Scroll of Honor – Robert Franklin Wright ’45

Night Fighter

Written by: Kelly Durham

We don’t know when he first saw her, but she must have been an impressive sight: standing tall and with shapely lines.  He was Robert Franklin Wright, Class of 1945.  She was the USS Enterprise, the most decorated American warship of World War II.


Before reporting aboard Enterprise, Bob Wright had attended Clemson College, enrolling in September 1941 as a mechanical engineering major.  Wright, from Athens, Georgia, had already completed one year at his hometown University of Georgia before transferring to Clemson.  During his time at Clemson, the war, which had been raging in China and Europe for years, finally reached America.  After the completion of the spring semester, Wright entered the Navy in May 1942.  He attended the Navy’s pre-flight school in Athens before heading to Pensacola, Florida for flight training and commissioning as a Navy ensign.

On Christmas Eve 1944, Enterprise sailed from Oahu, Hawaii bound for the Philippines.  For the first time, she carried an air group specially trained in night carrier operations.  The group included a Night Torpedo Squadron and a Night Fighter Squadron, VF(N)-90 which included among its pilots Lieutenant (j.g.) Bob Wright.

As the new year began, Enterprise and her aircraft conducted night fighter sweeps against shore targets and shipping from Formosa to Indochina.  The F6F(N) Hellcat fighters were specially equipped with an AN/APS-6 radar housed in the airplane’s starboard wing.  The radar enabled the pilot to locate and attack enemy planes in complete darkness and also guided the pilot back to his ship through the use of a homing beacon.

On January 16, Enterprise night aircraft attacked enemy shipping and installations in the Hainan and Hong Kong areas.  It was on one of these night sorties that Wright disappeared. He was awarded the Purple Heart and the Distinguished Flying Cross.  Wright is memorialized at the Manila American Cemetery, Fort Bonifacio, Manila, Philippines.

For additional information on Lieutenant (j.g.) Robert Franklin Wright see:

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


WWII Hero’s Medals Given to Hospice Store

Just before Thanksgiving of this year an anonymous donor left a box of World War II era medals at the Hospice Store in Greenwood, SC.  No one at the store knows who brought in the medals but when they noticed a name, Lt. Comdr. John E. Muldrow USN (class of 1937), engraved on one of the medals, one of the employees decided to “google” the name on the internet.  Her search quickly found the name on the Clemson University Scroll of Honor Memorial (SOHM) website.  She reached out to Clemson Alumni through a contact email listed on the website.  Commander Dave Lyle, USN Retired, a member of The Clemson Corps alumni group has been researching the heroes on the SOHM for 10 years.  He contacted Ms. Kim Mays, the manager at the Hospice Store, to determine what they wanted to do with the medals.  The medals included the Navy Cross (second in precedence only to the Medal of Honor), two Distinguished Flying Crosses, two Air Medals, the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal and the World War II Victory Medal.  It was later discovered LCDR Muldrow was actually awarded 5 Air Medals.

Ms. Mays said they wanted to find a home for the medals, preferably descendants or family members who are still living.  CDR Lyle contacted a colleague, Brigadier General Charles King, USAF Retired, who had done a lot of research for the Clemson Scroll of Honor alumni profile of LCDR Muldrow since they were both from Bishopville, SC.  He had been in touch with several members of the Muldrow family in 2013 as he was researching both LCDR John E. Muldrow, Jr. and his first cousin SGT Henry G. Muldrow, Jr. (class of 1938), US Army Air Force.  Most of BGen King’s Muldrow family contacts have passed away, but he was able to find family members in New Mexico, Texas and South Carolina.  One of the surviving family members is John Ellison Muldrow, whose father, a cousin of LCDR Muldrow, named his son after the fallen Commander.  BGen King plans to give the medals to the LCDR’s namesake in New Mexico, with the request that Mr. Muldrow will lend them temporarily to the Lee County Veterans Museum in Bishopville for special events.

LCDR John Muldrow was killed in action on May 9, 1945 near the end of his second combat tour in the Pacific when his PB4Y-2 Privateer four-engine patrol bomber was shot down during an attack on Japanese held Marcus Island.  LCDR Muldrow’s first cousin, SGT Henry G. Muldrow, Jr., was killed during a bombing raid over Germany in February 1945 and is buried at the Ardennes American Military Cemetery in Belgium.

We want to thank Ms. Mays and everyone else at the Hospice Store for their initiative in finding out more about the hero who earned these medals and in doing so preserving a little part of history.

You can learn more about LCDR Muldrow on the Clemson Scroll of Honor Memorial website at  You can also learn about other Clemson heroes at




Scroll of Honor – John Cuttino McKnight and Benjamin Green McKnight

The Beginning and the End

Written by: Kelly Durham

The 1940 Clemson College Swim Team—Mac McKnight is at the beginning of the diving board next to Coach P. B. Holtzendorff and Ben McKnight is perched at the end.

John Cuttino McKnight and Benjamin Green McKnight are one of three sets of brothers listed on Clemson University’s Scroll of Honor.  John, or “Mac” as his classmates called him, and Ben were born in Sumter, but by the time they departed for Clemson College, their father, who worked for the YMCA, had been transferred to Kannapolis, North Carolina.  Both cadets majored in general science, and their time on campus overlapped.  Mac was a member of the Class of 1940, Ben a member of the Class of 1941.  The brothers were members of the State and Southern Conference champion swim team which first Mac and then Ben served as co-captain.  Mac was also the president of the Minor “C” Club and Ben served on the YMCA Council.  Both brothers would serve overseas during World War II, Ben in the Pacific and Mac in Europe.  Neither would return.

Following his 1941 graduation, Ben the younger brother, was assigned to the historically black 367th Infantry Regiment at Camp Claiborne, Louisiana.  In February 1942, Ben was transferred to the 128th Infantry Regiment of the 32nd Infantry Division. In a letter home to his parents, Ben credited his time “in the colored regiment” for preparing him for his new assignment: “I know more than any of the men and most of the officers—how about that.”  By March, Ben and his new division were training at snowy Fort Devens, Massachusetts, but the following month the division was back on the train and headed west.  From his troopship, the Monterey, Ben wrote that he hated to miss being home for Mothers’ Day, but that the ship had “a good chaplain” whose services were “a real comfort to attend.” Mac was also in the Army, but his unit was still in the States awaiting deployment.  In a June 10, 1942 letter to Mac, Ben wrote from Australia that “The people here are marvelous and treat us fine.”

The 32nd Infantry Division was committed to the New Guinea campaign, General Douglas MacArthur’s first

Ben McKnight, Class of 1941

offensive in the Southwest Pacific.  The weather and the terrain were almost as fierce as the Japanese themselves.  Ben complained in an October letter of oppressive heat and pestering insects, adding “this is no picnic.”

On December 16, Ben volunteered to lead a patrol because he was the only unmarried officer left in his unit.  On what his regimental commander described as a “dangerous mission,” Ben was wounded in the stomach.  Operated on immediately, Ben appeared to be making progress when on Christmas morning he dictated a letter to his parents.  Chaplain Wilfred Schnedler wrote the letter out for Ben who said, “I am making good progress toward recovery,” but Ben died in the early morning hours of December 26.  For his heroism, Ben was promoted to first lieutenant and awarded the Silver Star.  His commanding officer wrote Ben’s father that “Ben was a lovable youngster and the very best of soldiers, competent, cheerful, and too courageous.  We all loved him.  He was killed leading a strong patrol on a dangerous mission… His courageous leadership led to the successful accomplishment of his mission although we considered it too costly in that we lost him.”  His parents would receive one more letter from Ben, an undated note that one of his comrades mailed after the young soldier’s death. In it Ben wrote, “I’ve lived a fairly clean Christian life and am a confirmed Christian and put my faith in God through Jesus Christ my Lord and Savior. I’m sure of my position in heaven, so don’t worry about me.”

The New Guinea and Guadalcanal campaigns that took place at approximately the same time helped destroy the myth of Japanese superiority in jungle fighting and were the first land defeats of the Japanese in the Pacific war.  From these beginnings to the end of the war, Japan would remain on the defensive.

We know considerably less about Mac’s service.  The Army created a separate Transportation Corps in the summer of 1942 and it was in this organization that Mac served.  The new organization managed transportation of men and supplies for the Army and Army Air Force, including both rail-borne and shipborne movements.  By the spring of 1945, Mac McKnight was serving in Europe, having attained the rank of captain in the Transportation Corps.  In April, Mac was wounded in a “non-combat firearms accident (not self-inflicted).” He died from this wound on May 28, three weeks after Germany’s capitulation and the end of the war in Europe.

John “Mac” McKnight, Class of 1940

The brothers, who had played together as boys and marched together as cadets, had served at the beginning of America’s victory in the Pacific and at the end of the war in Europe.  They would be reunited once more, when on December 11, 1948, the remains of Mac and Ben were buried in a double funeral at Columbia’s Elmwood Cemetery.

For more information on John Cuttino McKnight see:

For additional information on Benjamin Green McKnight see:

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

For more information about the 32nd Infantry Division, a Michigan-Wisconsin National Guard unit which drew many of its officers from North and South Carolina ROTC programs, read:

32 Answered: A South Carolina Veterans’ Story by Dr. Joe H. Camp, Jr.

Scroll of Honor – Carl Long, Jr.

