CLYDE S. CARMAN
Patriot, Chapter 1919
Air Force, WWII, Europe
Clyde S. Carman was
born in Schenectady, New York in 1924. His family lived in Saugerties when
he was in grade school and then moved to Poughkeepsie where he was a senior
in High School when America was attacked at Pearl Harbor. He enlisted as
soon as he turned eighteen, signing up with the understanding that he would
not be called to active duty until after graduation in the Spring of 1942.
However, he reported, as ordered, to the induction station in New York City
and was sworn in on April 28, 1942, less than two weeks before the rest of
his class graduated at Poughkeepsie High School without him.
Clyde went through basic and advanced individual training
in Miami, Florida. Because of a shortage of military training installations
early in WWII, civilian facilities were pressed into service and so Private
Carman was billeted in a Miami hotel and trained on what had been a golf
course. After that initial course, he was assigned to a Bomb Group in
Lakeland, Florida where he flew Sub-Patrol missions off the Florida Coast.
When his Bomb Group was ordered to Europe, Clyde was among a small group of
the men with insufficient training to qualify for overseas deployment, so he
was left behind. He then went through the Army Specialized Training Program
in Engineering at the University of Alabama (after the war the University of
Alabama conferred a bachelor’s degree in engineering to Clyde and the other
graduates of that program).
After that, he was selected for cadet school and went
through pre-flight training in Montgomery, Alabama and flight school (class
’43-I) at Decatur, Alabama. However, by the time he had cycled through the
program there was an excess of trained pilots; and partly because he had
prior experience in photography, Clyde
Carman was then sent to Denver, Colorado for
training in aerial photography.
He was then posted to Sioux Falls Army Airfield in South
Dakota, and there, he met and married a local girl, a Miss Lillian Wentz.
From there, Clyde was ordered to Colorado Springs, Colorado where B-24
crews were being formed and put through crew training, and Lillian went with
him. He was assigned as the Camera Operator of a specially equipped B-24H
that had an array of cameras installed in the space normally occupied by the
bomb racks. By late May 1944, their training complete, the crew deployed
their aircraft to Europe.
Following the South Atlantic Ferry Route, they moved in
stages, with the first step being a flight down to Florida. Lillian followed
from Colorado Springs and it was not until the plane was ready to depart the
United States that Clyde sent her back home to South Dakota. Then, from
Florida the crew flew to Puerto Rico, and from there, to British Guiana and
on down to the eastern-most tip of Brazil. The longest leg of the journey
was the flight from Natal across the South Atlantic to Africa arriving in
Dakar, Senegal. Then after staging up through North Africa, on June 5,
1944, eleven days after leaving the United States, they flew into Giulia
Field near Cerignola, Italy, home base of their new unit, the 759th Bomb
Squadron, 459th Bomb Group of the 15th Air Force.
The photo plane “Our Baby” flew 27 combat missions.
Normally they would arrive over the target area about 30 minutes after a
bombing raid, with Camera Operator, Sergeant
Clyde Carman, taking
pictures for headquarters to use in bomb damage assessment. Clyde says,
“Bill Zorb was our aircraft commander, he had a clear understanding of what
I had to do and he became very good, knowing just how to bring the plane in
to my best advantage for getting good pictures.”
The photo reconnaissance aircraft from outward
appearances was a normally configured B-24 bomber and that lone aircraft
coming in after a bombing raid, especially one looking just like the planes
that had dropped the bombs, naturally attracted a spirited and hostile
response from the ground. On July 17, 1944, “Our Baby” flew its last
mission. Operation “Anvil-Dragoon,” the invasion of Southern France had
just been launched and Clyde Carman
was photographing the target of an earlier bombing mission in support of
that operation when the aircraft was hit with heavy FLAK over the target
area. Clyde took a shoulder wound from a shell fragment and Lieutenants
Hoff and Slavkin, and Sergeant Peake were also wounded.
The pilot managed to keep the badly damaged B-24 in the
air long enough to get out of France, but just barely. They put the plane
down in the middle of the ships of the invasion fleet offshore of the Cote
d’Azure. “Our Baby” remained afloat long enough for the closest ships to
send small boats and take off the plane’s crew before it sank (editor’s
note: several of our chapter members were in the invasion of Southern
France and Clyde’s plane went into the water in spectacular fashion in full
view of tens of thousands of men who participated in or supported the
landing. If you saw his B-24 splash down in the middle of the fleet, tell
Clyde about it).
It took several days for the men to be returned to their
unit in Italy and by the time they got back to Giulia Field, Clyde’s
shoulder wound had become badly infected. Sergeant Carman was hospitalized
in the Bomb Group’s hospital in Cerignola, a well equipped civilian hospital
building that had been taken over by Air Force’s medical personnel. He was
reassigned to 15th Air Force Headquarters in Bari upon his release from the
hospital. Clyde Carman’s flying days were over. For the remainder of the
war he worked with bomb target maps in the headquarters and he was promoted
to Staff Sergeant.
After the war ended,
Clyde Carman returned to the United States in
August 1945. He was discharged at Camp McCoy, Wisconsin in October and went
home to Lillian in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. He remained in the reserves
for another 6 years after leaving active duty. Clyde was employed by
General Electric. In that job he worked a large area of the mid-west while
maintaining a home in Sioux Falls. Finally, he says, “I got tired of
freezing to death , so we moved to Texas in 1957.”
had family connections in Texas so it was easy to make the transition.
Except for a brief stay in Florida while Clyde assisted his parents there
during their declining years, Clyde and Lillian had resided in the Austin
area for nearly 50 years before Lillian’s death, on Valentine’s Day of this
year. Clyde Carman has been a life member of Chapter 1919 for nearly seven