Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Bill’s Discharge Record

Before he was discharged in November 1945, Bill’s supervising sergeant advised him to lodge his discharge record at his local county court house once he returned to the States. He told him the record would be better protected in the court house than if kept at home. Bill acted on the advice a couple of years later, in 1947.  Most veterans either didn’t see the need to take this precaution or were not made aware of the option. The National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) in St Louis, Missouri stores all WWII Army veteran records including discharges. At time of separation, veterans were told that even if their personal copy was lost, they needed only to write to the records center to get a replacement copy.

In 1973 there was a disastrous fire at the NPRC. The records for eighty percent of Army personnel from November, 1912  until January, 1960 were destroyed, including most discharges.

Bill’s discharge record was in fact one of those lost. Fortunately, he was able to get access to his personal copy by making a request through the Preble County courthouse in Ohio.

Below is Bill’s Honorable Discharge. It’s a two page document. Click on the images to get full size views.


William Clark Discharge Med Res_Page_2 William Clark Discharge Med Res_Page_1


There’s a lot of interesting information in some of the fields, like the campaigns he fought in and the decorations he was awarded (See fields 32 and 33).

A few of the fields in the document are difficult to read. They are numbered from left to right horizontally across the page. I’ve put together a key to make it easier to understand. For example, field “22. Date of Induction” is a little fuzzy. Incidentally, it is left blank. Being a volunteer, Bill was not inducted (i.e. never drafted).



Last Name, First Name, Middle Initial


Army Serial Number




Arm Of Service






Date Of Separation


Place Of Separation


Permanent Address For Mailing Purposes


Date Of Birth


Place Of Birth


Address From Which Employment Will Be Sought


Color Eyes


Color Hair






Number Of  Dependents


Race: White/Negro/Other (specify)


Marital Status: Single/Married/Other (specify)


US Citizen: Yes/No


Civilian Occupation and Number


Date of Induction


Date of Enlistment


Date of Entry Into Active Service


Place of Entry Into Service


Selective Service Data: Registered Yes/No


Selective Service Data: Local S. S. Board and Number


Selective Service Data: County and State


Selective Service Data: Home Address At Time Of Entry Into Service


Military Occupational Specialty and Number


Military Qualification And Date (i.e. infantry, aviation, and marksmanship badges, etc.)


Battles and Campaigns


Decorations And Citations


Wounds Received In Action


Latest Immunization Dates: Smallpox; Typhoid; Tetanus; Other (Specify)


Service Outside Of Continental US And Return: Date Of Departure; Destination; Date Of Arrival


Total Length Of Service: Continental Service Years, Months, Days / Foreign Service Years, Months, Days


Highest Grade Held


Prior Service


Reason and Authority For Separation


Service Schools Attended


Education (Years): Grammar; High School; College


Longevity For Pay Purposes: Years; Months; Days


Mustering Out Pay: Total $; This Payment $


Soldier Deposits


Travel Pay


Total Amount, Name of Disbursing Officer


Kind of Insurance: Nat. Serv.; U.S. Govt.; None


How Paid


Effective Date of Allotment Discontinuance


Date of Next Payment Due (One Month After 50)


Premium Due Each Month $


Intention of Veteran to: Continue; Continue Only $; Discontinue


Right Thumb Print


Remarks (This space for completion of above items or entry of other items specified in W. D. Directives)


Signature of Person Being Separated


Personnel Officer (Type Name, Grade And Organization – Signature)

© Copyright Jeffrey Clark 2009 - 2010 All Rights Reserved.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Merry Christmas from 1942

In the spirit of the Holiday Season, I’d like to share a recording of Bill’s voice from Christmas 1942.

In 2006, I obtained access to a record of Bill’s voice wishing his family Merry Christmas from Camp Wheeler while he was at basic training in December of 1942. The disc was scratched and damaged by mold. I took it to my cousin, an expert in old records who was able to clean and resurrect the recording.



Below is a transcript of the conversation. If you’re interested in the history of the recording, please read on.


