Sgt Mainard “Damon” Clifton – Jumping Behind Enemy Lines on D-Day with the 101st Airborne


Sgt Damon Clifton – Jumping behind enemy lines on D-Day with the 101st Airborne

Sgt. Clifton after receiving his jump wings at Fort Benning, Ga., in December 1943. Photo courtesy of the Clifton Family

“Sgt. Damon Clifton after receiving his jump wings at Fort Benning, Ga., in December 1943. Photo courtesy of the Clifton Family and Daily Tidings”

“By Lynne Hasselman
Posted Sep. 8, 2015 at 8:25 PM
Editor’s note: This is the fourth installment of a series of stories about Ashland residents who lost their lives in military service during World War II. It continues on Wednesdays through Nov. 11, Veterans Day.
  • “When Ashland’s invasion hour sirens blow, go at once to the church of your choice and pray for the success of the invasion and that the loss of life may be small,” said the Ashland Ministerial Alliance in the May 15, 1944, issue of the Ashland Tidings. D-Day arrived on June 6, 1944 — the streets of Ashland were empty, the places of worship full. A local editorial remarked, “The most noticeable thing about the people we saw today was a sort of quiet determination — a grim belief that the beginning of the end is here.”

    No one wanted the war to end more than the men on the front lines. Sgt. Mainard D. Clifton, known as Damon to the Class of 1939, was a driven young man, so active in the debate team in high school that he had this next to his senior picture: “Debate, debate, from early to late, if a line were crooked, he’d prove it straight.” With his slicked back, wavy hair, steady, intense gaze, and exceptional public speaking skills, he would have been a good lawyer. At 1:20 a.m. on D-Day, Damon parachuted into Normandy with the celebrated 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division.

    As part of the medical detachment team, Damon was with the first wave of Allied troops to land in France. Like many in his unit, he was released in the middle of a German offensive position instead of the planned drop zone. After meeting up on the ground with a small group of men, they tried to get back to their intended objective but, as Damon later wrote, “an overenthusiastic German ruined a perfectly good GI helmet and about two-inches of Clifton’s scalp.” This, of course, was an understatement — he had been shot and a piece of his helmet was embedded in his skull.

    He was then interrogated and taken to a German “Krankenstube” (infirmary) in Saint Come du Mont, along with his battalion surgeon, who had a badly broken ankle, and several other medics. In pain and under extremely dangerous conditions, they provided aid to the wounded for three days. While there, Damon was befriended by a French schoolteacher who provided him with local intelligence and extra food — when she was accused of sabotage by the Germans, he immediately rose to her defense at his own peril. He and several other prisoners hid caches of stolen pistols, rifles, and grenades within reach of the wounded Americans so, if necessary, they could defend themselves. When it became clear that the Allies would liberate them shortly, the Germans either fled or surrendered.

    Damon then returned to Ramsbury, England, for some time away from combat. In a letter home to his parents on Aug. 19, 1944, Damon wrote, “Everything— except a battle we had a week or so ago a few miles away — seems unimportant and dull compared to those first three days. Everyone has a story to tell about that period before we were relieved … It’s good to be back, and it’s good to get your letters. You have no idea. And while I’m on the subject, it is a matter of never-ending amazement how you manage to write about the things I’m most interested in. As someone said, ‘People know either a lot more or a lot less about you than you think they do.’ With lots of love, Damon.”

    Damon then participated in the ill-fated Operation Market Garden, the invasion of Holland, on Sept. 17, 1944. Everything initially went like clockwork — Damon and his crew took off at 9:20 a.m. with their arrival time in Holland set for 10:25 a.m. The trip was uneventful until approximately five minutes from the drop zone when their formation received heavy anti-aircraft fire. Planes caught fire and four aircraft crashed, but those remaining slowed to jump speeds and the paratroopers, including Damon, were dropped near the town of Eindhoven. Their mission was to secure the corridor from the city to the Wilhelmina Canal.

    They fought house to house and street to street while civilians ran for cover. The bridges came under heavy enemy counterattack. When Damon was given the order to assist a wounded soldier, he immediately rushed across open terrain, dodging German automatic and rifle fire to help. He went down, shot in the kidneys and severely wounded.

    Damon succumbed to his injuries on Sept. 20, the last person from his unit killed during the liberation of Eindhoven. He was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star for his heroism in February 1945.

    At the Netherlands American Cemetery in Margraten where Damon is buried, the grassy central mall is lined with tulip poplars, rhododendrons, and rose bushes which burst into bloom by Memorial Day. Damon’s stark white cross stands in a gentle, sweeping curve with 49 others from his division. Nearby, the bronze statue of a mourning mother stands over the reflecting pool grieving the loss of her son.”

     

    Remembering the Flyboys…
    Lee E. O’Harra
    Aviation Cadet Bennett “Bud” C. Provost
    Staff Sgt John W. De Mille
    Staff Sgt Trenton T “Tad” Tucker

    First Page with complete list of names…
    We Regret To Inform You – The War Comes Home

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Staff Sgt. Robert Farlow – The War Comes Home


 

  • Staff Sgt. Robert Farlow

     

    Staff Sgt. Robert Farlow

    Staff Sgt.Lt.
  • By Lynne Hasselman

    Posted Aug. 25, 2015 at 7:28 PM

    “Editor’s note: This is the second installment of a series of stories about Ashland residents who lost their lives in military service during World War II. It will continue on Wednesdays through Nov. 11, Veterans Day.

