Clarence A. Lewis, Jr.
U. S. Army
WWII US Military
Dates of Service: 05/24/1943 - 03/26/1946
Heavy equipment operator, machine gunner, 1302 Engineer Regiment, Company A

Clarence was born in Bossier City, Louisiana, in a house at the corner of Joanne and Benton Road. He was the eldest of four brothers and three sisters. His father, a veteran of World War I, worked at Cherokee Farms, a dairy. His mother was Glennie Ethna Gandy. Clarence went to Bossier High School and played on a state championship football team in 1942. "I was the biggest one on the team," he states. "I weighed 198 pounds." He worked part-time at J.C. Penney's in the stock room, later graduating to a shoe salesman position. Clarence quit high school six weeks before graduation in May of 1943, and volunteered with a friend for the U.S. Army's Corps of Engineers. They wanted to be firefighters, but learned those positions were open only in the engineers. "We got in the Corps of Engineers, but I have yet to see my first fire truck," he quips. He went to basic training at Camp Claiborne near Alexandria, Louisiana. Because he kept being transferred into other units, Clarence says he took basic training three times. In training for the engineers he learned demolitions, and how to use composition C materials, now called plastic explosives. He also trained on the thirty-caliber machine gun and served as platoon machine gunner. He was assigned to the 1302nd Engineers Regiment, and placed in Company A, a unit filled with the tallest men in the regiment. All were six feet and taller. "It was for parade purposes," he says. "They kept us at it all the time." After training Clarence received a seven-day furlough and came home thirty-five pounds lighter than when he left. "My Momma took one look at me and started bawling," he recalls. "She says, `You look pitiful.'" He shipped out on a converted banana boat, the Cristoble, in January of 1944. Landing at Swansea, Wales, Clarence went on to Westbury, England, where he worked as a crane operator in a supply depot. While on leave he met an English family and dated one of the daughters. Once, in London, he waited out a German rocket attack in a subway. Clarence remained at Westbury a year, and then went on to Weymouth, where the engineers built a field hospital and landing strip. They returned to Westbury where he recalls the sounds in the air in the early morning hours of June 6, 1944. "These transports, C-46s and C-47s, begin to come over just by the hundreds," he says. "And behind each one of them was a glider, and the gliders were loaded with soldiers and equipment. And they just came by hour after hour." In the months ahead, Clarence saw enormous amounts of supplies heading to troops in Europe. "It was trainload after trainload that we shipped out," he says. "And it wasn't any such thing as eight-hour days. It was can to can't. And sometimes that was sixteen, eighteen, maybe twenty-four hours on duty because those boys had to have what we had." He recalls the celebration when Germany surrendered. "I was with my girlfriend when they announced VE Day," he says. "Everybody just went wild in the streets. Everybody kissed everybody. Everybody went to the pubs and the streets were full of people. You could see lights burning. No more blackouts. It was chaotic." Soon he was taken to Little Walden for processing his orders for the Pacific. "They were going to bring us through the Panama Canal and just bypass the states and go straight into the Pacific," he says. Instead, Japan surrendered. He sailed to America, arriving on March 22, 1946, and was discharged on March "26 or 27" at Camp Shelby near Hattiesburg, Mississippi. Clarence returned to Bossier City. "First day I went to J.C. Penney's to get me some civilian clothes I met my wife," he says. "She said she saw me come through the door, and said, `That's my husband.'" He married Audrey Watson on January 18, 1947. The couple had three children (one adopted), six grand children and seven great-grandchildren. Clarence learned telegraphy at Norton Business College and worked in Zwolle, Lake Charles, and Shreveport in railroad communications. He retired on November 5, 1984.