William A. Clark Radio Announcement Christmas Day December 25, 1942

Transcription by Jeff Clark August 30, 2006

Announcer: Here comes now Private William A. Clark. Go ahead Bill, say hello to the folks there.

Bill: Hello folks. I can’t say I have much to say after such a swell Christmas dinner. Here at Camp Wheeler they really feed well; not only on Christmas day, but every day. This camp is almost as good as it could be; good barracks, good officers – in other words it is almost like home.

Before I enlisted in the Army people told me that is wasn’t so good, but I have found out that it’s okay and I think it is a privilege to be a part of it. I can’t think of much else to say, so I wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Oh yes, and don’t forget to tell the folks in Hamilton and also Grandpa and Grandma Clark that I wish them a Merry Christmas.

– Private William A. Clark.

Announcer: Okay, now comes Private O. Preston Wilson from Fitz……..

[The recording cuts out at this point].

The Record’s History

In 2006, an old 78 rpm record came into my hands on loan from a family member. It was enclosed in a brown 9x12 envelope with 6 cents worth of 3 cent “WIN THE WAR” postage stamps on it. The mailing date was illegible. The envelope was addressed to the Parents of: William A. Clark, R. R. # 3, Eaton, Ohio. The record was labeled “CBS WHIO Dayton, Ohio”, “Christmas greetings from William A. Clark, Camp Wheeler” (See photographs below). From November 1942 through part of January 1943, Bill was stationed at Camp Wheeler, near the city of Macon, Georgia. In World War II, the camp was used as a facility where enlisted citizen soldiers completed a five week course in basic infantry training.

BillRecordEnvelope clip_image004clip_image006

The surface of the disc was very moldy and had a prominent scratch in the shape of an arc that covered the first 1/3 of the playing surface. The scratch looked to me to be deep enough to make it unplayable. To my untrained eye the mold looked like it might have corroded the media beyond repair. Despite the damage, I thought it was worth the effort to see if it could be salvaged.

A lot of questions went through my mind over the ensuing days. If it was Bill’s voice what did he say? How long did he speak? What did he sound like as a young man?

Fortunately, I knew of someone who might be able to help. One of my cousins is an expert on antique analog recordings. He has a collection of over 5000 thousand old records including a large number of 78s. He is very well connected in the vintage music scene and knows several prominent specialists in the field.

On August 26, 2006, I met with my cousin over breakfast to assess whether the disc could be salvaged and digitized. I was keyed up to hear what he thought but braced myself for the worst. He inspected the record with the same look on his face that a diamond merchant has when examining the quality of a precious stone. I sat by helpless; anxiously looking time and again at the record then at my cousin for any sign of his final judgment. After a few minutes of careful scrutiny and some ominously raised eyebrows, he spoke. In his opinion the disc was about 45 - 50 seconds in length, was of a recording studio grade and made of metal covered in lacquer. Its delicate lacquered surface was designed to be played on state of the art high fidelity replay equipment of the 1940s. This equipment was only found in recording studios and radio stations and used sapphire or diamond styli. It was not intended for use with consumer grade 78 rpm players, which used abrasive steel needles. Consumer grade Shellac records were more durable, but the sound quality was not as good as their more fragile lacquered relatives. Judging from the width and angle of the scratch my cousin concluded that the disc was damaged because it had been played on a consumer grade Victrola record player. The Victrola had a needle which was too big and heavy for the fragile surface of the disc. He said that radio stations didn’t have the equipment or the blank Shellac discs available to make consumer grade records. As soon as the recording was made it would have been pressed onto the surface of a lacquer disc and was subsequently sent to Bill’s family. He said that because the recording was made on a high fidelity studio grade record, it was almost certainly the only one in existence.