    Ashland was like many rural towns in the early 1940s — it was a farm town, a railroad town, a lumber town — the type of place where if a kid got in trouble at one end, by the time they ran home, their parents had already heard about it. Doors were never locked and children played outside at night until the streetlights came on. Ashland High School had just over 300 students and Southern Oregon College of Education (SOCE) had a student body numbering close to 200.

    Despite Ashland’s relatively small size, there were always things to do. Picking pears in the orchards or working on the farm, seeing a double matinee at the Varsity, going to the stock car races at the Ashland Fairgrounds, roller skating at the Armory, swimming at the Helman Baths. Mothers dropped their children off at the Lithia Park playground, which had its own attendant and small zoo, while they shopped at the Ashland Groceteria or Fortmiller’s Department Store. The Palace Café or Wimpy’s were always open for lunch — a great milkshake could be had for 10 cents. Medford and its Woolworth’s store were just a short bus ride away.

    Ashland was built upon hard work, faith, family and simple pleasures. Then came World War II. Ashland changed forever.

    The first devastating news to be delivered, even before the U.S. entered the war, was about Staff Sgt. Robert Farlow, one of the most popular students at Ashland High School — a Grizzly football, basketball, baseball and track team standout, a great golf and tennis player, a letterman both his junior and senior years, in student government, in the senior play, on the yearbook staff and in the Boy Scouts. Bob, as he was known, was one of those rare individuals well-liked by everyone.

    The shocking information about his death was delivered on the Oct. 13, 1941, front page: Bob had been killed the previous day as a passenger in a B-23 bomber that crashed into the San Bernardino Mountains during a rainstorm and exploded northwest of the city of Beaumont, Calif. Six other men on board also perished on the routine flight. The Farlow family was notified by telegram at 10:47 p.m., shortly after the United Press International teletype at the Ashland Tidings carried the first accounts of the bomber crash. No one in the newsroom knew yet that Bob was one of the victims.

    The 1941 Ashland High yearbook remembered Bob this way in its dedication: “In memory of Staff Sergeant Robert J. Farlow, first graduate of Ashland High to sacrifice the supreme gift of life on the altar of World War II. His friendly smile and genial manner will long be remembered by all who knew him. The loyalty and energy he extended on behalf of school activities will seldom be surpassed. To those who knew the outstanding members of the Class of ’39, Bob will forever represent the men who will give their lives that we remaining shall enjoy the benefits and privileges of democracy.”

    The tenor of Ashland and certainly the entire country during World War II was one of patriotism, duty, and sacrifice. Everyone — men, women and children — were expected to do their part, whether overseas or on the home front. And when a life ended in tragedy, the community shared its sorrow.

    Ashland mourned for Lt. John R. Pratt, also from the Class of 1939, who was killed along with his crew of seven men on Oct. 15, 1942. Another devastating tragedy early in the war, John was with the 459th Bombardment Squadron, 330th Bomb Group, based in Alamogordo, N.M. He was at the controls on a nighttime training mission when his B-17 collided with Mount Baldy six miles southwest of the tiny town of Magdalena, N.M. In an interview with John’s older brother, Louis C. Pratt, many years later, Louis remembered taking his first flight with John when a barnstormer came through town offering free plane rides. It was on that day, Louis said, that his brother decided to become a pilot.

    John visited his family on leave for the last time at the end of summer in 1942 and when they parted, Louis had a premonition that he would never see his brother again. Sadly, he was correct — John died two months later.

    In 2008, a memorial service was held in honor of John and his fallen crew members by the citizens of Magdalena. A plaque listed their names, ranks, and hometowns. It read, “These men also gave their lives for our country. We should not forget them or the sacrifice that they made.”

    John is buried in the Ashland Cemetery just a row away from his classmate Bob Farlow.”

    Remembering

    Corporal Lewis R. Setchell: Leading His Men in the Battle of the Bulge

    Pvt. 1st Class Donald J. Chapman

    We Regret To Inform You – The War Comes Home

     

     

“We Regret To Inform You: The War Comes Home”


I grew up in Ashland OR and a part of my heart is in the Rogue Valley – a lot  of my history. These stories are being published in the Daily Tidings each week and mean a lot to me.  I love and respect our men and women in the Military – and their families and want to honor them and save these posts for my family and friends.  Hopefully they’ll interest you as well.

We Regret to Inform You: The war comes home – News – DailyTidings.com

Thu Aug 27, 2015 1:03 am (PDT)

The Ashland World War II Roll of Honor board. Photo courtesy of the Terry Skibby Collection

The Ashland World War II Roll of Honor board. Photo courtesy of the Terry Skibby Collection

“The Ashland World War II Roll of Honor board.The Ashland World War II Roll of Honor board. Photo courtesy of the Terry Skibby Collection

About the author

Lynne Hasselman, a writer and researcher from Ashland, heard and was moved by the story of Cpl. Lewis R. Setchell and his sacrifice. She set out to investigate whether the plaque at Ashland High School listing the 12 students who died during World War II was still correct now that additional research tools and technologies were available. She found there were many more casualties from Ashland than anyone had documented, and set out to create a more comprehensive accounting through first-hand remembrances and official reports.