Winter War

Written by: Kelly Durham

Carl Long, Jr. of Saluda attended Clemson College from 1936 to 1938, majoring in agronomy.  Following his stint on campus, Long was employed by Saluda Hosiery Mill, one of the dozens of textile plants which employed the majority of manufacturing workers in the state.  A newspaper article described Long as “a promising young businessman from a prominent family.”

Long entered military service in January 1941. America’s first peace-time draft had been implemented and thousands of young men from all over the country were being called to active duty for training.

Long didn’t have far to travel. He reported for basic training at Fort Jackson, then home of the 118th Infantry Regiment of the 30th Infantry Division.  Long’s next assignment was farther afield.  Iceland, where he was deployed for fourteen months, must have seemed a world removed from Fort Jackson and nearby Columbia.  While in Iceland, Long earned “high esteem and praise” from his commanding officer, traits which were likely factors in his being ordered to Fort Benning, Georgia for Officer Candidate School.

By this time, the war was in full swing and the Army had great need for capable young officers.  Long received his second lieutenant’s commission and was next assigned to Camp Blanding in Florida and then Camp Rucker, Alabama.

He was ordered overseas and assigned to the 13th Infantry Regiment of the 8th Infantry Division which had crossed Utah Beach in early July 1944 and was then attacking the French coastal city of Brest.  Long was wounded, awarded a Purple Heart, and promoted to first lieutenant for “meritorious service” in battle.

After liberating Brest, the 8th Infantry Division turned east and began a steady advance across France and into Luxembourg.  By the end of November, the division had been committed to the ongoing battle in the Hürtgen Forest, inside Germany itself.  In cold, wet, often snowy weather, the 8th continued to push eastward into the teeth of fierce German resistance.  Poor weather minimized the American advantage in airpower while the rugged terrain favored the well-fortified defenders.

On December 26, 1944, Long died of wounds suffered in Germany. He was survived by his parents, who were notified of their son’s death three weeks later.  Long was also survived by his brother, grandfather, and three uncles.

For more information about First Lieutenant Carl Long, Jr. see:

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

Scroll of Honor – Lee Hugh Welborn

Army Ranger

Written by: Kelly Durham

America was already at war when Lee Hugh Welborn arrived on the Clemson College campus as a freshman in the late summer of 1942.  After a disastrous start, American and Allied fortunes had stabilized.  The Battle of Midway had stopped Japanese expansion in the Pacific.  The American Eighth Air Force had begun flying missions over occupied Europe in August.

Welborn, a general science major from Liberty, completed his first semester but in February 1943 left school to enter the Army.  He was eventually assigned to the 4th Ranger Battalion.

The concept of unconventional soldiers gained credibility over the varied combat landscapes and scenarios of World War II.  Rangers underwent rigorous training and prepared for special missions.  The elite Ranger units were also frequently pressed into frontline service as riflemen.

With the success of the 1st Ranger Battalion during the North Africa campaign, Army leadership decided to form three additional Ranger battalions using the 1st as a cadre.  The 4th Ranger Battalion was activated in Tunisia in May 1943.

The Rangers participated in the landings at Salerno, Italy in September 9, 1943.  Seizing high ground on the Sorrentino peninsula, the Rangers occupied a series of mutually supported strongpoints and, with support from naval gunfire, held off a series of determined German counterattacks until finally joined by elements of General Mark Clark’s Fifth Army on the last day of the month.

By November, Clark’s offensive had bogged down against the Germans’ entrenched fortifications known as the “Winter Line.”  To renew his advance, Clark committed the Rangers once again, this time attaching the battalions to existing infantry divisions in order to achieve a breakthrough.  In bitter fighting, the Rangers suffered heavy casualties. Tech 5 Welborn died of wounds on November 24, 1943 the day before Thanksgiving, but the long-sought breakthrough wouldn’t come until the following spring.

It took nearly five years, but Welborn’s body was finally returned home in July 1948—six months after the passing of his father.  The younger Welborn was survived by his mother and sister and was buried in the family’s plot at the Westview Cemetery in Liberty.

For more information on Tech 5 Lee Hugh Welborn see:


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






Scroll of Honor – Henry Lee Suggs

Over Over There

Written by Kelly Durham

One hundred two years ago today, the Great War ended.  As the clock ticked its way to 11 am on the 11th day of the 11th month, the World War stumbled to its deadly conclusion.  The fighting was over—but not the dying.

Among those celebrating the end of the War-to-End-All-Wars were the men of the 85th Aero Squadron.  Only the previous day, the 85th had flown its first mission over enemy lines reconnoitering the railway yards at Conflans-en-Jarnisy.  One of the 85th’s pilots was First Lieutenant Henry Lee Suggs, Clemson College Class of 1916.

Suggs had enjoyed a distinguished collegiate career after arriving on the tiny campus in northwestern South Carolina in the fall of 1912.  An electrical and mechanical engineering major from York, “Hawkshaw,” as he was nicknamed by his fellow cadets, served as president of the Wade Hampton Literary Society, president of the Junior Science Club, and president of the York County Club.  He was a member of the Tiger staff, the Thalian Dancing Club, and the Senior Banquet Committee.  He also found time to play football.  As a guard, said to be the strongest man on the team, he helped anchor the line of a Clemson squad that never yielded more than fourteen points in a single contest all season.  In 1915, Suggs’s senior season, the Tigers battled Davidson to a six-all tie in the very first game played on Riggs Field.

Upon Suggs’s graduation, Taps, the cadet yearbook wrote that “Since he is a man of such great ability, we can but predict for him boundless success…” Suggs enlisted in the Army in May 1917 and earned his commission after completing officer training.

Following the armistice, the 85th Aero Squadron remained in France, undertaking aerial photography of the Hindenburg Line of defensive positions along the border between Germany and France.  On December 18, forty-five minutes into an observation mission near Toul, Suggs’s plane went into a spin and crashed.  Suggs was picked up alive and taken to a field hospital where he died that same day.

Suggs’s remains were returned to the United States in June 1919 and he was buried at Bethel Presbyterian Cemetery in Clover.  He was survived by his mother and two brothers.

For additional information on First Lieutenant Henry Lee Suggs, see:

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







Scroll of Honor – James Levi Smith, Jr.

Forgotten Front

Written by: Kelly Durham

The Italian Campaign in World War II is sometimes called the “Forgotten Front,” overshadowed by Operation Overlord, the June 1944 Allied invasion of France.  But in May 1944, Italy was still the Allies’ major ground offensive against the Germans and Clemson alumnus James Levi Smith, Jr. was right in the thick of the fighting.

Smith was a graduate of Boy’s High School in Anderson where his father served as the county’s assistant superintendent of education.  At Clemson, Smith majored in horticulture. A  member of the Class of 1945, Smith’s days on campus were cut short by the War Department’s demands for more men to commit to the fight against the Axis powers.  Although Clemson was well-known for commissioning Army second lieutenants, Smith and his classmates were ordered to active duty before they had a chance to complete ROTC training.  As a result, the end of the 1942-43 academic year saw most of the boys on campus trading their gray cadet uniforms for military khaki.  Smith soon found himself in the Army.

Smith was assigned to the 85th Infantry Division, the “Custer” Division, which had first been activated at Camp Custer, Michigan during the First World War.  The 85th, including Smith’s 339th Infantry Regiment, left the United States on Christmas Eve 1943 bound for Casablanca in French Morocco.  Arriving a little more than a week later, the division participated in amphibious training along the North African coast.  Smith’s 339th Regiment was the division’s first element to reach Italy, arriving on March 14, 1944.  Two weeks later, it was committed to action on the Minturno-Castelforte front.

Eager to break through the Gustav Line of German defenses, link up with VI Corps which had landed up the coast at Anzio in January, and liberate Rome, General Mark Clark’s Fifth Army attacked toward the west-northwest on May 11. Smith’s 339th Regiment was on the American left flank, extending from the Mediterranean coast inland.  In heavy fighting the following day, Smith went missing in action.

It was not until the middle of June that his family received word via War Department telegram that Smith was missing.  His mother died on June 16 following “a short illness.”  One is left to wonder about the impact of that telegram on Mrs. Smith’s health.  Smith’s death was not confirmed until his father received a second telegram on July 3.

The Gustav Line was breached a few days after Smith’s sacrifice.  The link up with VI Corps was soon affected and Rome was liberated on June 5.  The following day, British, Canadian, and American forces landed in Normandy and the Italian campaign was all but forgotten—except by the men still fighting there.

James Levi Smith, Jr. died two months short of his twenty-first birthday.  He was survived by his father and his sister and is buried in the Lebanon Baptist Church Cemetery in Anderson.

For more information on James Levi Smith, Jr. see:

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

Scroll of Honor – Ivey Connell

From Blue to Gold

Written by: Kelly Durham

Mrs. Broadus Connell must have felt both pride and anxiety.  Four of her five sons were serving in the armed forces.  That gave her the right to display Blue Stars in the window of her home in Camden.

One of the stars represented the Connell’s son Ivey, a twenty-three-year-old first lieutenant assigned to the 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment.  Ivey, a member of the Class of 1943, had attended Clemson from 1939 to 1940 and had studied vocational agricultural education.  He entered military service with the National Guard and by September 1943 was a mortar platoon leader in the Army’s first paratrooper division, the famous “All American” 82nd Airborne.

