COMMENTS & NOTES
GALE W. "BUCK" CLEVEN
ORIGINAL 100TH PILOT
350TH BOMB SQUADRON COMMANDING OFFICER
ORGINAL 350TH SQ COMMANDER, WENT OVERSEAS WITH CREW #A-3 IN AC #42-29738. POW 8 OCT 43 BREMEN (INFO ON MISSION BELOW). ESCAPED AND RETURNED TO THORPE ABBOTS APRIL 1945, STANDARD PROCEDURES PROHIBITED HIS RETURN TO OPERATIONS.
MAJ GALE W. CLEVEN PILOT (CO 350TH BOMB SQUADRON)
CAPT RICHARD A. CAREY PILOT (350TH BS OPERATIONS OFFICER)
M/SGT LOUIS A. HAYS PARACHUTE RIGGER
M/SGT HARRY H. McMILLION LINE CHIEF
M/SGT ALBERT S. STRAIN FLIGHT CHIEF
M/SGT WILLIAM M. JACKSON RADIO
T/SGT LAWRENCE BOWA BOMB SIGHT MAINT.
MAJ LAURENCE S. JENNINGS GROUP SURGEON
LT ROBERT V. KAISER CO-PILOT
LT RONALD HOLLENBECK STATES: CLEVEN BUZZED THE TOWER WITH MY AIRPLANE WITH ALL FOUR ENGINES FEATHERED. THAT’S THE KIND OF GUY CLEVEN WAS. I HAD JUST GOTTEN A COUPLE ENGINE REPLACEMENTS, AND HE DIDN'T GET TO FLY TOO MUCH BEING SQUADRON CO, SO HE COMES OVER AND SAYS; "HOLLENBECK LET ME FLY YOUR AIRPLANE FOR YOU, I'LL PUT SOME SLOW TIME ON IT" AND THE NEXT THING I KNEW, IS THIS GOD D--N B-17 WAS COMING ACROSS JUST ABOUT 25 FEET OFF THE RUNWAY AND I LOOKED UP AND ALL 4 ENGINES WERE FEATHERED. HE (Cleven) SAID "I WANTED TO DO THAT ALL MY LIFE."
(Interview with Ron Hollenbeck by Kevin Gray and Dave Webster 11/29/1993)
REGENSBURG: AUGUST 17, 1943
Crew #13 Aircraft #42-30068 "Phartzac"
MAJ GALE "BUCK" CLEVEN COMM P POW 8 OCT 43 BREMEN
CAPT NORMAN H. SCOTT P XFR BOVINGDON (indoctrinate new Combat Crews)
2ND LT KENNETH I. MENZIE CP CPT TRANSFERRED TO 482 BOMB GROUP (Pathfinders)
1ST LT DONALD L. STROUT NAV XFR BOVINGDON (indoctrinate new Combat Crews)
1ST LT NORRIS G. NORMAN BOM CPT 18 MAR 44 LANDSBURG
T/SGT JAMES E. PARKS TTE CPT 18 MAR 44 LANDSBURG
T/SGT NORMAN M. SMITH ROG KIA 17 AUG 43 REGENSBURG
S/SGT LEWIS D. MILLER BTG CPT TRANSFERRED TO 482 BOMB GROUP (Pathfinders)
S/SGT BLAZIER PADDY TG CPT 18 MAR 44 LANDSBURG
PVT BRITTON I. SMITH WG CPT 18 MAR 44 LANDSBURG
CPL JEROME E. FERROGGIARO WG POW 8 OCT 43 BREMEN
On the now famous Regensburg shuttle mission, this crew, with Squadron C.O. Buck Cleven, led the low squadron of six aircraft. Only two of the six reached North Africa and "Phartzac", the aircraft flown by this crew was badly mauled as detailed in the often quoted article, "I Saw Regensburg Destroyed" by Colonel Beirne Lay! Jr. (Saturday Evening Post November 6, 1943):
"…Now, nearing the target battle damage was catching up with him (Cleven) fast. A 20-mm cannon shell penetrated the right side of his airplane and exploded beneath him, damaging the electrical system and cutting the top-turret gunner in the leg. A second 20-mm entered the radio compartment, killing the radio operator, who bled to death with his legs severed above the knees. A third 20-mm.shell entered the left side of the nose, tearing out a section about two Feet Square tore away the right-hand-nose-gun installations and injured the bombardier in the head and shoulders. A fourth 20-mm shell penetrated the right wing into the fuselage and shattered the hydraulic system, releasing fluid all over the cockpit. A fifth 20-mm shell punctured the cabin roof and severed the rudder cables to one side of the rudder.
A sixth 20-mm shell exploded in the #3 engine, destroying all controls to the engine. The engine caught fire and lost its power, but eventually the fire went out…."
