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/