Bill’s father, Henry Clark Sr. was well known for his love of records. In 1942 he owned a Victrola 78 player. In the summer of 1975, on a vacation from Australia, my family visited my grandparents on their farm in Ohio. I saw firsthand how much my grandfather enjoyed playing records on his Victrola. In the evenings he would pick out a couple of records, wind up the machine and play them. The records were big and thick. The needle of the Victrola looked to me to be dangerously sharp, so I didn’t want to investigate it too closely. I do remember it looked more than capable of playing those bulky records without skipping. Grandpa would play the records and we would all dance to old tunes from the 1920s and 30s. That ungainly windup mechanism, the oversized steel needle, the awkward looking gramophone, and the fact that surprisingly good music could come out of this contraption made a huge impression on me; one that has lasted to this day.

In 1942, when the record arrived in the mail, Grandpa, with his love of records was undoubtedly ecstatic at the prospect of playing it on his Victrola. I can envisage him now, taking it from its sleeve, placing it on the player, and turning the crank of the machine. Imagine his shock as he gently dropped the needle onto the spinning record hoping to hear Bill’s voice, but instead only getting the sound of a dirty great screech as the Victrola’s needle dug deeply into the disc’s lacquered surface, right through to the underlying metal. Poor guy; he wasn’t to know and apparently no one from station WHIO told him of the incompatibility issue. Amazingly, the broken record was kept for 62 years and wasn’t thrown out.

My cousin next examined the mold on the disc and determined that it had not damaged the playing surface. He said it could be removed with special cleaning fluid so as not to degrade the lacquered surface. In his opinion, the recording was damaged, but he thought it could resurrected. He told me about a 78 rpm record enthusiast friend of his whom had purchased new state of the art turn table equipment and audio restoration machines that were capable of retrieving sound from almost any disc. His friend had successfully coupled this mechanical equipment with digital recording devices. Using this combination of technologies, my cousin said he could work with his friend to salvage the recording. He said it would be difficult to find professional restoration artists with sufficient skill to restore the disc to acceptable fidelity. Of course other people could do it, but he said the resulting sound might be robotic and wouldn’t sound like natural voices. With the possibility that Bill’s voice was on the disc, my cousin and his friend appeared to offer the best solution. I gave the record to him and he promised to protect it with his life. As it turns out, this was the best decision I could have made.

My cousin stayed up all night on August 28, 2006, working with his friend’s specialized equipment retrieving and saving the good sections between the needle scratches. Then he combined the sequences and successfully reconstructed the entire recording by creating a digitized mp3 file.

On August 29 I called him and he said the effort was successful. I was relieved and elated at the news. He offered to play the recording over the phone. I drew in a deep breath as he pressed the play button. I heard static and then for the first time in almost 64 years Bill Clark’s youthful voice from 1942 crackled over the phone line. His distinctive tones even from so long ago expressed the same dry humor I had come to recognize and to cherish. As I listened, the potency of his youth coursed through me. I had the sense that this experience was a privilege. In those moments he was resurrected as a young man of 20 years. Together we transcended the gulf between then and now. We were transported to an eternal place where time itself having no purpose was absent. Before I knew it the recording fizzled out and Bill was gone. I lamented the fleeting mirage. Yet I was left with the precious sensation of meeting Bill as a young man; of sharing the enthusiasm and vigor of his youthful purpose.

Since that time, I have been given access to a letter, clarifying some of the mystery about the source of the recording and events surrounding broadcast of the message. The letter is dated December 21, 1942 from WHIO radio station in Dayton, Ohio (See scan of letter below), so the message had been recorded several days or perhaps even weeks before Christmas, 1942.

One day during this period Bill Clark had been standing in a line of soldiers at a recording studio possibly that of a radio station in Macon, Georgia. He was waiting to record his Christmas wishes to his family in Eaton and Hamilton, Ohio. The recording was to be sent to WHIO in Dayton for broadcast on Christmas Day.




WHIO sent the letter to Bill’s parents so they could make arrangements for everyone to be present for the broadcast. On Christmas Day at 3:00 pm Bill’s family was tuned into WHIO awaiting the broadcast. They must have been gathered around the radio with baited breath in anticipation of hearing Bill speak to them on radio and on Christmas Day to boot. Bill was to be the first family member on the Clark side ever whose voice was to be broadcast over the airwaves. It was a special moment for everyone. The atmosphere had to have been charged with excitement in the Clark farmhouse.