Exactly what transpired in the cockpit at this point is probably known only to Bucky Cleven and Norm Scott. Beirne Lay admitted in his article that the situation was such that abandonment of the plane was justified and that Scott and others wanted to bail out. According to Lay however, Cleven "using blunt language" overruled the bail-out idea and "the B-17 kept on".
ACCORDING TO "THEY NEVER HAD IT SO GOOD" PAGE 75; LT MENZIE JOINED THE 1OOTH AS A REPLACEMENT PILOT WITHOUT A CREW IN JULY 1943. (This we have determined to be false, Lt Menzie came to the 100th BG as part of Lt Amiero's original Crew…mpf 2005). SAME SOURCE, "THEY NEVER HAD IT SO GOOD" PAGE 81; DESCRIBING ACTION ABOARD A B-17 FLOWN ON THE 17 AUG 43 REGENSBURG MISSION SAYS, "BULLETS WERE EVERYWHERE, SOME PASSED CLOSE TO LT MENZIE'S POSITION WHERE HE STOOPED, FIRING WITHOUT PAUSE." (That action took place in the nose section on Phartzac. On that day, Major Gale "Buck Cleven rode in the Left seat, Capt. Scott in the Right, and Maj Cleven moved the CP that day, Lt Menzie down into the nose of the plane where he manned one of the 50 cal, cheek guns. This was confirmed by Gale Cleven in a telephone conversation in Dec 2005…mpf
Distinguished Service Cross- Sept. 10, 1943 for Regensburg Mission August 17, 1943
Distinguished Flying Cross-Nov 30, 1943 for Paris Mission Sept 3, 1943
Air Medal-Aug 6, 1943
OLC to Air Medal-Aug 22, 1943
OLC to Air Medal-Sept 24, 1943
OLC to Air Medal-Oct 20, 1943
MISSIONS OF MAJ. GALE W. (BUCKY) CLEVEN (per Paul Andrews notes for Frank Murphy book and Gale W. Cleven's Form 5's)
1. 25/06/43 BREMEN
2. 28/06/43 ST NAZAIRE ("FLAK CITY")
3. 10/07/43 LE LeBOURGET
4. 17/07/43 HAMBURG
5. 24/07/43 TRONDHEIM, NORWAY
6. 25/07/43 WARNEMUNDE
7. 26/07/43 HANOVER
8. 28/07/43 OSCHERSLEBEN (RECALL, COUNTED AS A MISSION)
9. 29/07/43 WARNEMUNDE
10. 12/08/43 WESSELING, SYNTHETIC OIL, BONN (ST) (Lt Col Beirne Lay Jr. flew as CP)
11. 17/08/43 REGENSBURG (Distinguished Service Cross)
12. 24/08/43 BORDEAUX-MERIGNAC -REGENSBURG CREWS
13. 02/09/43 KERLIN-BASTARD MISSION ABANDONED AT FRENCH COAST
14. 03/09/43 PARIS (Distinguished Flying Cross)
15. 06/09/43 STUTTGART
16. 07/09/43 WATTEN, FRANCE
17. 09/09/43 BEAUVAIS-TILLE, AF
18. 16/09/43 BORDEAUX
19. 23/09/43 VANNES
20. 02/10/43 EMDEN
21. 04/10/43 HANAU
22. 08/10/43 BREMEN MIA
CREW ON 8 OCT 43 MISSION TO BREMAN
MAJ. GALE W. “BUCK” CLEVEN COMM PILOT POW 08 OCT 43 BREMAN
CAPT BERNARD A. DeMARCO P POW 08 OCT 43 BREMAN
F/O JAMES P. THAYER CP POW 08 OCT 43 BREMEN
1ST LT JOHN W.DOWNS NAV POW 08 OCT 43 BREMEN
1ST LT FRANCIS C. HARPER BOM POW 08 OCT 43 BREMEN
S/SGT JEROME FERROGGIARO TTE POW 08 OCT 43 BREMEN
T/SGT THORNTON STRINGFELLOW ROG POW 08 OCT 43 BREMEN
T/SGT BENJAMIN J. BARR WG POW 08 OCT 43 BREMEN
S/SGT WILLIAM WILLIAMS BTG POW 08 OCT 43 BREMEN
S/SGT WILLIAM WOODBURY WG POW 08 OCT 43 BREMEN
S/SGT HARRY C. CALHOUN TG POW 08 OCT 43 BREMEN
FLEW AC "OUR BABY" #23233 LN-R
LEON CASTRO HAD BEEN SHIPPED BACK TO THE STATES FOR CADET TRAINING PRIOR TO 8 OCT 43; HE WAS REPLACED BY JEROME FERROGGIARO FROM THE N.H. SCOTT CREW. LEO FREITAS AND LEO CALLAHAN WERE RECOVERING FROM WOUNDS RECEIVED ON THE 6 SEP 43 (STTUTGART) MISSION AND WERE REPLACED BY WILLIAM J. WILLIAMS OF THE CARNELL CREW AND WILLIAM R. WOODBURY, A REPLACEMENT GUNNER. GALE W. (BUCKY) CLEVEN, 350TH CO, FLEW AS COMMAND PILOT. FLAK AND FIGHTERS OVER TARGET. THIS SHIP LEADING THE 350TH. HIT BY FLAK & FIGHTERS AND FORCED TO LEAVE FORMATION. THREE MEN INJURED, ALL ELEVEN (11) BAILED OUT AND LANDED NEAR ESSEN, GERMANY. TAKEN TO FRANKFURT FOR INTERROGARTION. DOWNS (LT JOHN W. DOWNS) SAYS BAILED OUT NEAR OLDENBURG. CLEVEN (MAJ. GALE W. CLEVEN) SAYS BAIL OUT NEAR OSNABRUCK. (NOTE from..jb)
Maj Gale “Buck” Cleven’s personal account of October 8, 1943 Target: BREMEN
The following was written by Maj Gale Cleven, 350th Bomb Squadron C.O. 100th Bomb Group shortly after arriving at Stalag Luft III in late October 1943. New parts were added by Maj Cleven in Feb 2004 and appear in parenthesis ().
Take off and assembly of the group was routine on the morning of October 8, 1943 for a bombing raid on Bremen,Germany. The component parts of the Eighth Air force gradually combined to string out in a line towards the enemy coast. As the groups closed in battle formation, a steady climb was begun to enable the units to be at altitude before reaching enemy territory. Before reaching the IP (Initial Point), the door panel on the Ball Turret sprung causing a malfunction, hence necessitating stowing of the guns. Flak over the target was intense, which caused the High Squadron of which we were leading to break up leaving our wingmen. The leader of the group at this time made a violent turn to the left releasing his bombs in that attitude, then turning sharply to the right aborted down and out of the group with number three engine smoking. We flew straight ahead firing flares to reassemble the Group but during the confusion, the remaining ships had flown down to the low group thus leaving us alone. Turning to the right as briefed, three fighters at 10:00 high, out of the sun, attacked immediately causing considerable damage. 20mm shells hit number two engine forcing it to freeze and throw oil over the left side of the plane. A gas line was ruptured permitting a large flow to whip under the left wing. The controls to number three were shot away leaving a loss in power and no way to vary that power. The cowling and lower cylinders were shot away on number four putting it on the inoperative list. Information from the radio gunner disclosed that the dorsal fin and rudder was split open vertically by exploding shells and that the air flow was widening the opening rapidly. The horizontal stabilizers were punched thoroughly by the same cause. Many control cables including all the trim tab controls were severed, in the waist position, the lines were hanging limp, thus hampering the movements of the gunners. By this same attack approximately 8 to 10 feet of the left wing was blown off and small caliber shells ripped through the left side of the nose continuing on to underneath the co-pilots seat causing a fire in the blankets stowed there.
The plane was cleared of all loose articles and ammunition to lighten the load in a futile attempt to fly (Buck was trying to get to the boarder and into Holland before they bailed out) but as decent was gradually forced, hovering fighters set number one engine afire thus forcing bail out immediately. The Navigator (Lt Downs) set the hour to be at this time approximately 5:15pm. I left the ship at about two thousand feet landing approximately five to ten miles northeast of Osnabruck surrounded by irate farmers. (Maj Cleven left the ship via the nose hatch and pulled his ripcord after he saw the tail go by his head. Buck remembered swinging tow or three times in his chute then going fright threw the front door of a German farm house ending up in the kitchen and ruining the stove. The Mama was crying and calling Buck a Luftgangster and a Terrorflieger. The Papa had Buck lying on his back with a pitchfork up against his chest. Buck was trying to explain in his collage German thqat he was really a helluva nice fella but wasn’t getting very far.) Since Benny (Capt. DeMarco, pilot) and I fell close together we were promptly taken to a Luftwaffe station just west of the city where our crew gradually filtered in. We stayed overnight under guard and at noon boarded a train going south traveling through Munster, Essen, and Dusseldorf to Koln, changing trains at that point, we continued onto Frankfurt arriving at 1:00 AM. On October 10, slept in the station until 7:00 AM at which time we traveled via train to Quackenbruck in the outskirts of Frankfurt. Transferred to street care and at 10:00AM came to Dulag Luft Uberossel. Remained in solitary overnight and was interrogated by the Germans the morning of Oct 11. Left there at 4:00PM and walked a short distance to another section where personal articles were returned; then we moved to the center of Frankfurt that evening. Oct 11-Oct 20 at Dulag and at 6:00 PM on the latter was transported via street cars to the railroad station where we boarded freight cars. Forty-three men to a car plus three guards. Spent three nights and two days going by the way of Erfurt and Leipzig to Sagan. Arrived at Stalag Luft III on Sunday Morning the 23rd of October at 9:00 AM.
Gale "Buck" Cleven on Maj John Egan:
IN AN INTERVIEW WITH BUCK CLEVEN (JAN 2001), HE REVEALED THAT HIM AND EGAN WERE ROOMMATES THROUGHOUT FLYING SCHOOL. IN FACT, IT WAS EGAN WHO GAVE GALE CLEVEN HIS NICKNAME "BUCK". SEEMS THAT MAJ EGAN HAD A FRIEND IN WISCONSIN THAT WAS NAMED BUCK WHO LOOKED EXACTLY LIKE CLEVEN. EVERYTIME EGAN INTRODUCED CLEVEN TO PEOPLE; HE SAID "HERE IS MY FRIEND "BUCK" CLEVEN. CLEVEN SAID THAT EVEN THOUGH HE DID NOT LIKE IT, THE NICKNAME STUCK AND FROM THAT POINT ON, HE WAS "BUCK" CLEVEN. CLEVEN SAID THAT JOHN WAS A QUITE PERSON WHO WAS QUICK WITTED AND A GOOD DRINKER. A VERY LIKEABLE INDIVIDUAL. BOTH OF THEM SPENT TIME IN SEBRING FLYING B-24 SUBMARINE PATROL. JOHN ALSO BOUGHT HIS FAMOUS FLEECE LINED FLYING JACKET WHILE TRAINING PILOTS AT SAN ANGELO TX. SEEMS IT WAS ARMY AIR CORP ISSUE AND WAS BEING DISCONTINUED. JOHN LOVED THAT JACKET AND IS SEEN IN MOST PICTURES WEARING IT, CLEVEN THOUGHT IT ALWAYS LOOKED DIRTY. BOTH MEN REMAINED CLOSE FRIENDS AFTER THE WAR, UNFORTUNATELY JOHN PASSED AWAY FROM A HEART ATTACK AROUND 1961 AT THE AGE OF 45. HE HAD TWO DAUGHTERS AND WE WOULD LOVE TO HEAR FROM THEM.
MORE REMEMBRANCES FROM GALE "BUCK" CLEVEN: POW experience on Mooseburg march.
During the forced March to Mooseburg from Stalag Luft III, we came to a rest in a building used by Polish and Russian Slave labor, the straw mattress on the bunks were so infested with bugs they could have moved by themselves. We burned the straw mattresses and then washed down the concrete building with cold water. Now come night time this building was cold and damp and we only had one blanket each and had to sleep on cold springs. Well that night, John Egan came up to me and said" Buck, I think there are some strange things going on in this camp", to which I replied he was crazy. Later that night, John was sleeping on the lower bunk and I was on the upper bunk, both freezing our butts off on metal springs and one blanket and John says to me, "Buck, can I climb up into your bunk to keep warm and my reply was "John, I think there are strange things going on in this camp!"
Egan at Stalag Luft III
Upon John's shoot down over Munster (led the mission to avenge his frind Gale Cleven being shot down two days earlier) and arrival at Stalag Luft III, the first thing Cleven said to Egan was "What the Hell took you so Long" and he replied, "That's what I get for being sentimental"! John was my roommate in Primary pilot training; we were Squadron Commanders in the same group and roommates in POW camp.
"You could tell a new POW because all they talked about was Woman, long time POW's talked about FOOD!!!!!!!!!!!"
One story I didn’t see in Masters of the Air that Buck told was about a Officer in Stalag Luft III that just hated Navigators. Why? Well, they were shot up over Germany and the pilot told the navigator to set a course for Sweden. When they landed they noticed all the planes had black crosses on them! Where the hell did you put us, the pilot demanded of the navigator. Copenhagen. Every one knows Copenhagen is the capital of Sweden, said the navigator. THIS is why I hate NAVIGATORS!!
Major Gale Cleven passed away on Nov 17, 2006 at the age of 87 years old. His first wife's name was Marge who passed away from a Brain aneurysm when she was 32. She was the love of his life. (Maj) Gale W. Clevens died in Sheridan Wyoming. Buried Santa Fe National Cemetery, Santa Fe, New Mexico.
Cleven was only married twice. His second wife was Esther “Lee” Athey Cleven.
CLEVEN, GALE W. (POW) DSC
The President of the United States takes pleasure in presenting the Distinguished Service Cross to Gale W. Cleven, Major (Air Corps), U.S. Army Air Forces, for extraordinary heroism in connection with military operations against an armed enemy while serving as Pilot of a B-17 Heavy Bomber in the 350th Bombardment Squadron, 100th Bombardment Group (H), EIGHTH Air Force, while participating in a bombing mission on 17 August 1943, against enemy ground targets in Bremen, Germany. On that date, Major Cleven was leader of the low squadron. Throughout approximately two hours of constant fighter attack, his squadron was the principal focal point of the enemy's fire. Early in the encounter, south of Antwerp, he lost his entire second element of three B-17's yet maintained his vulnerable and exposed position in the formation rigidly in order to keep his guns uncovered. Approximately 30 minutes before reaching the target, his airplane received the following battle damage. A 20- mm. cannon shell penetrated the right side of the airplane and exploded beneath the pilot, damaging the electrical system and injuring the top turret gunner in the leg. A second 20-mm. shell entered the radio compartment, killing the radio operator, who bled to death with his legs severed above the knees. A third 20-mm. shell entered the left side of the nose, tearing out a section of Plexiglas about two feet square, tore away the right hand nose-gun installation and injured the bombardier in the head and shoulder. A fourth 20 mm shell entered the cabin roof and severed the rudder cables to one side of the rudder. A sixth 20 mm cannon shell exploded in the #3 engine, destroying all engine controls. The engine caught fire and lost its power, but the fire eventually died out. Confronted with structural damage, partial loss of control, fire in the air and serious injuries to personnel, and faced with fresh waves of fighters still rising to the attack, Major Cleven had every justification for abandoning ship. His crew, some of them comparatively inexperienced youngsters, were preparing to bail out, since no other course appeared open. The Co-Pilot pleaded repeatedly with Major Cleven to abandon ship. Major Cleven's reply at this critical juncture, although the odds were overwhelmingly against him, was as follows, " You son of a bitch, you sit there and take it. " These strong words were heard over the inter-phone and had a magical effect on the crew. They stuck to their guns. The airplane continued to the target, bombed it and reached base in North Africa. Major Cleven's actions were far above and beyond the call of duty and the skill, courage and strength of will displayed by him as airplane and squadron commander in the face of hopeless odds have seldom, if ever, been surpassed in the annals of the Army Air Forces. The personal courage and devotion to duty displayed by Major Cleven on this occasion have upheld the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit upon himself, the 8th Air Force, and the United States Army Air Forces.
Headquarters: European Theater of Operations, U.S. Army, General Orders No. 61 (1943)
Personal Awards: Distinguished Service Cross (WWII), Distinguished Flying Cross, 4@ Air Medals
buck cleven after the war
Date: Fri, 24 Nov 2006 08:12:04
Subject: Buck Cleven
Hope you had a good Thanksgiving.
Just wanted to thank you for the call the other night….So glad to hear you
got up to see Buck in September.
I want to pass on some of the stories we talked about, the stories about
Buck after he got out of the service. You must know about his time in the
Pentagon when, as I understand it, he was responsible for the first room
size computers in the 50s. It’s ironic that he had nothing to do with the
modern computer age….not even messing with a answering machine.
I will be sending you some stuff about when Buck worked at Hughes
Aircraft, it would be a lot to type up so I’ll just send copies of pages
from, “The KING of the Seven Dwarfs”, Barney Oldfield’s book about GE’s
computer business. Buck Cleven is featured in an important part of that
While at Hughes, Curtis LeMay offered Buck a position in a company called
Network Electronics which Buck took. LeMay was President of the Company
and Buck was Executive Vice Pres. The Company was owned by someone called
Patrickney (don’t know if that spelling is right). This company (I think
it was making stuff for the aircraft industry) was really doing good,
after LaMay and Cleven took over, the profits started going threw the
roof. The only problem was Patrickney, if he had set back and just let
Curtis and Buck run things, everything would have been alright, but
Patrickney always wanted to be in the middle of things.
One morning when Buck came to work, Patrickney was redoing the whole
production line after Buck had spent weeks getting all the bugs worked
out. Buck quit the company right there and LeMay left soon after. Buck
didn’t say what happened to the company after that. Buck went back to
I put the following together from several conversations I had with Buck, I
didn’t write anything down so I’m going just from memory. I talked to
George Ott (92nd Bomb Group, Stalat Luft 3 with Buck)and he remembers
Buck telling him some of the same things.
Hope you find this of some interest……..
Buck Cleven was asked to take over the management of private collage down
in Florida. I’m not sure on the time period, the 70s? It was called
Webber Collage and was darn near bankrupt. Buck was brought on because of
his leading and management abilities.
(I checked the collage web site but they have no history listed after 1975.)
The first thing Buck did was fire a bunch of the employees, I can’t
remember how many but it was a lot. I seem to remember Buck saying there
were only fifty some students when he came on. The kids pretty much had
the run of the school and had little or no discipline. Buck hired some
new teachers that would lay down the law and if the kids wouldn’t listen
they were to be sent to him. It wasn’t long before one of the “toughs”
ended up at Bucks door. This tough challenged Buck to settle things once
and for all. Buck suggested the next day at 10AM in front of the school.
Word got around fast----The school trusties suggested Buck should leave
town. The next morning at 10 Buck walked out to meet this big young
tough. Buck warned him that he had fought in three wars and he could
guarantee that this young feller will end up in the hospital. After
thinking about it for a minute or two this nervous, twenty something kid
backed down against someone who was forty some years older than him!! I
asked Buck how he knew this kid would back down. Buck said he didn’t know
he would back down. I asked Buck what would he have done if he didn’t
fall for his bluff. Buck said it wasn’t a bluff. Buck said he would have
grabbed his right hand and bent it back at the wrist and then broke his
windpipe! I have no doubt he would have done it. After this little
episode, discipline was no longer a problem.
Another thing that was happening was local kids would drive in on the
school grounds and tear up the lawns. Buck took the bull by the horns and
was ready the next time some kids came tearing in. Buck let go with some
well placed shotgun blasts to the tires and rear of the car. It caused
quite an uproar and the paper came out to interview Buck, he was asked
about what if one of the kids had gotten hurt. Buck quipped that he had
aimed at the kids but he was just a lousy shot and had hit the car
instead. After this they had no more trouble with kids tearing up the
grounds. It would be interesting if this article could be found!
Things got steadily better at Webber collage, good teachers, increasing
enrollment, Buck applied for and got several lucrative grants. Buck
sought out and got some outstanding basketball players and Webber went
quite far in its ball program (I don’t remember what title they won).
Webber Collage was doing good, a little too good. The school trusties
started thinking they should be paid for doing such a good job, these were
the same ones that had stood by before as Webber was run into the ground.
Buck figured he didn’t have to put up with the greed and left. This ended
another chapter in the life of Buck Cleven.
These few stories have just scratched the surface of Bucks time at Webber,
it would be interesting to visit with someone who was there at the time.
Again, I hope this is of some interest. My hope is that someday someone
will write a book about Bucks life. I don’t know why folks have to write
fiction when there are true stories like Bucks to be told!!
Sorry, but I don’t have much info about Bucks first wife. He never told
me about her, I found out about her through George, he said she died very
young, in fact her whole family passed away in a relatively short
time…..brothers, sisters?? George can't remember her name. George said
they got to know Bucks wife when they came out to visit (in the fifties?)
she was a very nice gal. Buck and his wife drove out to George’s farm in
a pink Cadillac! George’s kids thought Buck was some kind of a Dandy-
city slicker, but when he rolled up his sleeves, donned a welding helmet
and went to work helping George in the shop, the kids realized there was
more to Buck than what met the eye! George also told about visiting Buck
years later in Washington when he was sent out there with some sort of
farm delegation. Buck showed George around the bowls of the Pentagon and
ended up at a party at Bucks place, this is where George met Bucks 2nd
wife Lee. Lee harangued George on how the Catholics were taking over the
world (George is Catholic).
Found something that you may or may not be interested in.
It concerns Bucks time at Hughes Aircraft. George Snively wrote up a play
that was performed at the GE Computer Department reunion in San Francisco
on Oct 10, 2006. Buck was to attend this reunion but of course his
medical condition prevented this.
Buck is considered quite a hero at GE!!
I apologize if this is something you have seen already.
Warm Regards…..Scott email@example.com
Shoot-out at Hughes Aircraft
A Western Drama in three Acts
The Protagonists: GE & IBM Author, Playwright & Director: George Snively
Character Who Played by
The Villain Buck Rogers IBM Western Region Mgr.. Vic Casebolt
The Hero Doc Gale Cleven VP IT Hughes Aircraft Nate Norris
Gunslinger #1 George Snively, Mgr. Sales Financing GE Joe McGoldrick
Gunslinger #2 Don Benscotter, VP Mrkt. Lease Financing Corp. George Snively
Deputy #1 Hughes Security Guard Warren Prince
Deputy #2 Hughes Security Guard Bill Peake
Sheriff Old Codger (Cleven’s coffee buddy) George Jacobi
The Narrator - Ken Fisher
Props: 2 Tables (one to be used as desk) 6 Chairs 2 Coffee cups
3 Telephones (not connected) 2 Security guard caps 2 Tent signs:
“Doc. Gale Cleven”
“Hughes Aircraft Cafeteria”
Small “sandwich board” signs for the actors –except the security guards.
ACT I Scene One
The curtain opens showing a table labeled “Hughes Aircraft Cafeteria”.
There is a man (with a small sandwich board labeled “Old Codger”) sitting
there with a cup of coffee.
Narrator : The Hughes Aircraft Company had long been a bastion of the
IBM Company and was totally “Big Blue”. Paul Shapiro doggedly called
on them but could never get passed the receptionist – until Hughes hired
a non-IBMer, Doc. Gale Cleven, as VP of IT. Paul was able to get an
appointment with Doc and brought in the 600 team to make a presentation.
Doc. Cleven was impressed and decided to give GE a chance.
You are looking in on Hughes Aircraft’s cafeteria where an old codger is
sipping a cup of coffee. (As an aside: Doc wanted to attend this reunion
but recently had a brain tumor removed and didn’t feel quite up to the
Doc Cleven holding a cup of coffee ENTERs stage left. He spots the
Doc Cleven: “Hello. Do you mind if I sit with you?”
OC: “Not at all. Have a seat”
Cleven sits opposite the Old Codger.
OC: “You’re new around here aren’t you?”
DC: “Yes. I’m the new VP of IT.”
DC: “ Yes. I was hired to get the computer costs under control.”
OC: “How’s it going?”
DC: “Well. So far I’ve sent enough equipment back to IBM to reduce the
monthly rental from $12 to $9 million.”
OC: “Sounds good.”
DC: “Yes. But it hasn’t made IBM very happy with me.” “See you around”
Cleven gets up and leaves.
ACT I Scene Two
Narrator : This scene takes place several days later. Still in
the cafeteria. Cleven holding a cup of coffee, ENTERs stage left. He
spots the Old Codger and goes to sit with him.
OC: “How are things today?”
DC: “IBM is giving me fits”
DC: “We currently have two IBM 7094’s that need replacing. I’m
planning to replace one of them with an IBM 360 and the other with a GE
600.” After operating them for 24 months I’ll then decide whether to
go all IBM or all GE.
IBM is having a fit about my soliciting proposals from GE. They have
proposed not charging rent on the 7094’s during the estimated three
months to get the 360’s up and running. This is about $90,000 per 7094.
Of course the rent will continue on the one being replaced with a GE 600
– putting GE at a $90,000 disadvantage. I can’t eat that $90,000
OC: “What does GE say?”
DC: “GE has come up with a very creative way to equal IBM’s $90,000
savings through a sale and leaseback of one of the 7094’s.”
DC: “It is, except that IBM is refusing to let us assign our purchase
option to the leasing company- even though they let their other
customers do it.
Well, I’d better get back to work. Have a good day.”
Doc Cleven LEAVES and goes to his office – the desk in the center of the
ACT I Scene Three
Stage right, shows two people sitting at separate tables (or just on
chairs) talking on telephones:
Narrator : We are eavesdropping on a conversation between Don
Benscotter of Lease Financing Corporation and GE’s Manager of Sales
Financing – George Snively. Let’s listen as George is talking.
George Snively: “Don, as you are aware, Hughes’ Doc Cleven has set up
a two year contest between us and IBM. We would like to pitch one of
leases to him – but he is trying to be scrupulously fair in setting up the
However, I have an idea. We would be amenable to selling the 600 system
with an option to return it after 24 months and treat it as if it had been
rented if we lose the contest.
Could you handle it as an early termination in a seven-year net lease?
Don Benscotter: “I’m sure that we can but I’ll check with our people
and have them run the numbers.’
GS “Good. Do you think that you could get the word to Cleven that
we might be amenable to such a transaction? We don’t want to appear to
be trying to avoid the 24-month contest.”
DB; “As you may know, following the IBM 7094 deal where we finally
forced IBM to assign us the purchase option, I’ve been working with
Hughes’ Treasurer and Pat Hyland, the President to finance several other
important transactions for Hughes. I’ve completed the financing for
the purchase and lease of their Malibu Research building, and I’m
meeting with them tomorrow in LA on another deal they want us to do.
I’ve been planning on dropping in to see Cleven when I’m there.
Not only will I get your proposal to him, but also I think I can make him
think it’s his idea. I’ll remind him that the other week we kicked
around various ideas on how he might get the investment tax credit.
He’s intrigued by your term “diamond dollars” and keeps asking how he can
get some of them.” This is one way he can get them.
GS Sounds good to me.
ACT II Scene One
This act takes place in Doc Cleven’s office.
Narrator : We look in on Doc Cleven in his office while he’s on the
phone with George Snively.
DC: George, I want you to catch the next plane and get over here.
I’ve got something to discuss with you. Pause.
OK, tomorrow will be soon enough if you can’t make it today.. I’ll pick
you up at the airport and we’ll go to lunch. I’m buying as I’m selling
ACT II Scene Two
Narrator : Time flies and we look into Doc Cleven’s office the next day.
George Snively enters stage right and sits down at Cleven’s desk.
GS: Ok what’s the urgency and why all the mystery?
DC: I want you to sell the GE 600 system to Lease Financing with an
option to rent.
