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Band-of-Brothers.nl - US Paratroopers / Living History / Band of Brothers
November 8, 1919 - October 6, 1944
Thatcher, Arizona - Opheusden
Harry Allen Clawson, the second son of Edna Allen and Charles
Moses Clawson Jr., was born 8 Nov. 1919, in Thatcher, Graham County, Arizona.
The Clawson family was living in Pima at the time, and Edna went home to
her mother's in Thatcher for Harry's birth.
When Harry was five days old, he had mumps. Other childhood
diseases, such as measles and chicken pox followed later. At the age of
five years, he had rheumatic fever. This left him in a weakened condition
so when he started to school in Pima, his older brother, Delwin and older
sister, Helen, pulled him to school in a little wagon. It wasn't long until
the family moved to Safford where Harry continued his schooling through
high school. Harry skipped the second grade and was thus a year younger
than his classmates.
Harry was an adventurous and extremely active young man.
He loved a challenge and a thrill. He could take the normal everyday life
and make it into his own exciting and fascinating world. He built a tree
house in the top of a very huge and tall cottonwood tree so high that very
few climbed up to see his handiwork. He slept in this house and would swing
out on a rope "Tarzan style" as soon as he awoke in the morning. He was
testing his ability to make his body function quickly. It was as if he
were preparing for the day he became a Paratrooper. He loved height and
would climb the armory flagpole and rock back and forth on it.
Bernard, his younger brother, remembers a trip when Harry
took Max Hundley and him to Bonita Creek. They went on foot with no food
nor water, only a .22 caliber rifle. They drank the rain water left in
holes in the rocks along the way. Harry killed one rabbit and an old prospector
cooked it for them. That night Max and Bernard sat scared and shivering
while Harry snored! They went exploring cliff dwellings the next day before
Harry was probably the number one cyclist in the Gila Valley.
He was the first to ride a bicycle to the top of Mt. Graham and back. He
and Burl Booth bought the first balloon-tired bikes in the valley and were
they proud of them! They went all over the valley and mountains on those
bikes. Harry could do all kinds of tricks on his bike. He could ride backwards
sitting on the handle bars; he could "pop a wheelie" as they say, riding
on just the back wheel; many times he rode his bike to Eden, twenty miles
from Safford, to see Melba Busby, without handle bars on the bike.
DARING! That was a way of life with him! He built his own
canoe and when the river was flooding, he took it out for the first test
run. When he worked for Cardon Oil Company, he raced Bernard between Clifton
and Safford on the gravel roads. They were driving gasoline trucks!
As a Scoutmaster, he made Scouting exciting for his boys.
He didn't mind spending much extra time for his Scouts. Scout camp then
lasted ten days. He took his boys to camp three days early, all of them
riding bicycles. Anything that he could do to make the boys happy, he did.
The next year, he had moved to Clifton but still came back to camp for
three days to show the boys how to use the climbing equipment he was using
as Bechtel's. Many of his Scouts went on to get their Eagle rank because
of the start he had given them. Harry loved Scouting. He earned his Eagle
rank after Bernard had earned his. Harry got every merit badge that Bernard
had gotten just so he could use Bernard's merit badge sash.
To earn his Eagle rank, Harry had to hike alone at night
to a special spot on the mountain where a book was permanently kept at
that time. It was hidden under a rock and was to be signed by the Scout.
Harry was bitten on the knee by a rattle snake, but he stayed the night
and wrote in the book that a "guardian" on the path had tried to keep him
from his destination. It was afternoon the next day before he had medical
help for his leg.
Physical challenges were sought by Harry. The college at
Thatcher had a picnic around the mountain at Stockton Pass. He decided
to walk home over the top of Mt. Graham which reaches over ten thousand
feet and then drops to the valley at three thousand feet. The snow was
already deep on the mountain and his feet were frost bitten before he reached
Cactus, seven miles from Safford on the other side, and was given a ride
home. He could do one legged squats on either leg until people grew tired
of watching. He could do a hundred or more push-ups. His body was hard
as a rock!
Harry met Melba Busby, daughter of Lettie Hunt and John
David Busby, at a motion picture show in Safford. He sat behind he and
couldn't keep his hands off her hair, which was long and red. When he asked
what grade she was in, she answered, "A Freshman." He assumed she was in
high school and Melba didn't tell him she was in college for quite some
time. He was a senior in high school. On their first date they went to
a carnival where "Pop" Clawson went along and paid for all their rides.
One of the rides was the ferris wheel. It scared Melba to death and Harry
loved every minute of it!
Harry, Melba, Louise, Harry's younger sister, and Grant
Mulleneaux double-dated many times and to keep it interesting, Harry was
always thinking of something different to do. He bet Louise and Grant one
night that he could go all night without talking to Melba. So he made up
a set of 3 x 4 cards with questions on them and when he wanted to have
some conversation he handed Melba one to answer.