The 82nd had been activated in March 1942 at Camp Claiborne, Louisiana under the command of Major General Omar Bradley.  In August, the division, now commanded by Matthew Ridgway, was designated “airborne.”  In the spring of 1943, the 82nd was sent overseas, landing in North Africa.  The division’s first combat jump was into Sicily as part of the invasion force on July 9, 1943.  Once Sicily was secured, American forces under the command of General Mark Clark prepared for the invasion of Italy.

Clark’s Fifth Army landed at Salerno on September 9 and began a desperate battle to secure a beachhead against determined German defenders.  On September 13, clinging tenaciously to a shortened perimeter, Clark called on the 82nd for a night drop.  One of the division’s regiments jumped that night.  Ivey Connell’s 505th followed the next night.  By the end of the day, the beachhead was declared secure.

Connell’s regiment was involved in reconnaissance actions from early morning on October 5 as the various companies sent out patrols to ascertain enemy strength and positions.  By afternoon, companies from the Second Battalion were in contact with the enemy.  Connell’s 81 mm mortar platoon was providing fire support.

Connell shifted his platoon to a position from which to provide more effective covering fire for a parachute infantry company attempting to withdraw.  He established an observation post from which he could direct fire.  He was killed when an enemy mortar shell landed on his position. According to the citation for his Silver Star decoration, Connell’s “courageous action contributed to the successful withdrawal of our forces and is a credit to the services.”

Connell was survived by his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Broadus Connell; his brother Norman, then also a first lieutenant with the paratroopers in Italy; brother Stephen, a corporal with the paratroop forces in England; brother Roddy, a sergeant with a tank destroyer unit in Alabama; one other brother and two sisters.  With Ivey’s death, one of the family’s Blue Stars was replaced with a Gold one.  In addition to the Silver Star, Ivey was awarded the Purple Heart.  After the war, his body was returned to Camden where it was buried in the Wateree Baptist Church Cemetery.

For more information about First Lieutenant Ivey Kiben Connell, see:

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

Special thanks to Rafael Alvarez, Museum Technician, 82d Airborne Division Museum.

Scroll of Honor – William Raymond Yongue

None Sacrificed More

Written by: Kelly Durham

They arrived at Clemson College when the world was mostly at peace. By the time they graduated, China and most of Europe were in the throes of what would shortly become a worldwide conflagration—consuming all too many of their number.

The Clemson College Class of 1941 arrived in the sleepy college village in the late summer of 1937. Sure, there was trouble in China where the Japanese had been rattling sabers for years. In Germany, the National Socialist leader Hitler was talking about unifying ethnic Germans. But those places and their politics must have seemed far distant to Joe Hough and his fellow cadets.

Joseph Shelton Hough, from Edgefield, came to Clemson to study agriculture, then as now, vital to South Carolina’s economy. Upon his graduation in the spring of 1941, Hough would share what he learned during his years on campus with students at Inman High School where he worked as a vocational agriculture teacher.

Once the war came to the United States, Hough, like so many other young men, was called into military service. He shipped overseas in July 1944. On October 2, Staff Sergeant Hough was killed in action in France.

Sadly, we know little about Joe Hough, his time on campus, his Army service, and the details of his death. We do know that no Clemson class—before or since—made a greater sacrifice than the Class of 1941. Hough was one of fifty-five members of the class to lose his life during World War II. That’s approximately twelve percent of the graduating members of the class, or one in eight. The men of the Class of 1941 comprise eleven percent of the names on Clemson University’s Scroll of Honor.

Joe Hough was survived by his widow, the former Willie Mae Wilson, who continued to teach at Inman High; his mother; four sisters; and two brothers, one in the Army, one in the Navy, both serving overseas. In 1948, Hough’s body was brought to Clinton where it was reburied in the Rosemont Cemetery.

For more information on Joseph Shelton Hough, see:

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


Scroll of Honor – William Raymond Yongue

“Brown-Water” Soldier

Written by: Kelly Durham

The Vietnam War recalls images of soldiers and Marines trudging through thick jungles and wading through rice paddies.  But, for a small number of soldiers, this war was fought from a boat.

William Raymond Yongue, a member of the Class of 1964 from Chester, was a member of the “brown-water navy,” the “Riverines.”  Composed of Army and Navy units, the Riverines were formed based on the experiences of the French in their Indochina War.  The Riverines engaged in both transport and combat missions along the waterways of the Mekong River Delta.  Yongue’s assignment to the 1097th Transportation Boat Company seems strangely appropriate—he had been born in February 1941 in Honolulu where his father was serving in the Navy.

Yongue attended Clemson for three years before joining the National Guard.  He earned his second lieutenant’s commission from the Palmetto Military Academy at Fort Jackson and volunteered for active duty.  He was ordered to active duty in January 1967 and by that summer had arrived in Vietnam.

The 1097th Medium Boat Company had arrived in Vietnam at the end of May 1965.  In June of 1967, it moved to Dong Tam where it was assigned to support the operations of the Army’s 9th Infantry Division.  The 1097th was the only tactical boat company in the Army’s Transportation Corps.  Its mission was to tow artillery barges supporting the division’s artillery operations.

Yongue’s company utilized LCM-8 flat bottom boats designed for use in rough or exposed waters.  Its four-foot, six-inch draft made it ideal for use in the delta’s maze of waterways. LCM-8s were propelled by four Detroit Diesel boat engines.  Its propellers were protected by a skeg assembly.  Even so, trouble on the river was never far away.

On Tuesday, September 26, 1967, Yongue’s boat was patrolling in the Mekong Delta.  One of the craft’s propeller became fouled by an underwater obstruction.  Yongue dived overboard in an attempt to diagnose the problem and free the propeller.  He never resurfaced.  Initially declared “Missing In Action,” Yongue’s body was later recovered.

Yongue was survived by his parents and two brothers, one of whom was then a captain serving at Fort Knox, Kentucky.  Yongue was the recipient of the National Defense Service Medal, Vietnam Service Medal, Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross Unit Citation with Palm, and the Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal.  He was buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

For more information about First Lieutenant William Raymond Yongue see:

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


Scroll of Honor – Oliver Jacob Rochester

From Teacher to Warrior

Written by: Kelly Durham

They were fighting over what in ordinary times would have appeared to be nothing more than a worthless sliver of mango-covered coral, just two feet above sea level and only about five hundred feet wide.  But in September 1943, Sagekarasa Island, resting along the southern shore of the Blackett Strait separating Kolombangara from Arundel in the New Georgia archipelago, was considered important terrain.  Control of Sagekarasa and its neighboring Bomboe Peninsula would put US Army and Marine Corps forces within artillery range of the Japanese airfield at Vila.

Oliver Jacob Rochester of Salem, “Rock” as he was nicknamed by his classmates, studied agricultural education at Clemson.  Although he served four years in the Corps of Cadets as a private, he nonetheless completed ROTC summer training at Fort McClellan, Alabama.  Unlike many of the cadets from later classes who were summoned to service directly from campus, Rochester had already established himself in his career as a vocational agriculture teacher in Bunn, North Carolina by the time his orders arrived.

Rochester was called to active duty in February of 1942 as the United States, now at war, scrambled to deploy ground forces into combat theaters.  Rochester, a member of Clemson’s Class of 1936, would be assigned to the 25th Infantry Division, the first Army unit to see action when its garrison at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii was attacked on December 7, 1941.

The 25th had been activated on October 1, 1941 as the United States prepared for the possibility of war.  In December 1942, it participated in the US counteroffensive on Guadalcanal, helping to deliver the first land defeat to the Japanese.  In July 1943, after a period of rest and retraining, the division was deployed in the New Georgia campaign.

On August 2, Rochester’s regiment landed on New Georgia.  It attacked and captured Munda on the island’s southwest corner and then battled its way north.  It moved by landing craft to Bomboe Peninsula and then crossed to Sagekarasa on September 14.  The Japanese were using tiny Sagekarasa as a barge station from which to evacuate retreating troops across the Blackett Strait to larger Kolombangara and its important Vila airfield.

Keith Hook of Glastonbury, Connecticut, was a comrade of Rochester’s and recalled the operation in a 1999 letter to Rochester’s daughter Ellen. “We had established a block across the center of the island which was all jungle growth, mango trees, coral rock, and a scattering of huge trees, and a lot of undergrowth.  The island was only a couple of feet above sea level except for a small ridge running through the center.  There were no clear areas except what we cut, although the Japanese had a trail going from one end of the island to the other.”

On September 15, Rochester was killed in action.  According to Hook, “The Japanese withdrew within a couple of days under our pressure and we secured Sagekarasa.  Other 25th Infantry Division units landed on Kolombangara.”

Hook remembered Rochester as “a fine officer, a real gentleman, and well-liked by his fellow officers and his men.”

Rochester was survived by his wife Mary, his daughter Ellen, his parents, five brothers—two of whom were in the service—and a sister.  In February 1949, First Lieutenant Rochester’s body was returned to Salem where it was buried in the Mountain View Wesleyan Methodist Church Cemetery.

For additional information on Oliver Jacob Rochester, visit:

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



Scroll of Honor – Lawrence Aldine Bearden

Cut Short

Written by: Kelly Durham

The headlines in The Tiger campus newspaper in August 1941 included nothing about the war that had been raging in Europe for nearly two years, nothing about the war in China which had been going on even longer.  Lawrence Aldine Bearden and the other new “rats” arriving at Clemson College as members of the Class of 1945 were treated to the exciting news that $110,000 in bonds had been sold to fund “Clemson’s long-cherished project—the construction of a 20,000 seat capacity modern stadium.”

Bearden, a native of Westminster, came to Clemson from Greensboro, North Carolina to major in Textiles.  While he and his classmates would in fact see the dedication of the new stadium during the 1942 season, by the following spring, they would be trading cadet gray for the khaki of the armed forces.

The end of the 1942-43 academic year brought great changes to campus.  In order to keep pace with the manpower demands of the rapidly expanding US military, graduating seniors who had completed ROTC training were assigned to Officers’ Candidate Schools (OCS).   The academic careers of underclassmen, like Bearden, were cut short as cadets were ordered to active duty.  Those who performed well in basic training were given the opportunity to advance to OCS.

Bearden’s record earned him an officer’s commission in the Army Air Force.  By the summer of 1944, Bearden had qualified for the most coveted job in the military—fighter pilot!

By August, Bearden was assigned to the 369th Fighter Squadron of the 359th Fighter Group.  The 369th was flying America’s newest and best fighter, the P-51 Mustang.  The Mustang had superb flying characteristics plus the range to accompany US 8th Air Force heavy bombers all the way to their targets and back.  This greatly reduced the numbers of the bigger, slower bombers that fell victim to German fighters.

On August 10, 1944, Second Lieutenant Bearden took off with other aircraft on a local training flight from the 369th’s home airfield at East Wretham in Norfolk County, England.  Bearden was flying Darlin’ Earline, the aircraft usually assigned to Lieutenant Ferris Suttle.  While flying in a string formation at approximately 8,000 feet, Bearden’s aircraft left the formation and then dove into the ground near the village of Garboldisham, less than eight miles from the base.  The Army Air Force accident report failed to determine the cause of the crash, but the result was obvious enough:  Bearden was killed and the Mustang destroyed.

Second Lieutenant Lawrence Aldine Bearden was buried at Cambridge American Cemetery, Cambridge, England.

For more information about Lawrence Aldine Bearden visit:

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

Scroll of Honor – Roy Sellars

Cold War Heats Up

Written by: Kelly Durham

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For more information about Roy Sellars see:

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Crash site photo:

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

Scroll of Honor – John Dendy McBrearty

On His Way

Written by: Kelly Durham

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

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

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

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

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

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

For more information about Captain John Dendy McBrearty see:

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Scroll of Honor – Alexander Fraser Henderson, Jr.

Deadliest Season
Written by: Kelly Durham

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For additional information on Alexander Fraser Henderson, Jr. see:

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Scroll of Honor – Thomas Albert McTeer

Non-Battle Death

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

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

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

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

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

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

For additional information on Lieutenant McTeer see:

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Scroll of Honor – Benjamin Robert Briggs

Stuck Throttle

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

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

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

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

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

For additional information about Benjamin Robert Briggs see:

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Scroll of Honor – John Walker Stalnaker

Target Tokyo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For more information about John Walker Stalnaker see:

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Clemson Alumnus Heads New US Space Force

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Scroll of Honor – John Oscar Mauldin

Night Mission

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For more information about Flight Officer John Oscar Mauldin, see:

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Scroll of Honor – Guy Webb

Bloodiest Battle

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For more information on Captain Guy Robert Webb, Jr. see:

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Scroll of Honor – Walter Bennett and Marion Innis Jenkins

Scroll Shared History

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

Both were posthumously awarded the Purple Heart.

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

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

For more information about Walter Bennett see:

For more information about Marion Innis Jenkins see:

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Scroll of Honor – John McKenzie McIntosh

One of the Most Promising Young Men

John McKenzie McIntosh of Columbia was noted for his “ready wit and congenial nature” according to the 1914 edition of Taps.

“Mc” McIntosh came to Clemson Agricultural College when the campus was still new, arriving in the late summer of 1910 as a member of the Class of 1914.  Mc, who wanted to be a chemist, pursued a double major in chemistry and agriculture.  He also took part in the increasing number of extracurricular activities at the young college.  In addition to associating in academic clubs with the other boys in his two majors,  Mc was a member of the Senior Dancing Club, the Calhoun Literary Society, the Richland County Club and the Columbia City Club.  He also served as a lieutenant in the Corps of Cadets.

Upon graduation, McIntosh continued his formal education by enrolling in the University of South Carolina.  He received his master’s degree in 1916 and soon took a position as chemist and head refiner for Fidelity Oil Company in Houston, Texas.

At 8:30 in the evening on April 2, 1917, President Woodrow Wilson appeared before a joint session of Congress to request a declaration of war on Germany.  Wilson had been pushed into the step by the Germans’ unrestricted submarine warfare that was targeting—and sinking—US merchant ships trading with Britain.  Congress declared war two days later.

Mc McIntosh immediately volunteered for Army service and was sent for officers’ training to Leon Springs, Texas, where on August 27 he was commissioned as a first lieutenant.  McIntosh was ordered to Camp Travis near San Antonio where the 90th Division was organized that fall.  The following June, the division embarked for Europe, reaching Liverpool on July 4.  After two weeks of training in France, McIntosh and his regiment, the 357th Infantry, moved up to the front lines and into the trenches in time for the first all-American offensive of the war near St. Mihiel.

It was while leading 1st Platoon, Company A in the vanguard of the offensive that First Lieutenant McIntosh was killed by German machine gun fire on September 12, 1918.  He was posthumously awarded the Silver Star.

In its obituary on the young Columbian, The State newspaper called him “one of the most promising young men” of the city.  His remains were returned to Columbia in 1921 and were buried in St. Peter’s Catholic Church Cemetery.

For more information about First Lieutenant John McKenzie McIntosh see:

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Scroll of Honor – William Duncan Workman

A Fine Pilot and a Fine Man
written by: Kelly Durham

Since the flight of Icarus, flying had always been seen as a dangerous endeavor.  Many had been killed during man’s centuries-long experimentations with flight.  Even after the Wrights finally conquered the air, tragedy was a frequent companion.  In 1908, while riding as a passenger during a demonstration flight for the Army at Fort Myers, Virginia, Thomas Selfridge, a twenty-six year-old first lieutenant in the Signal Corps, was killed when a broken propeller caused the Wright Flyer, piloted by its co-inventor Orville Wright, to crash.  Selfridge claimed the distinction as the first passenger to die in the crash of a powered airplane.  Selfridge wouldn’t be the last military man to perish in an aircraft accident.

William Duncan Workman arrived on the Clemson campus in the late summer of 1937 along with the other members of his Class of 1941.  “Dunc” was a general science student from Clinton who served as treasurer of the Laurens-Union County Club.  A four-year private in the cadet brigade, Workman’s cadet career was undistinguished, yet soon after graduation, he was in the service, eventually assigned to the Army Air Forces and flight training.

At the time Workman and his classmates graduated, the Army Air Corps was gearing up its flight training operations to fill the expanding ranks of aviators needed to face the world crisis.  This training was divided into three phases: primary, basic, and advanced—each twelve weeks long.  Before long, each phase was reduced to ten weeks; and after Pearl Harbor to nine weeks.

Perhaps the reduction in training time contributed to the high numbers of accidents and fatalities incurred during training.  According to historian Marlyn Pierce, more than 54,000 training accidents occurred in the continental United States over the course of the war.  The peak year for these accidents was 1943.  Heavy losses in the daylight bombing campaign over Europe had to be replaced.  As a result, thousands of young men were involved in stateside flight training.  Dunc Workman was one of these, assigned as a student-pilot to the 29th Training Group at Gowen Field in Boise, Idaho.

Second lieutenant Workman had progressed to the third part of his flight training, the advanced phase.  He was flying the Army Air Forces’ workhorse heavy bomber, the B-17.  The weather in Idaho had been dreary all winter, with frequent snow, ice and fog.  Nearby mountains added to the challenging flying environment, as did the demanding training schedule.

On Tuesday, April 13, 1943, Workman was assigned as the student-pilot on a training mission during which he would practice instrument take-offs.  Flying “under the hood,” operating the aircraft solely on the basis of its instruments and without visual reference to the world beyond the cockpit, Workman was to coax his aircraft into the sky.  To assist in this hazardous task was flight instructor and safety pilot first lieutenant Richard Pease.  Also on board were four other crew members.

At 0816 hours, Workman began his take-off, rolling more than fifteen hundred feet down the runway.  Due to the torque created by the B-17’s four big twelve-hundred horsepower engines, the airplane tended to veer to the right when under full power.  Workman applied opposite rudder to counter the torque and straighten the aircraft.  When he relaxed rudder pressure, the aircraft again veered to the right.  Proceeding in a wide arc, the B-17 collided with another aircraft parked on a nearby ramp.  Still under full power and moving at a speed of seventy to eighty miles per hour, Workman’s aircraft crashed head-on into a second parked B-17.  The collision started a fire which quickly destroyed both aircraft.  One man on the ground and four in the aircraft, including Workman, were killed.

An investigation identified the probable cause of the accident as the safety pilot’s slow reaction and failure to close the throttles when the aircraft became unmanageable.

