Bradley B. Clark was a P-47 Thunderbolt pilot who flew with the 371st Fighter Group’s 406th Fighter Squadron in late 1944. His combat service was unfortunately brief, ending in December, 1944, but his service and sacrifice are remembered to this day.
For many Americans, the name of Bradley Clark’s brother, a man named Dick Clark, evokes memories of television’s American Bandstand and the sounds of music through many years. Dick Clark’s persona was one of musical enthusiasm, but it hid a sad family loss, as his older brother and only sibling, Bradley B. Clark, was killed in action during World War II.
It was December 23rd, 1944. Frisky had just completed a wintry move from Dole Airfield (Y-7) to Tantonville Airfield (Y-1). There was no slack for the group in this move, as the Battle of the Bulge was underway to the north, and the precursors for another German offensive on the western front, Operation Nordwind, were underway. The 371FG was still part of the 1st Tactical Air Force (Provisional), primarily supporting the Franco-American 6th Army Group (US Seventh Army, French First Army) along the southern part of the western front.
The ground was frozen on the 23rd, and mud was suddenly no longer a problem for operations at Tantonville. The 406th Fighter Squadron flew only one mission that day, an armed reconnaissance mission of nine aircraft led by squadron leader Major Delaney. The mission was airborne by 0930, and flew to find targets of opportunity in an area ranging around Homburg, Landau, Neustadt and Kaiserslautern.
The Jugs were flying in the vicinity of Mannheim, Germany when the ships were jumped by eight Me-109’s. Lt. Clark, who had joined the squadron only the month before (November 23), was reportedly hit by the enemy fighters, and went missing from the rest of the squadron in the swirling dogfight. Lt. Miller shot down one of the Me-109’s in return, and the P-47’s returned to base without Lt. Clark.
But Lt. Clark had survived the dogfight, his aircraft damaged, and he himself perhaps wounded. At 1135, as he approached Tantonville, his aircraft crashed about one mile west of Omelmont, and he was killed instantly.
2d Lt. Bradley Clark received the Air Medal and the Purple Heart for his military service. He was buried in the Epinal American Cemetery in Epinal, France, at Plot B, Row 24, Grave 9. But this is not the end of his story.
Nearly 70 years later, on September 22, 2012, grateful and kind citizens of France unveiled a bronze plaque memorial to Lt. Clark, in Omelmont. They were joined by members of the Clark family which helped convey a greater meaning to the ceremony.
Images of the memorial ceremony can be viewed at:
There is also a display about Lt. Clark at the Espace de Memoire Lorraine, a museum dedicated to the memory of those who fought from 1939 to 1945 in the region. Members of the Clark family who made the visit for the memorial ceremony presented the museum with Lt. Clark’s Purple Heart, for inclusion in a display about him.
Picture of exhibit at:
There is even a video tribute by the museum in honor of Lt. Clark, which can be seen on YouTube at:
As you can see from this one example, the echoes of war continue to this day, as we remember and honor the service and sacrifice of the members of the 371st Fighter Group. Each of us can express our gratitude, and commemorate them in our own way, as well as be inspired by their numerous examples of heroism and dedication to duty in defense of our nation and our way of life.