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William Clark


WILLIAM CLARK, AMES, IOWA, graduated from Iowa State College at Ames, Iowa, and was employed as an engineer with a company in Moline, Illinois, when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 casting America into World War II. Although he had deferment from military service based on testing and inspection of products sold by his company to the military, Bill asked to be released from the deferment. He was drafted into the Army Air Corps on March 21, 1943, at Chicago, Illinois and sent to St. Petersburg, Florida, for Basic Training.
“We lived in tents. We had an open-air mess hall with a canvas canopy. Fifty yards away were slit trenches for latrines. Flies were everywhere and a lot of guys got sick. You had to keep your hand waving to ward off the flies while you ate. They would come down onto your food in hordes. They finally moved us to hotels after two weeks.”
Bill then attended the American school of Aircraft Instruments near Los Angeles to learn maintenance and repair of the aircraft compass, horizon, trim and bank and auto pilot instruments. “We had to take them apart, clean them and put them back together.”
After a short duty stint at Kelly Field, Texas, Bill was sent to Camp Kilmer, New Jersey , where, in the Fall of 1943, he boarded the ship “A. B. Alexander” for England. “We spent sixteen days in a convoy. Our ship was eighteen thousand tons. We hit a sleet storm in the North Atlantic. There were two Victory ships ahead of us that would go over a wave and go down a trough where other waves would wash over the bow of the ships. At times the rear “screws” would be out of the water. I was in G Deck. The only thing below me was the hold of the ship. Bunks were stacked five high and I was in the top bunk. We took turns in the bunks. For twenty-four hours we were down below and the next twenty-four hours we were on deck where we slept. Each time we moved we had to take our gear with us. During the storm water in the latrines would wash all over the deck where we were. Guys got seasick and it was a mess.”
When he arrived in England Bill helped lay concrete for runways and sidewalks at an airbase in progress of being built. “The day after we finished the Germans came over and bombed the runways.”
Bill was assigned to the 89th Depot Repair Squadron at Strategic Air Depot 3, Watton, England, later name changed to Neaton after the local parish. “For awhile I replaced spark plugs on B-24 bombers. Each engine had two spark plugs for each of its sixteen cylinders. To replace all of the spark plugs on one aircraft took 144 plugs.” He was then assigned to take additional training on the Isle of Man at an Advanced Navigation and Bomb Aimer’s School. On his return Bill began duties for which he had been trained.
Strategic Air Depots were established for advanced supply to airbases, repair aircraft, perform major overhauls and salvage operations, They also maintained workshops for repair and testing of many aircraft technical items including the instruments and manufacture of special equipment or component parts and a propeller shop. Bill repaired damaged instruments. “I just repaired them and put them on the shelf in case they would be needed.” But he also had to make local flights to test instrument reliability. “Some instruments required adjustment every fifteen minutes during a mission.”


Units served with

Associated Place

  • Watton

    Military site : airfield
    Built in 1939 as a medium bomber station with a grass airfield, Watton was occupied by the RAF until handed over to the Eighth Air Force in mid-1943. Improved initially with a single steel mat runway in 1943, plus 41 loop and 12 pan hardstandings, a...


Event Location Date
Born Ames, IA, USA


Date Contributor Update
29 November 2017 11:47:20 general ira snapsorter Created entry with surname, firstname, nationality, role, biography, events, unit associations and place associations

Entry added with details from "Iowans of the Mighty Eighth", Chapter 22 "Biographies", by Charles D Taylor..