The loss of Workman and the others, tragic and preventable as it was, was not unusual.  It was, in fact, merely average.  During that pivotal year of 1943, the Army Air Forces averaged more than fifteen accidents and six fatalities per day.  Historian Pierce writes that these high loss rates, which over the course of the war were equivalent to a full infantry division, brought about a culture change within the service.  As the Army Air Force evolved into the post-war Air Force, a commitment to safety dramatically reduced training accidents and fatalities.

The changes would come too late for Workman and the 15,530 other airman killed in stateside training accidents during the war.  Yet, Army Air Force leaders knew that accidents were inevitable.  Their gnawing dilemma was to determine an “acceptable” level of losses both in training and in combat.

William Duncan Workman was survived by his mother, Mrs. Gene Workman.  Mrs. Workman planted a flower garden in memory of her son.  Mothers of other men serving in the military sent her tulips, irises, dahlias, and azaleas to add to the plot.  She also received a letter from the operations officer of her son’s squadron.  “Your son was in my flight here at Gowen Field.  I flew with him many times — he was a fine pilot and a fine man and his passing is a loss not only to you and his loved ones, but also to his country which he served so well.”  The author of the letter was Captain Jimmy Stewart.

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Scroll of Honor – David Clifford Eaddy, Jr.

The Last Class
Written by Kelly Durham

His was the last class to enroll at Clemson College before the war began.  Most of its members would be long gone before the day in May 1945 when they would have expected to graduate.  Some, like David Clifford Eaddy , Jr. of Branchville, would never return.

Eaddy arrived at Clemson for the fall semester in 1941.  The war in Europe had been raging for nearly two years.  In China, the Japanese had been on the warpath even longer, but the United States had so far managed to avoid being drawn into the war.  President Roosevelt had campaigned for—and won—an unprecedented third term proclaiming that he’d kept American boys out of war.  By the time Eaddy and his colleagues in the Class of 1945 had their heads shaved for their “Rat” season, Roosevelt’s promise was about to expire.

Eaddy was a vocational agriculture education major.  Like many of the boys enrolling at the college, he came from a small South Carolina town.  Branchville, at the southern tip of Orangeburg County, had a population of only 1,350 according to the 1940 census—making it nearly twice as large as the Clemson community Eaddy now joined.  During his two years at Clemson, Eaddy was a member of the 4-H Club.

Eaddy enlisted in the Marine Corps in July 1942, training first at Emory University in Atlanta and then shipping out to California.   He was assigned to the 28th Marine Regiment of the 5th Marine Division.  The regiment was activated in February 1944 at Camp Pendleton, California, training there for deployment in the Pacific Theater.  It boarded troop ships and sailed for Hawaii that fall.  It resumed training at Camp Tarawa, Hawaii preparing for its first mission: the capture of Iwo Jima.

Iwo Jima is a volcanic island lying some 1,200 kilometers south of Tokyo.  In 1945, the Japanese were building a third airstrip on the island from which they intended to intercept US B-29 bombers flying missions against the Japanese home islands from bases on recently captured Saipan.  Seizing the island would not only eliminate the threat from Japanese fighter aircraft, it would also create emergency landing fields for crippled B-29s returning from firebombing Japanese cities.

At 0900 hours on Monday, February 19, 1945, First Battalion, 28th Marines, including Eaddy’s Baker Company, landed on Green Beach.  Within two hours, Eaddy’s First Platoon had made it across the narrow southwestern neck of the island and reached the west coast of Iwo Jima.  In doing so, the Marines had achieved their first day’s objectives and had isolated the dominant terrain of the island, Mount Suribachi.  It took four more days for the Marines to secure Mount Suribachi, an event immortalized by AP photographer Joe Rosenthal’s dramatic shot of the mountaintop flag-raising.  But the battle for Iwo Jima was just beginning.

The Japanese, knowing that reinforcement and resupply would be impossible in the face of US air supremacy and overwhelming sea power, resolved to hold out as long as possible and to inflict unacceptable casualties on the American invaders.  Japanese leaders, understanding that the war was unwinnable, hoped to convince the enemy that the cost of victory was not worth the price to be paid in young American lives.  Through a fanatical defense to the death, the Japanese hoped to soften US demands for unconditional surrender.  Toward that end, the defenders had honeycombed the island with interconnected caves that provided fortified, difficult to attack positions from which to fire on the Americans.  One of these complexes was Hill 362A.

Early on the morning of Thursday, March 1, naval ships began to bombard Hill 362A with heavy shells.  Low-flying aircraft fired their machine guns and rockets and dropped bombs.  Marine artillery added to the cacophony of destruction as First Battalion, including Eaddy’s Baker Company attacked.  First Platoon moved around the right side of the hill as the Japanese rained down grenades, mortar rounds, and machine gun fire.  The platoon leader and platoon sergeant both fell from shrapnel wounds.  In the heat of the battle, three other Marines fell, including Corporal David Eaddy, leading his second squad fire team.

The Battle for Iwo Jima was unique in the United States’ island-hopping campaign of World War II.  It was the only battle in which total American casualties exceeded those of the Japanese defenders.

David Clifford Eaddy, Jr. was survived by his parents and his sister, a student at Lander College.  He was awarded the Victory Medal and the Purple Heart.

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Scroll of Honor – Charles Lollis

Victim of Tet
written by Kelly Durham

By the fall of 1967, President Lyndon Johnson had become concerned by the declining levels of public support for his administration’s prosecution of the war in Vietnam.  More and more Americans were beginning to think that the United States had erred in becoming involved in a struggle that seemed to have little direct impact on national interests.  A November opinion poll revealed that a majority of Americans either wanted to win or get out.

The president summoned General William Westmoreland to Washington for consultations.  Westmoreland, the commander of American forces in Vietnam, was emphatic that the US, along with its South Vietnamese and other allies, was winning the war.  During an interview, Westmoreland dared his communist adversaries to launch an attack telling Time magazine, “I hope they try something because we are looking for a fight.”  Be careful what you wish for.

One of the members of Westmoreland’s logistics staff at his headquarters in Saigon was Major Charles Lollis, Clemson College Class of 1963.  Lollis’s job included ensuring the supply of weapons to allied troops from the Republic of Korea, a duty that frequently took him into contested areas.

Charles Lollis was already an Army veteran by the time he enrolled at Clemson.  Dick Mattox, Class of 1951, returned to Fort Jackson in the summer of 1953 following his service in the Korean War.  He was assigned as a company commander, guiding young men through their basic training.  Based on the recommendation of his first sergeant, Mattox assigned Lollis as an acting platoon sergeant based on the fact that Lollis had completed a year of college—at Bob Jones University—and had spent some time with an Army Reserve outfit.  Lollis made such an impression that six years later, when Mattox was working in the admissions office at Clemson, Mattox immediately recognizeded Lollis’s name when it appeared on an admissions application.  “I contacted him shortly after his arrival and indeed he was the same man,” Mattox recalled.  Mattox recruited Lollis to join his Army Reserve battalion headquartered in Clemson.   “I again had the opportunity to serve with this good man.”

Lollis, from nearby Liberty, enrolled at Clemson as an electrical engineering major for only one academic year.  He then worked as a bowling alley manager and became involved in construction work.  In 1961, he accepted a position with Sangamo Company living in Illinois for six months.  By then, he and his wife Jean had four children, two boys and two girls.  In January 1963, Lollis, now a captain, returned to active duty and was assigned to Fort Gordon, Georgia.  Assignments in Alaska and New Jersey followed.   While in Alaska, Lollis was promoted to major.  After completing a Signal Corps school at Fort Monmouth, New Jersey, Lollis was ordered to Vietnam.

On January 30, 1968, Westmoreland got his wish.  The “something” the enemy tried came to be known as the Tet Offensive, the largest attack of the war, in which more than 80,000 North Vietnamese and Viet Cong troops attacked targets all over South Vietnam, including its capital Saigon.

On February 6, Major Lollis was killed when the military vehicle he was riding in was ambushed by enemy forces.  The fighting in Saigon would last into the middle of February.  The North Vietnamese would lose between 32,000 and 45,000 killed during their offensive.  More than 1,500 American and other allied personnel would be killed,  but the shock of the attack had an even greater impact.

After Tet, American public opinion turned sharply against the war. In March, President Johnson announced that he would not be a candidate for reelection.

Lollis was survived by his widow Janice and their children Charles, David, Janice and Sandra.  He was awarded the Legion of Merit (posthumously), Purple Heart and Army Commendation Medal.  Major Lollis is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

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Scroll of Honor – William Robins English

In Japanese Captivity

The treatment of prisoners of war during World War II varied greatly depending upon the combatants involved.  For Americans, being captured by the Germans was preferable to being a prisoner of the Japanese—but then no one really got to choose.

William Robins English of Columbia achieved an admirable record during his four years as a Clemson cadet.  He was among the best drilled cadets of his Class of 1937, being selected to the Freshman, Sophomore, Junior and Senior Platoons.  He served as a battalion sergeant major as a junior and as a cadet captain and battalion executive officer as a senior.  In addition to military aptitude, English was recognized for leadership ability, being elected president of the Tiger Brotherhood.  He served on the Central Dance Association, the Junior Ring Committee, and as a commencement marshal.

Following his graduation with a degree in general science, English returned to Columbia where he took a position with General Motors Acceptance Corporation. A reserve officer, English was called to active duty at Fort Jackson in December 1940 as the United States belatedly prepared for war. He was assigned to the 34th Infantry Regiment of the 8th Infantry Division.  In October 1941, he married Martha Smith of Spartanburg.  A month later, he was on a ship heading to the Philippines.

