Gable, William Clark, Maj

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Last Rank
Last Primary AFSC/MOS
AAF MOS 611-Aerial Gunner
Last AFSC Group
Air Crew (Enlisted)
Primary Unit
1944-1947, US Army Reserve (USAR)
Service Years
1942 - 1947
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Year of Birth
This Military Service Page was created/owned by SMSgt James E. Franklin to remember Gable, William Clark, Maj.

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Contact Info
Home Town
Last Address
Los Angeles, CA

Date of Passing
Nov 16, 1960
Location of Interment
Forest Lawn Memorial Park - Glendale, California
Wall/Plot Coordinates
Sanctuary of Trust, Mausoleum Crypt 5868

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Last Known Activity

World War II

In 1942, following Lombard's death, Gable joined the U.S. Army Air Forces. Before her death, Lombard had suggested Gable enlist as part of the war effort, but MGM was obviously reluctant to let him go, and until her death he resisted the suggestion. Gable made a public statement after Lombard's death that prompted Commanding General of the AAF Henry H. Arnold to offer Gable a "special assignment" in aerial gunnery. Gable, despite earlier expressing an interest in officer candidate school (OCS), enlisted on August 12, 1942, with the intention of becoming an enlisted gunner on an air crew. MGM arranged for his studio friend, cinematographer Andrew McIntyre, to enlist with and accompany him through training.[31]

However shortly after his enlistment he and McIntyre were sent to Miami Beach, Florida, where they entered USAAF OCS Class 42-E on August 17, 1942. Both completed training on October 28, 1942, commissioned as second lieutenants. His class of 2,600 fellow students (of which he ranked 700th in class standing) selected Gable as their graduation speaker, at which General Arnold presented them their commissions. Arnold then informed Gable of his special assignment, to make a recruiting film in combat with the Eighth Air Force to recruit gunners. Gable and McIntyre were immediately sent to Flexible Gunnery School at Tyndall Field, Florida, followed by a photography course at Fort George Wright, Washington, and promoted to first lieutenants upon completion.[31]

Gable reported to Biggs Air Force Base on January 27, 1943, to train with and accompany the 351st Bomb Group to England as head of a six-man motion picture unit. In addition to McIntyre, he recruited screenwriter John Lee Mahin; camera operators Sgts. Mario Toti, Robert Boles, and sound man Lt.Howard Voss to complete his crew. Gable was promoted to captain while with the 351st at Pueblo Army Air Base, Colorado, for rank commensurate with his position as a unit commander (as first lieutenants he and McIntyre had equal seniority).[31]

Gable spent most of the war in the United Kingdom at RAF Polebrook with the 351st. Gable flew five combat missions, including one to Germany, as an observer-gunner in B-17 Flying Fortresses between May 4 and September 23, 1943, earning the Air Medal and the Distinguished Flying Cross for his efforts.During one of the missions, Gable's aircraft was damaged by flak and attacked by interceptors which knocked out one of the engines and shot up the stabilizer. In the raid on Germany, in which one crewman was killed and two others wounded, flak went through Gable's boot and narrowly missed his head. When word of this reached MGM, studio executives began to badger the Army Air Forces to reassign their valuable screen property to non-combat duty. In November 1943, he returned to the United States to edit the film, only to find that the personnel shortage of aerial gunners had already been rectified. He was allowed to complete the film anyway, joining the 1st Motion Picture Unit in Hollywood.

In May 1944, Gable was promoted to major. He hoped for another combat assignment but when D-Day came and passed in June without further orders, he requested and was granted a discharge. He completed editing of the film, Combat America, in September 1944, providing the narration himself and making use of numerous interviews with enlisted gunners as focus of the film.[31]

Adolf Hitler esteemed Gable above all other actors; during the Second World War he offered a sizable reward to anyone who could capture and bring Gable unscathed to him

Other Comments:

During much of 1943, Captain Clark Gable was stationed at Polebrook to produce a recruiting film for aircraft gunners. He had trained with the 351st Bomb Group at Biggs Army Air Base, Texas, and Pueblo Army Air Base, Colorado, then accompanied it overseas in early April 1943. While with the 351st, he flew five combat missions as an observer. Much of the film was shot by former MGM cinematographer 1st Lt. Andrew McIntyre, who MGM had arranged to enlist with and accompany Gable in training, and scripting was by John Lee Mahin, a Hollywood screenwriter also in the unit.