An equally electric yet nervous atmosphere surrounded the young men waiting in line at the radio station during the time of the recordings. To speak to their families while a good portion of their respective communities were listening was unsettling for all but the most extroverted souls among them.

A recording of each soldier’s message was pressed onto on a 78 rpm record and posted to their local home town radio stations for broadcast on Christmas Day. In Bill’s case after it was broadcast, WHIO sent his recording onto his family for posterity.

Listening to Bill, it is evident that he read his previously written message aloud. It also seems reasonable to assume that he was briefed before composing the message on what were considered to be appropriate topics. I can imagine a hall full of young enlistees being lectured to on what to say and what not to say. Perhaps it went something like “You can talk about food, conditions at the camp, and make sure you take this opportunity to sell other un-enlisted guys on how good it is to be in the Army and what a privilege it is to serve your country.” I think Bill handled the situation very well with his joke about it being “almost like home.” This is Bill’s dry cutting sense humor to a ‘T.’ His ability to thumb his nose at authority whilst preserving the overall integrity of the system as he did here was to serve him well. His brand of individuality was exactly what Colonel James M. Gavin (commander of the 505) was looking for in his young would be paratroopers.

After completing basic training, Bill left Camp Wheeler to attend paratrooper school at Fort Benning, Georgia in January, 1943.

© Copyright Jeffrey Clark 2009 - 2010 All Rights Reserved.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Chronology of Bill in the War

Bill was born in Hamilton, Ohio on October 5, 1922. After completing high school on April 23, 1940 he got work in a nearby paper mill as a back tender until November, 1942. On November 7, 1942 he enlisted in the regular Army, but quite soon after he volunteered for the Airborne. He completed basic training at Camp Wheeler, Georgia and upon completion was transferred to attend paratrooper jump school at Fort Benning, Georgia. He graduated with his coveted silver ‘Jump Wings’ in February 1943.

Bill landed with the 82nd Airborne Division at Casablanca, French Morocco on May 10, 1943. He was transferred from his original company and assigned to Service Company 505 on May 26, 1943. He fought in the Sicily jump and invasion near Gela on July 9, 1943; the Salerno jump, near Paestum on the Italian mainland on September 13, 1943; the Normandy jump and invasion on June 6, 1944; and Operation Market Garden in Holland on September 17, 1944. Between December 1944 to February 1945, Bill served through numerous engagements and movements including among others: the Battle of the Bulge in the Ardennes; the Hürtgen forest; the Siegfried Line; and deep into northern Germany. His last engagement and one of the final assaults of the war was crossing the Elbe River on April 30, 1945. After victory in Europe was declared on May 8, 1945, the 82nd Airborne was reformed and sent to Berlin for occupation duty. During this time period, Bill was assigned to the 82nd Parachute Maintenance Company. The war was over, but not for Bill and his fellow paratroopers. In Berlin, he survived dangerous encounters with remnant Hitler Youth and out of control Russian troops. His occupation duty lasted from August 1 – November 1, 1945. He returned home on November 11, 1945 and was separated from the army on November 15 of the same year. After the war Bill made the difficult transition from a soldier to a civilian, taking his old job at the paper mill. Later he married and had a family.

© Copyright Jeffrey Clark 2009 - 2010 All Rights Reserved.

Friday, December 11, 2009


Since 2006, I’ve been researching a book about my uncle – William (Bill) Clark – and his involvement in  WWII as a paratrooper in the 82nd Airborne’s 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment. So far there’s over 200 pages written. The book follows Bill’s journey from his humble beginnings as a mid-west farm boy through his voluntary enrollment in the Airborne, and his bravery and sacrifice over his years as a paratrooper.

Stories like Bill’s are needed to pay tribute to him and the many thousands of his comrades in arms on all fronts during WWII.

I’m looking forward to sharing  some of what I’ve discovered with you.

© Copyright Jeffrey Clark 2009 - 2010 All Rights Reserved.