The Philippines had a reputation as an island paradise, with sunny days and cool nights, a place where military duty and social events mixed in a pleasant, predictable routine–until December 8, 1941 when the Japanese attacked.

Not long thereafter, English, now a captain, found himself in command of Filipino troops of the 81st Infantry Division defending the island of Cebu, which included the Philippines’ second largest municipality, Cebu City.  US and Filipino forces under General MacArthur’s United States Army Forces in the Far East fought the Japanese tenaciously, holding out as long as possible without resupply and reinforcement.  With the fall of Corregidor in May 1942, the 81st Division finally surrendered.  A new ordeal was about to begin.

Back in Columbia, Martha had received regular letters from her husband since his deployment.  Following a letter from Captain English in April, no further word arrived until the War Department notified her that her husband was missing in action.  It would take another whole year for news of his capture by the Japanese to filter back to Martha through the Red Cross.

In the meantime, English would be imprisoned first on the island of Mindanao and then transferred to the infamous Camp #1 at Cabanatuan, Luzon.  Following the October 1944 American landings at Leyte Gulf where MacArthur proclaimed his return to the Philippines, the Japanese began the cruel and often deadly process of transporting their prisoners of war to the Japanese home islands.

In December, English was loaded into the hold of a Japanese merchant ship along with other American prisoners.  The conditions aboard these vessels reflected the names the Americans gave them: Hell Ships.  Prisoners were left to the mercy of the elements, with no provision made for extra clothing for warmth, for food, water or medicines to treat the already malnourished and ill.  In addition to the hunger, thirst, disease and increasingly cold weather as the ship headed north toward Japan, the prisoners were also at risk from their own countrymen.

Part of the American strategy of reducing Japan’s ability to continue the war was to gradually tighten the sea blockade by destroying enemy shipping.  Unfortunately, that included the sinking of Japanese merchant ships that were sometimes—without the knowledge of US commanders—carrying American and Allied prisoners of war.

On December 15, 1944, the ship carrying English was torpedoed by a US submarine and sunk.  He was killed along with an unknown number of other Americans.

Japanese treatment toward prisoners of all nationalities was animated by racism and a sense that surrender was dishonorable.  Americans captured by the Japanese during World War II died at a rate of thirty-three percent, compared to less than one and a half percent for Americans imprisoned by the Germans.

William Robins English was survived by his wife Martha, his mother, two sisters and a brother.  He is memorialized at the Manila American Cemetery in the Philippines.

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Scroll of Honor – Herbert Gregg Easterling

January Sacrifices

It’s unlikely that Herbert Gregg Easterling would have graduated in 1944 even if he had stayed in school.  Easterling, of Florence, arrived on campus as an English major in 1940, a member of the Class of ’44.  The war eclipsed the Clemson careers of these young men as they were called to duty at the end of the 1942-43 academic year.  But by then, Easterling had already been overseas for six months.

The son of Mr. and Mrs. Ben Easterling, Herbert left Clemson in 1941.  He married Frances Smith of Florence and was soon in flight school, learning to fly multi-engine bombers for the Army Air Corps.  By December 1942, he was overseas and flying the famous B-17 Flying Fortress as a member of the 97th Bomb Group.

Easterling joined the group in Algeria where its mission was to support the Allies’ North Africa campaign by striking enemy airfields, harbor facilities and marshalling yards around the Mediterranean Sea.  The 97th supported the July 1943 invasion of Sicily and the invasion of Italy that September.

The 97th established its headquarters at Cerignola, Italy in December 1943 in order to fly long-range missions against targets in Northern Italy, France, Germany, Czechoslovakia, Austria, Hungary, Rumania, Bulgaria, Yugoslavia and Greece.  It was on a mission to the shipping docks at Piraeus, the Aegean Sea port near Athens, Greece, that Easterling and his crew were killed.

On January 11, 1944, First Lieutenant Easterling’s aircraft was lost when it entered turbulent air.  The official accident report listed “prop wash” as the cause of the accident.  Easterling and his crew were reported as missing.  Their remains were later found, but it was impossible to separately identify the remains and so Easterling’s crew was buried together in an American Military Cemetery near Rome.

Sadly, the heartbreak of the war was not over for the Easterling family.  Twelve months later, in January 1945, the family received notice that another son, Sergeant Ben Easterling, a Wofford College alumnus, had been killed in action in France.

Herbert and Ben were remembered in a joint memorial service in August 1949 when Ben’s remains were returned to Florence.  The brothers were survived by their parents, three sisters and a brother.  For more information on Herbert Gregg Easterling see:

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Scroll of Honor – Bill Dillard

Winter War

Written by: Kelly Durham

When we think about winter combat in World War II, most of us recall the Battle of the Bulge and the heroic stand of American forces in surrounded Bastogne.  But before that action, American and Allied forces were already locked in a miserable battle against the Germans, the terrain and the weather in the Hürtgen Forest.  Approximately fifty miles square, the Hürtgen Forest lies just east of the Belgian-German border and beginning in September 1944 was the site of the American Army’s longest-running battle on German territory.  Bill Dillard of Six Mile was in the thick of the fight.

William C. Dillard had enrolled at Clemson as a pre-med major.  Following his graduation in May 1943, instead of proceeding to medical school, Dillard, like the rest of his classmates, was ordered to active duty.  After completing Officer Candidate School at Fort Benning, Georgia that December, Dillard was commissioned as a second lieutenant.  By August of the following year, Dillard, now married, shipped overseas. He was assigned to Company B of the 36th Armored Infantry Regiment, 3rd Armored Division.  The 3rd Armored Division had led First Army’s breakout from the hedgerows of Normandy, had crossed the Seine River in late August and on September 12 crossed the border into Germany.  There, it came face-to-face with the fixed fortifications of the Siegfried Line—and its very determined German defenders.

The Hürtgen Forest was a rugged, heavily forested area crossed by poor, winding roads and favorable for the defense.  The Germans made good use of the natural cover and concealment provided by the forest and utilized pillboxes and other fortifications to hold off the advancing Americans.  In addition, rainy, then snowy weather helped to minimize the Allies great airpower advantage.

On December 12, while attacking near Stolberg, Germany, Dillard’s company was hit by “severe artillery, mortar and small arms fire.” An artillery smoke screen further hindered the unit’s movement.  According to Dillard’s Bronze Star citation, “With total disregard for his own personal safety, in the face of heavy enemy fire, Lt. Dillard continuously exposed himself and made his way from squad to squad, personally directing his men to covered positions and giving them encouragement which minimized the amount of confusion.”  Dillard was wounded during the attack and evacuated to a field hospital where he died the following day.  He was twenty-one years old.

Dillard was survived by his wife Wilma, his parents Mr. and Mrs. T. L. Dillard and his sister Eloise, then a student at Furman.  In addition to the Bronze Star, Dillard was awarded the Purple Heart and the Combat Infantryman’s Badge.  Dillard’s son Billy was born on January 18, 1945 and would follow in his father’s footsteps, graduating from Clemson University in 1965.

Three days after Dillard’s death, the Germans launched their last offensive which soon became known as the Battle of the Bulge.  That effectively ended the Hürtgen campaign as the Allies shifted every available unit north to blunt the German attack.

Historians consider the Battle of the Hürtgen Forest to be a rare German victory that late in the war as the Americans suffered nearly 140,000 casualties from weather, accidents, and enemy fire without seizing strategic objectives.

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Scroll of Honor – Robert Mixon

Ball Turret Gunner

It was the most isolated position on the crew.  Sure, the tail gunner was stuck at the very back of the fuselage beneath the tail section, but at least he could crawl back through the narrow tunnel and into the B-17’s waist when things calmed down.  Not so for the ball turret gunner.  Once he climbed into the cramped, hydraulically controlled turret in the belly of the airplane, the ball turret gunner was alone.  Sure, he had a great view, able to spin his turret in any direction, but he was also exposed to enemy fire coming from any point on the compass.

After closing his hatch and being lowered into position, hanging beneath the airplane at frigid altitudes of up to 25,000 feet, the ball turret gunner’s only contact with the rest of the aircraft’s crew was through the interphone.  There was no room to stretch out and relieve aching muscles, no “relief tube” for bodily functions, and should the Plexiglas bubble in which he sat be pierced by bullets or shrapnel, the gunner would have to battle frostbite as well as the enemy.

When Boeing designed the B-17, Army Air Corps planners envisioned a heavily-armed aircraft capable of its own defense against speedier, more maneuverable fighters.  To that end, the Flying Fortress, as the B-17 came to be known, bristled with machine guns, from nose to tail, dorsal to belly.

It was into the ball turret on the underbelly of B-17 Gremlin’s Buggy that Staff Sergeant Robert Mixon, Jr. climbed on a cold November morning in 1943.

Robert Mixon had entered Clemson College the fall semester of 1940.  There was trouble aplenty overseas, but the sentiment among most Americans was that the fight was Europe’s business, not ours.  Mixon was from the growing town of Yemassee which straddled the Beaufort and Hampton County line with a population of 684, up more than twenty-five percent from the 1930 census.  Hailing from a rural area, it seemed only natural that Mixon would study agriculture at Clemson.