Harry and Melba were at the Clawson home one Sunday afternoon
when Milan Larson and Vera McBride came by and asked them to go to Lordsburg,
New Mexico, with them so they could get married. Well, by the time they
returned home, both couples were married 9 May 1937. Because of the love
and support of Mom and Pop Clawson and LDS Stake President Harry L. Payne,
Harry and Melba were sealed in the Arizona Temple on 2 June 1937 for time
and all eternity.
Harry and Melba borrowed $300 from Melba's Dad, and bought
Sam Skousen's bicycle business. Sam was a brother of Ethel Skousen Clawson,
wife of Leslie Clawson, Charles Clawson's brother. Charles took over the
bike business when Harry went to work for Pat Cardon delivering fuel oil
in Clifton and Morenci. Harry worked for Byron Lewis at Gila Valley Laundry
on routes and delivering clothes to Clifton where Harold Alexander had
a pickup station. One evening the two of them were coming back to Safford
after a flood and Harry volunteered to walk across a wash to see how deep
the water was. He had his shoes off and his pants rolled up. He kept jumping
around, even though the water wasn't very deep and the problem was rocks
and boulders were rolling down with the water and going over his toes.
Harold thought Harry put on quite a show hopping in the water.
There were three children born to this union. Sharon Clawson
Porter, born 25 Oct. 1938, was Harry's pride and joy. Ronald Allen Clawson
was born 26 Mar 1940 and he was "Butch" to his Dad. Rodney was born 9 Oct
Harry joined the army a month before Rodney was born, on
2 September 1942, and volunteered for the paratroopers.
Harry came home when Rodney was three months old and again when he was nine
Harry and Melba were the custodians of the new Safford
LDS Ward Church house, which Harry had helped to build while he and Melba
were dating. When Harry went to work for Pat Cardon, the family moved to
Clifton into a duplex where his brother, Bernard, and his wife, Olive,
sister of Melba lived in the other side. Yes, the brothers had married
sisters and the families have had a very close bond ever since. This was
a nice time in Clifton for the two families. Harry then went to work for
Phelps Dodge copper mining company and on 7 Dec 1941, Pearl Harbor Day,
Melba knew that Harry would join the Army. All the family kept him from
joining for almost a year, then in September 1942, he joined the paratroopers
and went to Camp Toccoa, Fort Benning and Fort Bragg for training. He became
a staff sergeant and helped train men to be paratroopers. He was hard on
his men to help them withstand the stresses of battle. Many of them gave
thanks to him later for being tough on them.
Harry's outfit, Company H, 3rd Battalion, 506th Parachute
Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division, was shipped overseas in 1943.
Harry could have stayed stateside and trained more men but chose instead
to go with the men he had trained. Their first action was on 6 June 1944,
D-Day, in the invasion of France when the 101st parachuted into Normandy
just after midnight. Harry and SSgt Fred Bahlau lead their group of men
onto a 283 foot bridge about two and a half miles east of Carentan. In
the face of strong enemy machine gun and small arms fire they forced the
enemy to withdraw and thus enabled their own forces to reorganize against
an enemy counterattack. For this Fred and Harry received the Silver Star
on 20 June 1944 in the town square of Carentan along with nine other paratroopers
including Robert Wright, a medic, and Brigadier General Anthony C. McAuliffe.
The day after receiving the Silver Star, Harry was threatened with a court
martial for not wearing a dress tie in public. He also received the Purple
Heart and Bronze Star.
The next action was in Holland. The 506th PIR was dropped
into Son, 17 Sept 1944, and the bridge they were to secure was blown up
before they got to it and a Bailey bridge was build in its place. In a
letter dated 28 Sept 1944, Harry wrote to Melba: "You can let Dad know
that I'm in the land of Milk and Honey - the most beautiful country in
the world. I wish very much that I were home with you now. Gee that would
be heaven. It shouldn't be too long before that happens. Take good care
of our kiddies until I can get there to help you." Charles Clawson had
been in The Netherlands for two years as a missionary in 1909 to 1911 and
always referred to Holland as the land of Milk and Honey.
After weeks of fighting the 101st Airborne Division had
achieved its objectives, but the operation itself was a failure due to
the fact that the final bridge at Arnhem could not be taken. The Allies
dug in on the new frontline which was established along the Waal and Rhine
Rivers. The 101st Airborne held the line on what was called "the island",
the peice of land between Arnhem and Nijmegen and between the Waal and
Rhine Rivers. They would stay here till early November in a more or less
static frontline situation. However, the division was to receive many casualties
over the weeks due to enemy artillery shelling and German counterattacks.
