Harry Allen Clawson, the second son of Edna Allen and Charles Moses Clawson Jr., was born 8 Nov. 1919, in Thatcher, Graham County, Arizona. The Clawson family was living in Pima at the time, and Edna went home to her mother's in Thatcher for Harry's birth.
When Harry was five days old, he had mumps. Other childhood diseases, such as measles and chicken pox followed later. At the age of five years, he had rheumatic fever. This left him in a weakened condition so when he started to school in Pima, his older brother, Delwin and older sister, Helen, pulled him to school in a little wagon. It wasn't long until the family moved to Safford where Harry continued his schooling through high school. Harry skipped the second grade and was thus a year younger than his classmates.
Harry was an adventurous and extremely active young man. He loved a challenge and a thrill. He could take the normal everyday life and make it into his own exciting and fascinating world. He built a tree house in the top of a very huge and tall cottonwood tree so high that very few climbed up to see his handiwork. He slept in this house and would swing out on a rope "Tarzan style" as soon as he awoke in the morning. He was testing his ability to make his body function quickly. It was as if he were preparing for the day he became a Paratrooper. He loved height and would climb the armory flagpole and rock back and forth on it.
Bernard, his younger brother, remembers a trip when Harry took Max Hundley and him to Bonita Creek. They went on foot with no food nor water, only a .22 caliber rifle. They drank the rain water left in holes in the rocks along the way. Harry killed one rabbit and an old prospector cooked it for them. That night Max and Bernard sat scared and shivering while Harry snored! They went exploring cliff dwellings the next day before heading home.
Harry was probably the number one cyclist in the Gila Valley. He was the first to ride a bicycle to the top of Mt. Graham and back. He and Burl Booth bought the first balloon-tired bikes in the valley and were they proud of them! They went all over the valley and mountains on those bikes. Harry could do all kinds of tricks on his bike. He could ride backwards sitting on the handle bars; he could "pop a wheelie" as they say, riding on just the back wheel; many times he rode his bike to Eden, twenty miles from Safford, to see Melba Busby, without handle bars on the bike.
DARING! That was a way of life with him! He built his own canoe and when the river was flooding, he took it out for the first test run. When he worked for Cardon Oil Company, he raced Bernard between Clifton and Safford on the gravel roads. They were driving gasoline trucks!
As a Scoutmaster, he made Scouting exciting for his boys. He didn't mind spending much extra time for his Scouts. Scout camp then lasted ten days. He took his boys to camp three days early, all of them riding bicycles. Anything that he could do to make the boys happy, he did. The next year, he had moved to Clifton but still came back to camp for three days to show the boys how to use the climbing equipment he was using as Bechtel's. Many of his Scouts went on to get their Eagle rank because of the start he had given them. Harry loved Scouting. He earned his Eagle rank after Bernard had earned his. Harry got every merit badge that Bernard had gotten just so he could use Bernard's merit badge sash.
To earn his Eagle rank, Harry had to hike alone at night to a special spot on the mountain where a book was permanently kept at that time. It was hidden under a rock and was to be signed by the Scout. Harry was bitten on the knee by a rattle snake, but he stayed the night and wrote in the book that a "guardian" on the path had tried to keep him from his destination. It was afternoon the next day before he had medical help for his leg.
Physical challenges were sought by Harry. The college at Thatcher had a picnic around the mountain at Stockton Pass. He decided to walk home over the top of Mt. Graham which reaches over ten thousand feet and then drops to the valley at three thousand feet. The snow was already deep on the mountain and his feet were frost bitten before he reached Cactus, seven miles from Safford on the other side, and was given a ride home. He could do one legged squats on either leg until people grew tired of watching. He could do a hundred or more push-ups. His body was hard as a rock!
Harry met Melba Busby, daughter of Lettie Hunt and John David Busby, at a motion picture show in Safford. He sat behind he and couldn't keep his hands off her hair, which was long and red. When he asked what grade she was in, she answered, "A Freshman." He assumed she was in high school and Melba didn't tell him she was in college for quite some time. He was a senior in high school. On their first date they went to a carnival where "Pop" Clawson went along and paid for all their rides. One of the rides was the ferris wheel. It scared Melba to death and Harry loved every minute of it!
Harry, Melba, Louise, Harry's younger sister, and Grant Mulleneaux double-dated many times and to keep it interesting, Harry was always thinking of something different to do. He bet Louise and Grant one night that he could go all night without talking to Melba. So he made up a set of 3 x 4 cards with questions on them and when he wanted to have some conversation he handed Melba one to answer.