Gable’s first combat mission occurred on May 4, 1943, when Gable accompanied 351st group commander Lt. Col. William A. Hatcher on a late afternoon familiarization mission before the 351st became operational. Flying squadron lead with Capt William R. Calhoun of the 303rd Bomb Group, RAF Molesworth, against the Ford and General Motors plants at Antwerp, Belgium, Hatcher and Gable's B-17 was nicknamed The 8 Ball MK II (s/n 41-24635). Gable fired a few rounds from a machine gun mounted in the radio room and suffered a minor case of frostbite from wearing leather gloves in the extreme cold.

Gable's second mission came July 10, 1943, flying with 2nd Lt. Theodore Argiropulos of the 351st's 508th Bomb Squadron in Argonaut III (42-29851) to bomb the airfield at Villacoublay, France. The mission was frustrating in that clouds forced the bombers to return without dropping their ordnance, but did not prevent German fighter attacks. His third combat mission occurred on 24 July 1943, again in Argonaut III as the lead aircraft of the 351st, with group executive officer Lt.Col. Robert W. Burns. The mission to bomb the Norsk Hydro chemical plants in Herøya, Norway, was unopposed, but was also the longest by the Eighth Air Force to that date and began a week-long series of intensive operations against German targets known as the "Blitz Week".

On the morning of August 12, 1943, his fourth mission was to bomb a synthetic oil plant at Gelsenkirchen in the Ruhr, joining 351st operations officer Maj. Theodore "Ross" Milton and Capt. John B. Carraway's crew in Ain't It Gruesome (42-29863). Bombing Bochum, Germany, as a target of opportunity in bad weather, Gable experienced the Eighth's most dangerous mission to date, with 25 of its 330 B-17s shot down. Although none of the 351st's Fortresses went down, 11 suffered battle damage, one crash-landed on return, and the group's crews suffered one killed and seven wounded. During the mission, Gable wedged himself behind the top turret gunner for a better view as German fighters made five passes at the 351st's formation. A 20mm shell came up through Aint It Gruesome's flight deck, cut off the heel from Gable's boot, and exited one foot from his head, all without exploding. Afterward, the crew noticed the fifteen holes in the aircraft, and Gable noticed his boot. Brushing off concern with reporters, Gable claimed, "I didn't know it had happened. I didn't know anything about it until we had dropped eleven thousand feet, and could get off oxygen and look around. Only then did I see the hole in the turret."

Gable's final combat mission was an early morning strike to the port area of Nantes, France, on September 23, 1943. He flew with Lt. Col. Burns and 510th Bomb Squadron commander Maj. John Blaylock, leading the 351st in The Dutchess (42-29925). Half of the six groups assigned failed to assemble in bad weather, and intercepting fighters inflicted extensive battle damage to the other half, but no bombers were lost. Gable left his film crew in the waist of the bomber and manned a gun in the nose.

Captain Clark Gable was awarded the Air Medal on October 4 for completing five combat missions, and later the Distinguished Flying Cross. His final three missions were flown in the dangerous position of group lead, a hazard emphasized when the B-17 flown by Col. Hatcher and Major Blaylock was shot down near Cognac, France, on December 31, 1943, killing Blaylock and resulting in Hatcher's capture. Gable left the 351st on November 5, 1943, returning to the US with over 50,000 feet of 16mm color film. In 1944, the film Combat America, narrated by Gable, was shown in theaters.
[As posted on USMF by: "Forum Support" (user name) on 14 Apr 11]:

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Aerial Gunnery SchoolSchool Assignments8th Air Force351st Bombardment Group, Heavy
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  1942-1942, Aerial Gunnery School
  1942-1942, Officer Candidate School (OCS)
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