Major Raymond Clark: A Memorial Day Remembrance

Major Raymond Clark: A Memorial Day Remembrance
by Thomas Schultz

It's the time of year to remember Wilton's veterans and, over the course of my long term project to interview and record the service of those Wilton veterans from World War Two, I came to know many individuals who served during this conflict.  World War Two veterans have mostly passed away and we don't want to forget their stories.  We lost one of them this past winter, that being Major Raymond P. Clark of the West End Hwy. who served with the 101st Airborne of the U.S. Army during the war.  As Major Clark's experiences were among the most remarkable I recorded, I'd like to share some of them with you.

Major Raymond ClarkBorn in Saugus, MA in 1921, he enlisted in the U.S. Army in February, 1942.  After completing his training and being commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant, he was first assigned to the 13th Armored Division  He did not like tanks and so when the opportunity arose, he volunteered for Airborne training.

After completing his jump training and being awarded his paratrooper wings, he was assigned to the "H" Company of the 502nd Parachute Infantry Regiment of the famed 101st Airborne Division -- the Screaming Eagles.  He was now a 1st Lieutenant.  After further training in England, he participated in the D-Day Overlord Invasion of Normandy, jumping into France on the night of June 5-6, 1944.  Many men were killed in the jump or missed their mark but Ray was able to complete his mission of securing a causeway behind enemy lines.

After several days, Ray joined the men assembled by Col. Robert Cole, their objective to capture the town of Carentan.  The 101st suffered severe casualties as the battle proceeded.  Wounded but still fighting, Ray participated in Col. Cole's Charge on June 11, when Cole led a bayonet charge at close quarters among the hedgerows surrounding a farmhouse.  Later in the day, Ray was knocked out of action during a fierce battle in a cabbage field.  Col. Cole was awarded, posthumously, the Medal of Honor for his actions at Carentan.

Recovered from his wounds, Ray jumped into Holland as part of Operation Market Garden. In Best, Holland, a member of his unit, Joe Mann, wounded and with his arms bandaged to his torso, threw himself upon a live grenade, dying as he saved the lives of those around him.  Ray investigated and wrote the initial report that would lead to the awarding of the Medal of Honor to Joe.  Only two Medals of Honor were awarded to members of the 101st Airborne during the war and Ray was involved in the events surrounding both of them.

Following Holland, Ray returned to France only to be ordered to move to Bastogne, Belgium where the 101st Airborne was sent to repel the German advance in what was to become known as the Battle of the Bulge.  He was wounded a third time on January 14, 1945.

As the 101st advanced through Germany, Ray and his men came upon a Labor Camp, a Dachau subcamp in Kaufering.  He had the starving men released who then ran to the nearby town and fought with the locals for food.  Soon after, an order came down saying that those imprisoned in the camps should not be released.  Ray was in Austria when the war ended where he served as Occupation Officer. He had a pair of ski boots made during his time in Austria and he wore them for many years afterward.

Ray was awarded the Purple Heart with two Oak Clusters, the Bronze Star with Oak Leaf Cluster, the Combat Infantryman's badge, the ETO Invasion Arrowhead and five Battle Stars, and the Presidential Unit Citation with two Oak Leaf Clusters, as well as the French Croix de Guerre.  He was honorably discharged in December, 1945.

Returning home, he married Dorothy Cashen.  He finished his interrupted studies at Tufts and completed graduate work at the University of Tennessee.  His subject was history.  He spent his career at General Electric and remained in the Army Reserves, finally retiring with the rank of Major in 1981.  He lived in West Wilton for over twenty years.  He had three daughters, Marcia, of Newburyport, MA, Beth of Chester, NH, and Nancy of West Wilton, and two grandchildren, Thomas of Newburyport and Sarah of Amesbury, MA.  This past December, Ray was buried in Harmony Cemetery, Boxford, MA beside Dorothy who died in 1974.  With the family's consent, I emptied a vial of earth from Normandy into Ray's grave.

Ray's experiences in the war, of which I have written only briefly, were without equal among the men and women I had the honor to interview, and he will be missed this Memorial Day by those who knew and loved him.

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