Last Known Activity
Laverne E. Clarke was born in Madison, South Dakota on October 21, 1921. His parents are referred to only as "Mr/Mrs Earl Clarke" in sources. Sources indicate the family had moved to Roswell, South Dakota, where Clarke graduated from Fedora High School in 1940.
Clarke was drafted, and inducted into military service on October 26, 1942 at Fort Snelling, Minnesota. He was assigned to the Army Air Forces, and trained as an aerial gunner. He was then promoted to Sergeant, and sent for crew training. His training included stops at Tyndall AAF, Fl; Lowry AAF,CO; Salt Lake City, UT; and Pyote, TX. The crew deployed to England, ferrying a new B-17, and arriving there on October 10, 1943. (100th Bomb Group records say October 28, 1943.)
The crew flew its first combat mission on November 3, 1943, a bombing raid on Wilhelmshaven, Germany. On November 5, 1943, their second was scheduled to be flown against the synthetic oil plants at Gelsenkiechen, Germany.
As the formation made landfall, flak batteries opened up. This aircraft was hit by several shells, rendering at least one engine, the compass, and the electrical system inoperative. The pilot took up a return course, and ordered bail out. Two crewmen managed to jump, and with the help of French patriots, successfully evaded until August, 1944, when they returned to England.
The remainder of the crew were still in the plane when last seen. It vanished toward the English Channel, never to be seen again. In 1944, a Finding of Death (FOD) was issued for all personnel. Today, these crewmen are remembered on the Walls of the Missing in the Cambridge American Cemetery in Cambridge, England. There is also a memory stone for Sgt Clarke in the Black Hills National Cemetery in Sturgis, South Dakota. It stands in Section MB, site 72.
NARA Enlistment Records
Daily Plainsman newspaper, Huron, SD, issue of Dec 21, 1943, pg 7.
Sgt Laverne E. Clarke was acting as tail gunner on B-17G # 42-37748, unnamed, assigned to the 418th Bomb Squadron.
Missing Air Crew Report 1156 was issued for this loss. Crew rosters and personnel files show the crew as:
2 Lt Thomas R. Martin p
2 Lt James A. Kennemer c-p
2 Lt James W. McCorley nav
2 Lt Joseph P. Murphy bomb
Sgt Lloyd B. Arnett eng/tt gun
SSgt Donald H. Allwine r/o
Sgt Cosmos J. Braun, Jr. btg
Sgt David M. Davis wg
Sgt Merritt K. Gillespie wg
Sgt Laverne E. Clarke tail gun
Ranks and grades as of mission date.
Lts McCorley and Murphy evaded.
In the crew roster, Sgt Braun's first name is entered as "Cosmos." All other sources state (correctly) "Cosmas."
In the crew photo, Clarke is in the back row, 5th from left.
Service photo source: