Bradley Clark grew up in Bronxville and Mount Vernon and attended the Mount Vernon High School near the family home. He was an accomplished sportsman, excelling in football and swimming. After graduating from the Mount Vernon A.B. Davis High School in 1942 and with the war raging, he decided to enlist as a Private in the US Army Air Corps. He did so on February 21, 1943, at barely 19 years of age. After he got his commission at Craig Field, Alabama on 8 February 1944, Bradley was offered a post as a flight instructor in a pilot training program in the United States. He refused and chose to fly in combat missions overseas.
His parents, Richard and Julia Clark, together with Bradley’s younger brother Richard (“Dick”) saw him off one day of September 1944 as he left for Europe. They didn’t know that they would never see him again.
2nd Lt Bradley B. Clark was a P-47 Thunderbolt pilot who flew with the 371st Fighter Group’s 406th Fighter Squadron in late 1944. The 371st had just completed a wintry move from Dole Airfield (Y-7) to Tantonville Airfield (Y-1), near Nancy, France on 20 Dec 1944 and conducted operations that supported Allied ground action in the Battle of the Bulge. Bradley Clark's combat service was unfortunately brief, ending after 8 combat missions. During a strafing mission in the Bonn / Wiesbaden area on 23 December, 1944, his plane, one of the nine participating in the attack, was hit by a German fighter above Weiler, near Koblenz, Germany, probably wounding him and damaging the stabilizers. On the return flight, as he was nearing the base at Tantonville, the weather worsened, a ground mist suddenly rose and he lowered his altitude, trying to get his bearings. Seeing the church of the village of Omelmont, about 5 km NW from the base, he made two passes around it, but his plane hit the corner of a village house, then an electricity pole and a tree. He was ejected from the plane and his body was found near his crashed plane in a nearby field. He was the 406th Squadron’s only combat loss for the month.
Bradley’s family was devastated when news of his death reached them and Bradley’s younger brother Richard, 15, particularly mourned the older brother he idolized. When the US Government proposed to have Bradley’s remains brought home to the US, his parents chose to have him stay in a cemetery in France. After his brother’s death, Richard (“Dick”) Clark went into a deep depression and wrote thus about the brother he admired and missed so much in his autobiography, published in 1976 :
“That summer I did little more than hang around the house. I went outside only when my mother had had enough of me and wanted the house to herself for a few hours. In the evenings and on weekends I helped my father work on a little square of land behind the building that he'd designated as our "Victory garden."
"We'd plant, hoe, water, and wait for mom to call us in for supper. We talked about Brad, where he was, and how the war was going. In September he was sent to Europe to fly fighter missions. That fall he sent home a photo of himself in uniform standing in front of a P-47. I took the photo and showed it to the kids in school...
I was in the lobby of our apartment building, shortly after Christmas 1944, excited that I had a week off from school. I'd picked up our paper off the pile, tucked it under my arm, and was waiting for the elevator. Mr. Lindblum, the building superintendent, came in. He was an old friend who sometimes let me run the elevator and use his workshop in the basement. He stopped by the telephone switchboard when he saw me.
"Dickie, I'm sorry. You know how I felt about Brad. I don't know what to say." I stood there, staring at him. He didn't realize he was the first to tell me that Brad was dead. I took the newspaper from under my arm, opened it up, and held it in front of my face, pretending to read it. I didn't say anything. I kept turning the pages.”
For many Americans, the name of Dick Clark sounds very familiar. Having started early in radio he became one of the US’s most loved radio and TV hosts.
Fast forward to 2006. The mother of Frenchman Christian Pardieu was one of those who had witnessed the crash of Bradley’s plane in Omelmont. For years Christian had wanted to know more about this young pilot and he ultimately learned his name in 2006 thanks to French P-47 specialist Didier Badique. Research to find more than the basic information on the pilot and the crash was unsuccessful at the time. In April 2010, Michel Henrion, living in Omelmont and adjunct to the village’s Mayor, and his friend Jean-Marie Eustache, born in the locality, wanted, like Christian, to do something to honor the memory of the pilot. The idea of a plaque for the airman was evoked and a search began to try to find Bradley’s family.
Alerted by Jérôme Leclerc, secretary of the Espace Mémoire Lorraine association and WW II museum in Vézelise, 3km SW of Omelmont, Belgian researcher Edouard Renière, in a stroke of good luck, found on the Internet a mention of Bradley Clark linked to members of his family in California. Telephone contact was immediately established, followed by e-mail exchanges in 2010 and 2011 from and to Belgium, while the possibility of having some sort of memorial put in Omelmont was examined by the local authorities.
In October 2011, pieces of a fighter aircraft, thought to be from Bradley’s P-47, were found in the area of the crash by Jean-Marie Eustache. His friend Benjamin Jeandot, from Vézelise, immediately cleaned the parts which were clearly identified the same day by Didier Badique as being indeed from 42-28879.
Through the efforts of Michel Henrion, a positive decision was taken by the Omelmont municipality in December 2011 and a whole team of volunteers, motivated and led by Michel who did not spare his time and efforts, worked to organize the ceremony planned for September 2012, design a plaque (paid for in equal parts by the Omelmont municipality and the Espace Mémoire Lorraine association) and prepare an exhibit about Bradley and his P-47 in the Espace Mémoire Lorraine museum.
Sadly, Dick Clark passed away in April of that year. He wouldn’t have been able to attend the events but he had been informed about and appreciated what was being organized in memory of his beloved brother.
Finally, on 22 September 2012, the plaque in memory of Bradley was inaugurated in the presence of his niece, Cindy Clark, daughter of Dick, who had come especially from the United States. After the ceremony and reception, pieces of her uncle's aircraft were given to her by Benjamin during a visit to the Espace Mémoire Lorraine museum where a display window for Bradley and his P-47 had been installed.
As Duane Bradley Clark, Cindy’s brother, and family couldn’t attend in September, they all came with Cindy to Omelmont and Vézelise the following month. As promised by Cindy during her first visit, they brought with them Bradley Clark’s Purple Heart… which was immediately put in Bradley’s display window in the museum.
Cindy was back on October 13, 2013, for the inauguration of a new street plate to replace the former one that indicated Jardin de la Fête near the crash place in Omelmont, in honor of the uncle she and her brothers never knew.
And finally, on Sunday 20 July 2014, it was the turn of the elder son of Dick Clark, Richard A. Clark, who couldn’t make the trip earlier, to come to France with his wife Eve. They were greeted by the municipality of Omelmont, headed by Michel Henrion, freshly elected Mayor of the village and visited the museum in Vézelise where they were greeted by Association President Christian Barbier, Secretary Jérôme Leclerc and their devoted team of volunteers. The couple's
short stay in France ended after they paid their respects at Bradley’s grave in the Epinal cemetery.
* The NY Times Dick Clark obituary at http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/19/arts/television/dick-clark-tv-host-and...
* For photos and videos about the ceremonies, etc, see :
► The September 2012 visit of Cindy Clark and the Omelmont ceremony :
Photos at http://espacedememoire.fr/omelmontCeremonie/images/index.html and a video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cjd6kyuTXOU&feature=youtu.be
► The October 2012 visit with Cindy and her brother Duane and family in Omelmont :
► The October 2013 visit of Cindy Clark for the inauguration of the street plate :
► The 20 July 2014 visit of Richard A. Clark and wife Eve in Omelmont and Vézelise :
► Here’s the link to a 2014 video of Superintendent Dwight Anderson talking about Bradley Clark at his grave at the Epinal American cemetery : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qglUWzFsUG4
P-47 Serial 42-28879 was flown by 2nd Lt Bradley B. Clark of 371st Fighter Group/406th Fighter Squadron when it was lost on return from a strafing mission to Germany, 23 December 1944. Hit by a German fighter above Weiler, Germany, it crashed at 11:35...
23 December 1944
|Born||Bronxville, New York, United States||1924|
the son of Richard Augustus Clark and Julia Barnard Clark
|Enlisted||Atlantic City, New Jersey, United States||21 February 1943|
as a Private in the Air Corps
|Died||Omelmont, France||23 December 1944|
Killed in the crash of his P-47 near the village of Omelmont, France. KIA
|Lived in||Mount Vernon, New York, United States|
Plot B – Row 24 – Grave # 9
|10 September 2015 08:57:05||ED-BB||Changes to biography|
Corrected data about B. Jeandot
|09 September 2015 15:38:36||ED-BB||Created entry with surname, middlename, firstname, nationality, service number, highest rank, role, biography, events, unit associations, place associations, aircraft associations and mission associations|
NARA WWII Enlistment records