Harry and Melba were at the Clawson home one Sunday afternoon when Milan Larson and Vera McBride came by and asked them to go to Lordsburg, New Mexico, with them so they could get married. Well, by the time they returned home, both couples were married 9 May 1937. Because of the love and support of Mom and Pop Clawson and LDS Stake President Harry L. Payne, Harry and Melba were sealed in the Arizona Temple on 2 June 1937 for time and all eternity.
Harry and Melba borrowed $300 from Melba's Dad, and bought Sam Skousen's bicycle business. Sam was a brother of Ethel Skousen Clawson, wife of Leslie Clawson, Charles Clawson's brother. Charles took over the bike business when Harry went to work for Pat Cardon delivering fuel oil in Clifton and Morenci. Harry worked for Byron Lewis at Gila Valley Laundry on routes and delivering clothes to Clifton where Harold Alexander had a pickup station. One evening the two of them were coming back to Safford after a flood and Harry volunteered to walk across a wash to see how deep the water was. He had his shoes off and his pants rolled up. He kept jumping around, even though the water wasn't very deep and the problem was rocks and boulders were rolling down with the water and going over his toes. Harold thought Harry put on quite a show hopping in the water.
There were three children born to this union. Sharon Clawson Porter, born 25 Oct. 1938, was Harry's pride and joy. Ronald Allen Clawson was born 26 Mar 1940 and he was "Butch" to his Dad. Rodney was born 9 Oct 1942.
Harry joined the army a month before Rodney was born, on 2 September 1942, and volunteered for the paratroopers.
Harry came home when Rodney was three months old and again when he was nine months old.
Harry and Melba were the custodians of the new Safford LDS Ward Church house, which Harry had helped to build while he and Melba were dating. When Harry went to work for Pat Cardon, the family moved to Clifton into a duplex where his brother, Bernard, and his wife, Olive, sister of Melba lived in the other side. Yes, the brothers had married sisters and the families have had a very close bond ever since. This was a nice time in Clifton for the two families. Harry then went to work for Phelps Dodge copper mining company and on 7 Dec 1941, Pearl Harbor Day, Melba knew that Harry would join the Army. All the family kept him from joining for almost a year, then in September 1942, he joined the paratroopers and went to Camp Toccoa, Fort Benning and Fort Bragg for training. He became a staff sergeant and helped train men to be paratroopers. He was hard on his men to help them withstand the stresses of battle. Many of them gave thanks to him later for being tough on them.
Harry's outfit, Company H, 3rd Battalion, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division, was shipped overseas in 1943. Harry could have stayed stateside and trained more men but chose instead to go with the men he had trained. Their first action was on 6 June 1944, D-Day, in the invasion of France when the 101st parachuted into Normandy just after midnight. Harry and SSgt Fred Bahlau lead their group of men onto a 283 foot bridge about two and a half miles east of Carentan. In the face of strong enemy machine gun and small arms fire they forced the enemy to withdraw and thus enabled their own forces to reorganize against an enemy counterattack. For this Fred and Harry received the Silver Star on 20 June 1944 in the town square of Carentan along with nine other paratroopers including Robert Wright, a medic, and Brigadier General Anthony C. McAuliffe. The day after receiving the Silver Star, Harry was threatened with a court martial for not wearing a dress tie in public. He also received the Purple Heart and Bronze Star.
The next action was in Holland. The 506th PIR was dropped into Son, 17 Sept 1944, and the bridge they were to secure was blown up before they got to it and a Bailey bridge was build in its place. In a letter dated 28 Sept 1944, Harry wrote to Melba: "You can let Dad know that I'm in the land of Milk and Honey - the most beautiful country in the world. I wish very much that I were home with you now. Gee that would be heaven. It shouldn't be too long before that happens. Take good care of our kiddies until I can get there to help you." Charles Clawson had been in The Netherlands for two years as a missionary in 1909 to 1911 and always referred to Holland as the land of Milk and Honey.
After weeks of fighting the 101st Airborne Division had achieved its objectives, but the operation itself was a failure due to the fact that the final bridge at Arnhem could not be taken. The Allies dug in on the new frontline which was established along the Waal and Rhine Rivers. The 101st Airborne held the line on what was called "the island", the peice of land between Arnhem and Nijmegen and between the Waal and Rhine Rivers. They would stay here till early November in a more or less static frontline situation. However, the division was to receive many casualties over the weeks due to enemy artillery shelling and German counterattacks. At the time they took over the line on the Island, 506th had already lost 40 officers and almost 300 men.
the Regiment's 3rd battalion held the line from the town of Opheusden to Dodewaard. G Company was locate dnorth of the railway line, I company south of it and S/Sgt Clawson's H company was in reserve (see map). The British division from who were relieved from these positions told the 506th that the sector was quiet and that the opposing Germans were from the 363rd Volksgrenadier Division, which was badly mauled in Normandy, but now believed to be back on strength.