Mixon remained at Clemson for two years, then joined the Army Air Forces.  By that time, the war that had seemed so far away had reached out and ensnared the United States.  The American military was mobilizing at an unprecedented pace and the first Americans into the fight against the Germans in Europe were the men of the Army Air Forces, particularly the heavy bombers of the Eighth Air Force.

Mixon was assigned to the 385th Bomb Group which arrived in England in June 1943 and established its headquarters at Great Ashfield, Suffolk, on England’s east coast.  The 385th earned a Distinguished Unit Citation for its participation in the long, hazardous Regensburg mission in August of that year.

On November 29, three hundred sixty B-17s, including Gremlin’s Buggy took off on the Eighth Air Force’s one-hundred-fortieth mission, its target the north German port of Bremen.  Lieutenant Richard Yoder was the pilot and leader of the ten-man crew which included  copilot Lieutenant Robert Payne, a bombardier, navigator, top turret gunner/flight engineer, radio operator, two waist gunners, the tail gunner and Mixon in the ball turret.  It was Mixon’s twenty-second combat mission.

Payne recalled that he left the flight deck and “went back to the bomb bay for a few minutes as we passed over France and all seemed well and in good spirits.”  The B-17s were scheduled to hit the target beginning at approximately 1430 hours, but unfavorable cloud conditions and the malfunction of radar bombing equipment caused more than two hundred of the aircraft to abort the mission.  Not so for Gremlin’s Buggy.  Yoder, Payne, Mixon and the crew pressed on through the perilous skies.

As the bomber formation approached the target, enemy anti-aircraft fire became more intense—and more accurate.  Payne remembered that Mixon, from his unique vantage point beneath the airplane, could see flak explosions getting closer. Mixon reported, “They are bursting right beneath us!”  “Then,” Payne said, “all went dead as we found we had gotten into a bit of trouble… it is very possible that the radio op(erator) and ball gunner had been killed.”  The five men in the front part of the airplane were able to bail out and were taken prisoner by the Germans.  Gremlin’s Buggy crashed near Fesenfeld, about fourteen miles south of Bremen. The radio operator and the four gunners in the aft section of the plane, including Mixon, were killed.

Over twelve thousand B-17s were built.  Thirty-five hundred were shot down over Europe.  Each aircraft carried a crew of eight to ten men, many of whom, like Robert Mixon, Jr., never came home.

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Scroll of Honor – Richard Hughes Johnson

One Day Short

His classmates held him in high regard.  His Taps profile stated:

He is a hard worker and we bespeak for him great success.

Richard Hughes Johnson was born the same year the first class of cadets enrolled in Clemson Agricultural College.  He moved into the barracks in 1911, just twenty-two years after Thomas Clemson’s will had established the college.  Johnson made an impact on the nascent campus, serving as vice president of the Clemson Agricultural Society, editor of the Clemson Agricultural Journal, member of the Calhoun Literary Society, and secretary-treasurer of the Agronomy Club.  He also served as president of the Union County Club and played on his class football team.

Johnson graduated from Clemson in 1915.  He must have impressed more than just his classmates, for on December 11, 1917, Johnson married Harriet Catherine Frazier of Walhalla, a recent graduate of Winthrop College.

Less than a week earlier, at Camp Wheeler near Macon, Georgia, the 7th Division had been activated as the United States continued to mobilize its forces to battle the German invaders in France.  In January 1918, the 7th Division, including Johnson’s 56th Infantry Regiment, sailed for France aboard the SS Leviathan.

The 56th Infantry Regiment’s first contact with the enemy came in October 1918, as it endured artillery shelling and later a chemical attack.  While probing toward Prény near the Moselle River, the regiment captured positions and drove German forces out of the region. As part of the Meuse-Argonne offensive, the 7th Division was ordered in early November to prepare for an assault on the Hindenberg Line, a series of fortified German defensive positions.  In preparation for the attack, the division launched a reconnaissance in force.

While leading his men in an attack near Metz, on November 10, First Lieutenant Johnson was struck down by German machine gun fire.  The following day, the attack was halted as news of the signing of the Armistice spread through the ranks.  Johnson had fallen one day short of victory.

Johnson’s comrades recognized the same strengths of character his classmates had noted three years before.  “He was ever willing, true, brave, and courageous, and had won for himself the admiration and esteem of everyone in the regiment,” wrote Major P. B. Parker.

Johnson received a Certificate of Heroism signed by General John J. Pershing, commander of the American Expeditionary Force, as well as a diploma from the French government.  He was survived by his widow, who went on to direct the 4-H Girls Clubs in the state and in 1945 became the first woman elected to the South Carolina House of Representatives.

Johnson was buried at Bur Bois Rappes in the St. Mihiel American Cemetery.

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Scroll of Honor – John Coleman Carlisle

Deadly Foe

Written by: Kelly Durham

By the time John Coleman Carlisle of Newberry checked into the barracks, he probably knew already that his days on campus were numbered. Carlisle’s Clemson bore faint resemblance to the bustling college where just two years before one of the largest cadet corps in the country had marched across the green expanse of Bowman Field. By that fall of 1944, cadet gray had been largely replaced by Army khaki and green as activity on campus had switched from academic instruction to the training of Army engineers and pilots. As he walked the paths to his textile engineering classes, Carlisle would have encountered young Army officers on their way to military-oriented instruction in engineering, surveying and flying.

Upon completion of his freshman year, Carlisle enlisted in the Navy, undergoing basic training at Bainbridge, Maryland. His next assignment was aboard a ship in the Pacific theater of operations. By this point in World War II, American and Allied forces were tightening the noose around Japan. Victories at Iwo Jima and Okinawa put America’s state-of-the-art heavy bomber, the B-29 Superfortress, within range of Japan’s home islands. But, when Carlisle became ill, he found himself at nearly the opposite end of the great Pacific Ocean, on the island of Samoa.

Located 1,800 miles northeast of New Zealand and 2,600 miles southwest of Hawaii, Samoa was a backwater. The only enemy action there had occurred shortly after Pearl Harbor, in early January 1942 when a Japanese submarine had surfaced and briefly shelled the US Naval Station at Tutuila.

From a distance of nearly three-quarters of a century, it’s easy to forget how different life was in 1945. Radio—AM radio at that—was the only instant mass medium. People still wrote letters, drank Coca-Cola from glass bottles, and went to the movies every week, but the war was changing things, in part by accelerating discovery in many fields, from communications and aviation to medicine.

One of the more frightening diseases of the day was poliomyelitis–polio for short–which was considered primarily a childhood disease, with most cases occurring in children from six months to four years of age. Polio in these younger children generally resulted in mild symptoms—only one case in a thousand resulted in paralysis. And once afflicted, an individual developed an immunity to the disease. With steadily improving community sanitation, such as better sewage disposal and clean water supplies in developed countries, fewer infants and young children were exposed to the disease—and so fewer developed an immunity to the virus. As a result, many were not exposed to the virus until late childhood or early adult life—when one case in seventy-

five resulted in paralysis. The most notable example was President Franklin Roosevelt, who had contracted polio at the age of thirty-nine.

Major US polio epidemics began to be recorded in 1894, when one hundred twenty-six cases occurred in Vermont. Eighteen of the afflicted died. In 1907, twenty-five hundred cases of polio were reported in New York City. In 1916, there were 27,000 cases in the United States, six thousand of which ended in death. Each summer a polio outbreak occurred in some region of the United States, with the epidemics becoming more serious in the 1940s. Theaters and swimming pools closed and many people avoided public gatherings for fear of infection.

Ironically, in a post-war report by the US Army Medical Department, the rate of polio in the Army was comparable to that found in the population at large—despite living conditions, especially in combat zones, where sanitation was often primitive. The low incidence of polio among troops indicated that the disease did not behave like measles or mumps, which frequently appeared in epidemic form among batches of new recruits.

Polio occurred less frequently in Europe than in the Middle East or China-Burma-India areas of operations. It was rare in the Southwest Pacific theater, except for in the Philippines, and only ten cases were reported in the South and Central Pacific in 1945. But one of those cases was John Carlisle—who at eighteen was in the vulnerable age group. Carlisle died from polio on October 31, 1945 at Samoa. He was survived by his parents, his brother, aunts and uncles.

The Germans and Japanese were not the only deadly foes that would go down to defeat. With the introduction of Jonas Salk’s polio vaccine in the early 1950s, cases of the disease began to plummet. Efforts by organizations like Rotary International, the World Health Organization, US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, UNICEF, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation have been effective in battling polio. The last case of polio in the United States occurred in 1979. In 2015, there were only seventy-five cases worldwide, a reduction of 99.9% since the 1980s. Today, polio exists only in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Nigeria.

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Scroll of Honor – Steele Roy Patterson

After the Battle

Written by: Kelly Durham

Steele Roy Patterson of Seneca was a busy cadet, engaged in a variety of pursuits. He was a cadet first lieutenant his senior year, assigned to Company L in 3rd Battalion.  He had completed ROTC Camp that summer along with many of the other boys from his class and was back on campus juggling his electrical engineering studies with a full complement of extracurricular activities including his military duties.

Patterson was a member of the Central Dance Association which planned all the big hops for the cadets and their dates, many of whom traveled to the tiny community and stayed with faculty families for dance weekends.  He was a member of the American Institute of Electrical Engineers, Tiger Brotherhood, Sigma Epsilon social fraternity, and a reporter for The Tiger.  He must have been well-respected by his classmates, for they had elected Patterson to represent them on the Senior Council, the class’s governing body.