This project was not without its challenges. Artifacts like the Ashland Roll of Honor had long since been discarded, and the records that remained were old and incomplete. She pieced together information with the help of Ashland High School alumni and subject matter experts.

 

By Lynne Hasselman

Posted Aug. 18, 2015 at 6:10 PM
Updated Aug 18, 2015 at 6:11 PM

Editor’s Note: This is the first installment of a series of stories about Ashland residents who lost their lives in military service during World War II. It will continue on Wednesdays through Nov. 11, Veterans Day.
This year marks the 70th anniversary of V-J Day when victory was declared over Japan and World War II ended. On Wednesday, Aug. 15, 1945, after a tense day waiting and hoping the Japanese would accept the terms of the Potsdam Declaration, at 4 p.m. on a hot, sunny day in Ashland, the happy news came across the wires. After six years and over 407,000 American servicemen and women lost, World War II was finally over.
City sirens blasted and Ashland Mayor T.S. Wiley immediately ordered all government offices closed. Stores locked their doors and people spilled onto the streets of downtown and gathered on the Plaza, letting loose with a cacophony of cheers, whistles, and singing, accompanied by clanging buckets and dishpans, the honking of cars, and ringing of bike bells.
Confetti rained from second floor windows, and homemade signs were quickly hung from balconies and taped to doors announcing “V-J Day is Here!” Ashland’s First Methodist Church, perched overlooking Main Street, remained open all night so people could give thanks at any time, and the city-wide interfaith service that evening was packed to overflowing. The headline on the Ashland Tiding’s Extra Edition read: “Peace on Earth. Reunions Coming.” For a world that just yesterday seemed permanently tinged with the darkness and shadow of war, there was now hope and the promise of a future.
Despite their happiness that the fighting was over, for the families, friends and classmates of those from Ashland who died, relief was overshadowed by the deep regret and despair. The fabric that stitched their lives together irreparably tore the day they received the telegram with “Casualty Message” from the War Department. There would be no homecoming parade or reception for their loved ones — they were buried under simple wooden crosses overseas, under the spreading oaks and maple trees of the Mountain View and Ashland Cemeteries, or memorialized in the Courts of the Missing.
Between 1,000 and 1,200 Ashland residents served in the Armed Services during WW II. They fought in Normandy on D-Day, on Okinawa, Iwo Jima, Guadalcanal, and in the Battle of Bataan; they died in the Battle of the Bulge, in Operation Market Garden, in the South Pacific; they were Prisoners of War (POWs) in Germany, Manchuria, and Luzon; they were imprisoned on Japanese “Hell Ships”; they came home physically and mentally wounded.
Today, a simple plaque dedicated by Ashland High School’s Class of 1941 hangs in the school’s administration building inscribed with the names of 12 students who died during World War II.
That’s only a small part of the story.
There was never a complete list of casualties from Ashland and the accounting from Jackson County was incomplete — servicemen relocated, left for college, enlisted elsewhere, their families moved, or their names were misspelled. The scavenger hunt for evidence as to how many more were lost goes on — in microfiche issues of the Ashland Tidings, old Ashland High School student newspapers and a handful of yearbooks; in the 1940 census, cemetery records and official battle reports; in a yellowed scrapbook carefully pasted with local obituaries; in a water-damaged list stored in a church basement with the names of soldiers asking for prayers; and, most importantly, in the remembrances of those who lived it.
The clues point to at least 60 young men from Ashland who were killed in this war — most of whom graduated from Ashland High School and/or the Southern Oregon College of Education (SOCE), and some who grew up here or were employed here. To put those numbers in context, the population of Ashland at that time was a little more than 4,700 people. The chances that you knew someone — family member, friend, neighbor — who was killed was high; the chances that you knew a serviceman fighting overseas almost certain. The American Legion’s huge three-sided Roll of Honor, dedicated on July 4, 1943, listed all the names of those serving. It was located downtown and immediately became a rallying point and a statement of pride for the entire community.
As World War II dragged on, the number of gold stars grew next to Honor Roll names, marking those who died.
Today, each of the local men behind the star deserves to be named, remembered, and given voice. Please follow us every week until Veterans Day as the Ashland Tidings features some of their unvarnished narratives reflecting all the tragedy, heroism, and profound loss born of that time and this place.”

 

Staff Sgt. Robert Farlow and Lt. John R. Pratt – The War Comes Home.

Corporal Lewis R. Setchell: Leading His Men in the Battle of the Bulge
Pvt. 1st Class Donald J. Chapman

Sgt. Clifton: Jumping behind enemy lines on D-Day with the 101st Airborne

Remembering the Flyboys…
Lee E. O’Harra
Aviation Cadet Bennett “Bud” C. Provost
Staff Sgt John W. De Mille
Staff Sgt Trenton T “Tad” Tucker