his way up through the Cadet Corps at a time when ROTC was required of all male students.  His senior year, cadet major Renwick served as the S-1, or personnel officer, of Clemson’s Cadet Brigade.  Mac lived in F section of the old “Tin Cans” and was remembered for his laugh and his caring disposition.  He was selected for membership in Scabbard and Blade, the honorary military society.  An industrial management major, Mac served as treasurer of Phi Kappa Delta, one of the new social fraternities on campus.

Renwick, number 11, third from right on the second row, was a member of the 1962 Tiger football team that finished with a 6-4 record, including a season-ending 20-17 win over South Carolina.

Mac married his high school sweetheart, Perry Anne Cathcart, on June 1, 1963, just before receiving his commission as a second lieutenant in the Army.   Assignments at Fort Jackson, Fort Benning, Germany, and Aberdeen, Maryland followed in order—as did the arrival of the couple’s daughter, Penny.

The Renwicks’ next post was in El Paso, Texas where Mac attended Vietnamese Language School in preparation for his overseas deployment scheduled for November 1967.  Before departing for Vietnam, Mac returned home to South Carolina and took Penny to her first Clemson football game.

After Mac’s arrival in Vietnam, he was assigned as an advisor to the 64th Regional Forces Battalion, a Vietnamese army unit.  American policy at this point, in what was beginning to look like an unwinnable war, was to build up South Vietnamese forces and gradually shift the burden of the country’s defense to its own military.  As such, the United States provided advisors to work with Vietnamese units to achieve a higher level of combat proficiency.

With Penny’s second birthday approaching, Mac took time from his duties to compose a poem for his daughter. It begins:

A poem for my daughter,

I send it to you,

on this your birthday,

when you become two.

 

Mac used the poem to explain why he would not be present for Penny’s celebration.

Alas, my child, with you I cannot be,

Because there is a need to keep the world free.

A need that was created many years ago,

When a people’s thirst for freedom began to grow.

 

Before he could mail the poem, Mac was ordered into the field on a search and destroy mission. On February 27, 1968, while operating near Ong Cop Mountain in Quang Ngai province, Mac’s battalion came under “intense small arms, automatic weapons and mortar fire.” According to the Bronze Star citation, Mac moved up to join the lead element only to discover that it was pinned down and “steadily taking casualties.  Fearlessly, Captain Renwick began moving about the fire swept battlefield establishing an effective base of counter fire.  This accomplished, Captain Renwick valiantly led the unit forward in an attack on enemy positions.”  In the course of this counterattack, Mac sustained a mortal wound.

After his death, one of Mac’s fellow officers found the poem and included it in a letter to Perry.  Mac was awarded the Bronze Star with Valor Device, Purple Heart, Air Medal, Army Commendation Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Vietnam Service Medal, Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross Unit Citation with Palm, Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal, and Combat Infantry Badge. Mac’s body was returned to the United States and buried at the Bethel A.R.P. Cemetery in Fairfield County.  He was survived by his widow and daughter, his parents, and two brothers.

Penny turned two shortly after her father’s untimely death.  Though she has no memories of him, she recalled in a 2014 interview, “Not a day goes by when I don’t think of him. Freedom is not free and we must have people willing to step up and do what most will not.  My daddy did exactly that, and I will always be proud of him.”  It’s a pride exemplified by a single rose.

Don’t weep, my child, for this birthday I’ll miss,

Go to your mommy and she’ll give you a kiss.

From me, to remind you I’ve not forgot,

You see, my child, I do love you a lot.

So much, in fact, that to you I do pledge,

That a world of freedom shall be your heritage.

Sleep, my child, the night is here,

Sleep, my child, and wake without fear.

Grow, my child, be happy and be free,

For these are the dreams I have for thee.

For more information on Captain Harold McGill Renwick, Jr. visit:

https://soh.alumni.clemson.edu/scroll/harold-mcgill-renwick-jr/

See also Schuyler Easterling’s article, A Father’s Love.

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

https://soh.alumni.clemson.edu

Scroll of Honor – Henry Ayer Raysor II

Chemist in Battle

Written by: Kelly Durham

After his 1935 graduation from Greenville High School, Henry Ayer Raysor II headed to Clemson College. Over the next four years, as Raysor worked toward his degree in Chemistry, the world inched ever closer to war.

Harry Raysor marched with the Freshman Platoon and served as a member of the staff of The Tiger, the college’s student newspaper.  He was a member of the Greenville County Club and Alpha Chi Sigma, the national professional chemistry fraternity.  Harry was awarded a degree in Chemistry in 1939.  That degree set his life on a course that would end in war.

Harry married Melba Burgess in June 1940 and in November was called to military service.  Second Lieutenant Raysor reported to the Army’s Chemical Warfare Service.  Following the United States’ entry into the war, Harry was assigned to the 3rd Chemical Battalion at Fort Benning, Georgia.  The battalion was equipped with 4.2 inch mortars for firing chemicals, smoke, and high explosive rounds in support of infantry operations.  Following stateside training, the battalion shipped to North Africa in April 1943, joining the 3rd Infantry Division in time for its participation in the July invasion of Sicily.  According to Harry’s classmate James Sweeney, the 3rd Chemical Battalion was released to the II Corps reserve within a few days of the Sicily landings.  The battalion’s soldiers were put to work guarding POW camps and supply depots, but their time in combat was not over: the invasion of Italy loomed just ahead.

The 3rd Infantry Division landed at Salerno, Italy in September 1943 with Raysor’s 3rd Chemical Battalion once more in support.  By January 1944, General Mark Clark’s Italian campaign had bogged down into a costly slugfest as the Americans battled entrenched German defenders and harsh winter weather.  Harry Raysor, now a captain, was the commanding officer of the 3rd Chemical Battalion’s C Company.  On the morning of January 12, Raysor was sheltered in a building near the village of Cerasuolo when a German air raid commenced.  Raysor’s building was hit by a German bomb and he was killed.  On January 17, Raysor’s body was interred in a temporary military cemetery in Marzenello, Italy.

After the war, Raysor’s remains were returned to Greenville and buried in the Woodlawn Memorial Park.  Captain Raysor was survived by his widow and son, his parents, and a sister. For more information on Captain Henry Ayer Raysor II see:

https://soh.alumni.clemson.edu/scroll/henry-ayer-raysor-ii/

For more information on Clemson University’s Scroll of Honor visit:

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