Patterson graduated in the spring of 1934 and was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Infantry.  That same year, he put in a transfer for the Army Air Corps.  Promotions, at first, were slow, reflecting the pace of America’s peacetime Army of the era.  Patterson was promoted to first lieutenant in September 1940.  Then things began to happen more quickly.  As Americans and their political leaders awakened to the dangers of the war in Europe, the country began to build its military forces, implementing a draft and expanding training regimens and facilities.  In October 1941, Patterson was promoted to captain.  Mobilization accelerated after the attack on Pearl Harbor and on March 1, 1942, Patterson was promoted again, this time to major.

Patterson soon shipped overseas, possibly in support of Operation Torch, the November 1942 invasion of North Africa by Allied forces.  He flew numerous missions in the Middle East and Egypt according to a newspaper report.

In April 1943, Patterson returned to the States, was promoted to lieutenant colonel and named commander of the 465th Squadron of the 415th Bombardment Group.  The 465th’s mission was to train pilots and aircrew for the costly daylight bombing campaign underway against Nazi-occupied Europe.

On October 6, 1944, Lt. Col. Patterson was assigned as the copilot of a B-25 medium bomber piloted by Lt. Col. Horace Craig.  During their preflight checks, both Craig and Patterson reported satisfactory conditions.  The flight took off from the Army airfield at Orlando, Florida. When the aircraft’s speed surpassed seventy miles per hour, the nose wheel became airborne. According to the official accident report, the airplane’s left engine then lost power causing the plane to yaw to the left.  The plane continued to climb, but Craig was only able to straighten its flight path with extreme effort.  He guided the plane into two trees in an attempt to dissipate its momentum.  The aircraft crashed and began to burn.  Craig, Patterson and their three crew members managed to escape through a hole in the roof of the fuselage, but all were suffering from burns, cuts, and abrasions.

Patterson’s injuries proved fatal.  He died on October 13.

Lieutenant Colonel Steele Roy Patterson was buried at Arlington National Cemetery and was survived by his wife and two daughters, his parents, three brothers and two sisters.

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Scroll of Honor – John Harold Lightsey ’40

A Speck in the Ocean
Written by: Kelly Durham

It’s just a speck on the map, a tiny dot of green contrasting with the blue expanse of the vast Pacific Ocean, but in 1944, the little island of Angaur’s location, north of New Guinea and east of the Philippines, made it valuable real estate.  General Douglas MacArthur had promised to return to the Philippines and had convinced President Roosevelt to support his campaign for recapturing the islands from which he had so ignominiously been driven two and a half years earlier.  MacArthur believed Angaur was an ideal site for the construction of an airfield from which land-based aircraft would be able to reach Japanese targets in the Philippines.

A sparsely-inhabited island in the Palau chain, Angaur is only three square miles in size, yet it was garrisoned by committed Japanese defenders.

While the 1st Marine Division attacked the neighboring and larger island of Peleliu, the Army’s 81st Infantry Division was ordered to capture Angaur.  Among the officers of the 81st’s 322nd Regiment was Captain John Harold Lightsey, Clemson College Class of 1940.

Lightsey of Fairfax, had graduated from Clemson with a degree in agronomy and had been a member of the Animal Husbandry Club, the Literary Society and the Tiger newspaper staff.  He had also served as vice-president of Kappa Alpha Sigma, the local chapter of the American Society of Agronomy.  Lightsey remained a cadet private throughout his four years at Clemson.

Following graduation, Lightsey worked at the college for several months before securing employment as an agronomist with the Dixie Guano Company in Laurinburg, North Carolina.  He was called to Army service in September 1941.

September 1944 found Lightsey waiting anxiously as the battleship Tennessee, accompanied by four cruisers and dozens of aircraft from the carrier Wasp, bombarded Angaur.  After a delay caused by a shortage of landing craft, the 322nd Regimental Combat Team, including Captain Lightsey’s Company G, finally landed on Beach Red on the island’s northern side on September 17.  At the same time, the 321st RCT landed on Beach Blue to the east side of the island.  Although each RCT was counterattacked during the night, the American forces were able to link up the next day.  By September 20, the Americans had forced the Japanese back to a position known as “The Bowl,” a hill into which the defenders had constructed fortified caves and from which they intended to make their last stand.  Lightsey was wounded in this fighting.

For a week, the 322nd repeatedly attacked the Bowl, but the Japanese hung on ferociously, firing back with artillery, mortars, machine guns and hand grenades. The defenders were gradually worn down by hunger, thirst and the relentless American shellfire and bombing.  By the September 25, the Americans had penetrated the Bowl, but rather than continue to fight for every foot of bloody ground, the attackers called forward unconventional weapons: bulldozers.  American combat engineers used the clanking machines to seal shut the entrances – and exits – to the caves.  The battle dwindled to a series of small scale skirmishes, sniping, ambushing and booby-trapping.  The last day of fighting was October 22.  The Americans had finally taken the island, but – rare for the Pacific campaign – had suffered more casualties than they had inflicted.  Among these was Captain John Lightsey who died on September 28.

Lightsey was awarded the Silver Star for his role in leading Company G during  the attack.  He was survived by his wife of less than two years, the former Janie Phillips of Cordele, Georgia and their two-month-old daughter Janice.  In addition, Lightsey was survived by his parents, five sisters and three brothers, one of whom was serving not too far away on New Guinea.  A fourth brother, Lieutenant Ralph Lightsey had been killed in an airplane crash the previous year.

Construction of airfields began even before the battle died out.  Still, the airfields weren’t completed in time to support the initial landings in the Philippines causing some, like 5th Fleet commander Admiral William F. Halsey, to question the necessity of the attack on the Palau Islands.

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Scroll of Honor – John Adam Simpson

On the Way Over There

John Adam Simpson came to Clemson College in 1912 when both he and the school were still young.  “Simp” had grown up in Chester County, attending the public schools in Richburg.  He majored in agriculture and was a member of the Calhoun Literary Society, the YMCA, Agriculture Club, and the Clean Sleeve Club.  Simp graduated with the Class of 1915, but his time on campus had not come to an end.  Based on his reputation as “accurate, steady and dependable as well as willing and conscientious,” Simp was offered a graduate assistantship in botany.

Simp left Clemson in July 1916 taking a new position as the assistant to the director of the South Carolina Experiment Station.  Two years later, with the United States now committed to the war in Europe, he resigned his position to join the Army and was assigned to the 4th Battery, Field Artillery at Camp Jackson in Columbia. Private Simpson was assigned to headquarters as an observer and map maker.  Simpson and his unit left Camp Jackson on September 15 for their deployment overseas.

Ironically, Simpson and his comrades would be sailing to France to fight the Germans on a German ship.  The steamship Camilla Rickmers had been built at Bremerhaven, Germany in 1914.  When the United States declared war on Germany in April 1917, the ship was seized by US Customs officials and turned over to the Navy.  The Navy fitted the ship out as an animal transport, renamed her Ticonderoga, and commissioned her at Boston on January 5, 1918 with Lieutenant Commander James J. Madison in command.

Ticonderoga loaded her Army cargo at Norfolk, Virginia and then sailed north to New York to join a convoy of ships bound for France.  On September 22, the transport, with Simpson onboard, cleared New York harbor and sailed east.  A week later, Ticonderoga developed engine trouble and began to fall behind the protective screen of the convoy.  At 0520 on September 30, Ticonderoga sighted the German submarine U-152 stalking her on the surface.  Lieutenant Commander Madison ordered his ship cleared for action.

U-152 attacked from five hundred yards away using its two 5.9 inch deck guns.  Its first shot struck Ticonderoga’s bridge.  By the sixth shot, the skillful German gunners had knocked Ticonderoga’s forward gun out of action.  Still the battle continued, as Ticonderoga’s aft gun engaged the raiders.  Almost every man aboard had been wounded, including Madison who had himself placed in a chair on the bridge from where he continued to maneuver his ship and direct his gunners.

After a two hour fight, with Ticonderoga now ablaze and many of her lifeboats holed by German shell fire, the order was given to abandon ship and at 0745, Ticonderoga slipped beneath the waves.  Of the 237 sailors and soldiers onboard, only twenty-four survived.  Two, including the ship’s executive officer, were picked up by U-152 and taken to Kiel, Germany as prisoners-of-war.  The rest, including the badly wounded Madison, survived four days in a boat before being rescued by a British steamer.  Lieutenant Commander Madison, who would lose his leg as the result of wounds, was awarded the Medal of Honor—and spent the remainder of his short life in the hospital, dying in 1922.

John Simpson was one of the men whose remains were never recovered.  Never married, Simpson was survived by his father John and mother Elizabeth.  He is memorialized on the Memorial Marker at Suresnes American Cemetery outside Paris.

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

Crew Mates

Written by: Kelly Durham ’80

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

of coastal waters.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Additional resources: (Dixie Arrow photo)

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

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




Scroll of Honor – Roy Donald Bratton

Fighter Pilot

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Written by: Kelly Durham

Scroll of Honor – James Crayton Herring, Jr.

Athlete, Scholar, Man of Letters

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Scroll of Honor – David and Rufus Henry

Six Years, Four Months

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Scroll of Honor – John Herman Lightsey, Jr.

An Excellent Account

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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