In the early morning of October 5th, trip flares in front of the defenses of the 3rd Battalion signaled the start of the large German attack. The first attack was held. This was soon followed by a second attack and the 3rd battalion commander Major Horton committed H company to the fight. They took up position between Opheusden and Dodewaard. The Germans attacked fiercely, supported by artillery fire and divisionary attacks by SS troops. The attacks were repelled with heavy casualties. H company was now reinforced with two platoons of A company. Major Horton was hit by artillery fire just after 10.00 in the morning and died a few hours later.
Early in the afternoon the German attacked again. At first I company held, but they had to retreat due to being outflanked by the Germans. A strong counterattack threw the Germans back. 506th lost 6 officers and 86 men that day.
In the evening Colonel Sink ordered 3rd battalion to positions south of the railway line. When H company left their positions to take up their new ones, the opportunity was used by the Germans to advance over the railway tracks and take up positions in an area around a small railway station. Besides heavy fighting the regiment also experiences very heavy artillery barrages on their position. The day continues with heavy attacks and counter attacks. In the evening, 3rd battalion was ordered to fall back to defensive positions, 1200 yards to the rear, leaving Opheusden. This would leave the area clear for rocket firing Typhoons and artillery. On October 6th, the 506th lost 11 officers and 91 men. The fighting was far from over. Until October 14 the Germans tried almost daily to attack and force the Americans east and off the island. They would no succeed, though to heavy casualties to both sides.
Harry was defending an observation post located in a farmhouse out of Opheusden. This building was also serving as a first aid station. The enemy was thrown back but Harry received shrapnel wounds in the forearm and forehead. Captain Stanley Morgan, M.D. reported that Harry's wounds were not life threatening but that he was temporarily blinded because of the bandages. Captain Morgan told Lt. Alexander Andros to take his men and move back and he would stay and care for the wounded. Captain Morgan was taken prisoner and never saw his wounded again. The aid station received a direct mortar hit and was destroyed. When the position was retaken five days later, SSgt Harry A. Clawson and PFC Morris Thomas of headquarters company were not found. They were declared "Missing in Action."
Melba said "We hadn't heard from Harry for awhile and we were all very tense. I woke out of a sound sleep one night and to my mind came 'Harry's gone', and then there was a feeling of peace! I didn't tell this to many, but Bernard knew and he would say, " I don't know why you would say that." But the night Bernard was trying to get his little daughter, Carol, to Tucson to the doctor and she passed away in his arms, he had the same feeling of peace, and later told me he knew how I felt. It was a week or so after that when I got the telegram that Harry was missing.
The next months and years were very hard on Melba, their children and all of Harry's family. People reported seeing Harry from time to time in various parts of the world. Some said they had recognized him even with his disfigured face and this unknowing kept the family most anxious. They knew Harry was a very proud person, and wondered if his face was so disfigured that he did not want to be seen by anyone he knew. With the many reports of people seeing him, they also wondered if he was OK mentally, etc.
A year after he was reported missing in action, memorial services were held in the Safford Ward and a stone marker set in the family's cemetery plot. One week later - while watching the soldiers marching by in the Armistice Day Parade, 11 Nov 1945 - his father, Charles M. Clawson, Jr. died of a heart attack. His grief over the loss of Harry was just too much for him!
He was missing in action for a year, declared dead in 1945 and his remains were deemed unrecoverable in 1950.
In December 1971, Karel Huibers, a nineteen year old Dutch tree nurseryman found the remains of two paratroopers in an unmarked grave in his tree nursery. The Dutch authorities were notified and the U S Army sent a team from Germany to Holland to recover and escort the remains to the United States Army Mortuary in Frankfurt, Germany for identification and processing. His remains were identified by his dog tags and by one of his boots and other physical and dental characteristics. The military sent an officer to visit with Melba and with Bernard. Both agreed independently that his remains should be brought home. Bernard called Rodney in Utah on the phone to inform him of the discovery of his Daddy. Bernard asked Rodney if he had told his Aunt Angeline, Harry's sister, just the previous month about the dream. Then told him that his Daddy had been found. It had been almost 28 years of waiting. Harry's remains were escorted home and his memorial service was performed with only members of the family taking part. His funeral was held May 8, 1972 in Thatcher, Arizona.
With special thanks to Steven Oudshoorn.
Acknowledgements: Mr. Rodney Clawson
Sources: Leonard Rapport & Arthur Norwood, Rendezvous With Destiny, Konecky & Konecky, Old Saybrook, CT, 2001