At the time they took over the line on the Island, 506th had already lost
40 officers and almost 300 men.
the Regiment's 3rd battalion held the line from the town of Opheusden to
Dodewaard. G Company was locate dnorth of the railway line, I company south
of it and S/Sgt Clawson's H company was in reserve (see map). The British
division from who were relieved from these positions told the 506th that
the sector was quiet and that the opposing Germans were from the 363rd Volksgrenadier
Division, which was badly mauled in Normandy, but now believed to be back
In the early morning of October 5th, trip flares in front of the defenses
of the 3rd Battalion signaled the start of the large German attack. The first
attack was held. This was soon followed by a second attack and the 3rd battalion
commander Major Horton committed H company to the fight. They took up position
between Opheusden and Dodewaard. The Germans attacked fiercely, supported
by artillery fire and divisionary attacks by SS troops. The attacks were
repelled with heavy casualties. H company was now reinforced with two platoons
of A company. Major Horton was hit by artillery fire just after 10.00 in
the morning and died a few hours later.
Early in the afternoon the German attacked again. At first I company held,
but they had to retreat due to being outflanked by the Germans. A strong
counterattack threw the Germans back. 506th lost 6 officers and 86 men that
In the evening Colonel Sink ordered 3rd battalion to positions
south of the railway line. When H company left their positions to take
up their new ones, the opportunity was used by the Germans to advance over
the railway tracks and take up positions in an area around a small railway
station. Besides heavy fighting the regiment also experiences very heavy
artillery barrages on their position. The day continues with heavy attacks
and counter attacks. In the evening, 3rd battalion was ordered to fall
back to defensive positions, 1200 yards to the rear, leaving Opheusden.
This would leave the area clear for rocket firing Typhoons and artillery.
On October 6th, the 506th lost 11 officers and 91 men. The fighting was
far from over. Until October 14 the Germans tried almost daily to attack
and force the Americans east and off the island. They would no succeed,
though to heavy casualties to both sides.
Harry was defending an observation post located in a farmhouse
out of Opheusden. This building was also serving as a first aid station.
The enemy was thrown back but Harry received shrapnel wounds in the forearm
and forehead. Captain Stanley Morgan, M.D. reported that Harry's wounds
were not life threatening but that he was temporarily blinded because of
the bandages. Captain Morgan told Lt. Alexander Andros to take his men
and move back and he would stay and care for the wounded. Captain Morgan
was taken prisoner and never saw his wounded again. The aid station received
a direct mortar hit and was destroyed. When the position was retaken five
days later, SSgt Harry A. Clawson and PFC Morris Thomas of headquarters
company were not found. They were declared "Missing in Action."
Melba said "We hadn't heard from Harry for awhile and we
were all very tense. I woke out of a sound sleep one night and to my mind
came 'Harry's gone', and then there was a feeling of peace! I didn't tell
this to many, but Bernard knew and he would say, " I don't know why you
would say that." But the night Bernard was trying to get his little daughter,
Carol, to Tucson to the doctor and she passed away in his arms, he had
the same feeling of peace, and later told me he knew how I felt. It was
a week or so after that when I got the telegram that Harry was missing.
The next months and years were very hard on Melba, their
children and all of Harry's family. People reported seeing Harry from time
to time in various parts of the world. Some said they had recognized him
even with his disfigured face and this unknowing kept the family most anxious.
They knew Harry was a very proud person, and wondered if his face was so
disfigured that he did not want to be seen by anyone he knew. With the
many reports of people seeing him, they also wondered if he was OK mentally,
A year after he was reported missing in action, memorial
services were held in the Safford Ward and a stone marker set in the family's
cemetery plot. One week later - while watching the soldiers marching by
in the Armistice Day Parade, 11 Nov 1945 - his father, Charles M. Clawson,
Jr. died of a heart attack. His grief over the loss of Harry was just too
much for him!
He was missing in action for a year, declared dead in 1945
and his remains were deemed unrecoverable in 1950.
In December 1971, Karel Huibers, a nineteen year old Dutch
tree nurseryman found the remains of two paratroopers in an unmarked grave
in his tree nursery. The Dutch authorities were notified and the U S Army
sent a team from Germany to Holland to recover and escort the remains to
the United States Army Mortuary in Frankfurt, Germany for identification
and processing. His remains were identified by his dog tags and by one
of his boots and other physical and dental characteristics. The military
sent an officer to visit with Melba and with Bernard. Both agreed independently
that his remains should be brought home. Bernard called Rodney in Utah
on the phone to inform him of the discovery of his Daddy. Bernard asked
Rodney if he had told his Aunt Angeline, Harry's sister, just the previous
month about the dream. Then told him that his Daddy had been found. It
had been almost 28 years of waiting. Harry's remains were escorted home
and his memorial service was performed with only members of the family
taking part. His funeral was held May 8, 1972 in Thatcher, Arizona.
With special thanks to Steven Oudshoorn.
Acknowledgements: Mr. Rodney Clawson
Sources: Leonard Rapport & Arthur Norwood, Rendezvous
With Destiny, Konecky & Konecky, Old Saybrook, CT, 2001
website is dedicated to all Allied Paratroopers of World War Two. They became
a 'Band of Brothers' who enlisted for a new
type of warfare. They jumped into occupied Holland on Septmber 17th 1944 like
Angels from the Sky. We will honor their heritage.