Clyde G. Stephenson - WXOW News 19 La Crosse, WI – News, Weather and Sports |

Clyde G. Stephenson

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Clyde enlisted in the Marines in January of 1940. He arrived at Pearl Harbor in April of 1940 and was assigned to the battleship USS California. "On Sunday November 28, 1941 nine Marines off the California, including myself were sent to Ft. Weaver rifle range for temporary duty as coaches for sailors on small arms." The Marines completed their duties Saturday morning Dec. 6 and had gotten permission to stay at the range until Monday morning Dec. 8 to take advantage of weekend liberty.

"On the morning of December 7, 1941 I got up about 7:00 had eaten breakfast and returned to our tent. We had sat down to a friendly card game and were having quite an enjoyable time ‘chewing the fat.' Suddenly we heard an explosion at about a few miles distance and then another. We heard many planes and rushed outside to see what was happening. Directly overhead, about 500 ft., was at least a squadron of torpedo bombers. The torpedoes could be seen shining in the sunlight." One of his fellow Marines said, "There's a red circle on the wings." Someone else answered "Naw." Immediately the men realized they were Japanese planes and "ran like hell" to a small group of Kiawe trees nearby. By this time the first planes were returning and began strafing. Luckily, no one was hit by the first attack.

As soon as the torpedo planes had cleared the Marines organized into three groups and ran to the armory nearby and grabbed rifles and ammunition. The first two groups were sent to guard each gate. The third group, which Clyde was in, was sent to the "butts" located at the target range on the ocean beach, to guard against a possible land force. In the meantime, the large machine gun school battery was manned this set-up included eight .50 cal. machine guns and four 20mm guns.

"We secured positions on the sand butts - which are about 10' high - and fired at the low flying planes. As soon as the Jap planes noticed our large machine gun battery they tried, unsuccessfully, to strafe it. They tried this several times and it cost them at least three planes while we had 2 men with slight wounds. Often planes came too near and took some hits. One caught on fire and the pilot tried vainly to stop it but after circling for a few seconds bailed out. Simultaneously, over this plane, another one went into a tailspin and this pilot bailed also. These crashes took place about a mile from us and the army later informed us that the pilots were shot after attempting to escape."

"Our other ‘victim' was close on the tail of a flying fortress that was attempting a landing at Hickam while avoiding areas of fire. After holding fire for the large plane to pass, the entire battery let go at the Jap plane. She turned up and headed away toward sea but it never made it back to the carrier. It seems with good luck there always comes some bad. Out of the sun heading towards us came two small planes. The battery, very jittery, immediately opened fire and forced two American planes down. One landed at Hickam and the other went down offshore at Waikiki."

During all this firing the Marines managed to get off about 15 or 20 rounds each with their old model Springfield rifles. One enemy plane came right down the rifle range - flying very low - and was hit considerably, although probably not vitally, as it headed away in good order.

During all this the Marines could watch the dive bombing on Pearl Harbor. The explosions were rapid and terrific. By this time the naval A.A. batteries were putting up a tremendous barrage and at times the shrapnel was falling quite heavily. You could see puffs of sand as it hit. Off shore - out of the channel - came some destroyers. They were all ablaze. One dropped a depth charge and a formation of water rose several hundred feet.

"The final Japanese attack saw groups of high altitude bombers which were quite ineffective. Near the end of the attack one of the Army's P-40's, flying very low, zoomed by at a speed that it would have been almost impossible to train a gun on. We had a pretty jittery day and in the evening the batteries opened fire on a supposed Jap plane but shot down two of their own over Ford Island."

The next few days we spent patrolling the range and manning machine guns on the beach. Clyde went into Pearl Harbor on Tuesday the 9th and saw some of the damage. On Thursday the 11th the Marines were ordered back to their detachment which was living with the survivors of the USS California crew at a hanger on Ford Island.

"We continued standing watches on the ships A.A. battery for about 2 weeks when we were transferred to the Marine barracks. From there we were transferred to the A.A. battery off the ship which is located at West Lock, Naval Ammunition Depot."

Clyde returned to Bremerton, Washington Navy yard in June 1942 on the USS California and was attached to the ship during rebuild until July of 1943. He married in November 1942 and his wife worked at Boeing Aircraft as a riveter on B-17 Bombers.

Clyde was sent to a series of Naval Schools including 3 months at Wright Jr. College in Chicago on electricity followed by 3 months at the College of Ozarks in Arkansas on radio. He then spent 7 months at the Naval Research Laboratory, Washington D.C. on radar and graduated as a Tech Sgt. Radio — Radar Technician. He was then sent to the West Coast/San Diego to go overseas. Clyde joined Mag 11, VmF14 as a replacement in a Corsair aircraft squadron at Pelileu Island near the Philippines. "I was there until the war ended and returned to San Diego in November of 1945 and was discharged in January of 1946 at Cherry Point N. Carolina Marine Base."

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