DC: Yes. If the GE equipment is not selected at the end of the 24
months you will refund the purchase price and charge them the 24 months
rent. Hughes will get the investment tax credit and if we keep the
equipment we will have the advantage of the much lower seven-year lease
rate. GE will have the use of the cash for two years and save the
personal property tax. It’s a win-win for all three of us.
GS: Where do you get these crazy ideas? I’m not sure it makes sense
but I’ll go back to Phoenix and put a pencil to it.
DC: You don’t need to. I’ve already talked to Don Benscotter about it
and he has run the numbers. Your job is to go back to Phoenix and
convince Vern Cooper to take the deal. If he doesn’t, he’s dumber than
I think he is.
GS: “OK. I’ll try.”
ACT III Scene One
This act takes place back in the cafeteria where the Old Codger is sitting.
Cleven holding a cup of coffee, ENTERs stage right (from his desk).
Sits down across from the Old Codger.
OC: “How’s your day going?”
DC: “Buck Rogers, IBM’s Regional Manager, has heard a rumor that we
might be signing a long-term lease on the GE system and he’s madder than
a wet hen. He’s insisting that he meet with my boss and me
immediately. He’s insinuating all kinds of things like bribery and is
threatening to get me fired.”
OC: “Let me introduce myself. (Turns the sandwich board with the name
“Old Codger” around to the side that says, “Howard Hall – Attorney”) My
name is Howard Hall. I’m Howard Hughes’ personal attorney and I’ve
been keeping detailed notes of our conversations and believe that we
have a cause of action against IBM for their statements and actions.
In anticipation of such a show down, I’ve prepared instructions for you.”
Hands Cleven a piece of paper.
OC These are instructions to follow if Mr. Rogers is abusive and
threatens your job..
ACT III Scene Two
Doc Cleven returns to his office.
Enter Buck Rogers
Buck Rogers: “My sources tell me that you are planning to sign a long
term lease on the GE junk. You know that they don’t know anything about
building computers and certainly can’t provide the software that Hughes
Aircraft needs. Only IBM can service your needs. If you persist in
this foolishness, we’ll have to let Howard Hughes know of your
incompetence and that you have been taking bribes from Lease Financing.
We’ll have your job.”
Cleven picks up the phone and dials a number.
Cleven: “Code One”
BR: “What happened to your plan for conducting a fair 24 month contest?
We went along with the crazy idea because you assured us that you would
conduct it fairly.”
Security Guards rush in from the back of the room while Rodgers is
Cleven : “Please escort Mr. Rogers off of Hughes Aircraft property.”
Security guards gently, but firmly, pick up Buck Rogers and carry him
out of the room.
BR: As he’s being carried out. “You can’t do this to me. I’ll see
that Mr. Watson calls Howard Hughes. You’ll regret this.”
Narrator : Hughes Aircraft subsequently ordered TWO GE 600 systems
which, Doc. Cleven recently advised, remained in service for 8 to 10
Thus ends another chapter in the fascinating saga of the Computer
As a former resident of the great state of Wyoming, which remains the best place I've ever lived, I was saddened to receive a letter a few weeks ago from Scott Nelson, a farmer/rancher/aviation artist from North Dakota, who became friends with the late Gale 'Buck' Cleven, of the 100th Bomb Group.
Scott wrote me: "When Buck passed away in Sheridan, Wyoming, I tried to get the papaer there to run an obituary on him--Buck always considered himself as a Wyoming native and I thought it would be nice if the state would recognize him. No luck. Guess they figured he wasn't 'important' enough.
I then contacted the small Lemmon, South Dakota paper and they thought it was very important and they ran it, with some errors. This is the only obituary run of Buck that I know of--unfortunately, this small paper is not on the AP wire so the story went no further."
Time to rectify that situation, Scott. What follows is the obituary for Dr. Gale W. 'Buck' Cleven in its entirety, though it may take me a while to type it all. Because, Buck, you were and are an American hero and you deserve it.
'Dr. Gale W. 'Buck' Cleven passed from this life on November 17, 2006. Born December 27, 1919 in the Lemmon (SD) area, he moved to the Casper, Wyoming area where he worked on drilling crews and worked his way through the University of Wyoming. Dr. Cleven received degrees from Harvard and his geological doctorate degree at George Washington University. Dr. Cleven led a very accomplished life including fighting in three wars (WWII, Korea, and Vietnam), held a post at the Petnagon and was in charge of EDP information at Hughes Aircraft. Later, Dr. Cleven reorganized staffing and leadership at Webber University in Florida. Dr. Cleven retired in Dickinson, North Dakota and later at the Sugarland Ridge Retirement Center in Sheridan, Wyoming, where he resided until his death.
There are several books and web site postings of Buck's service in WWII including Masters of the Air: America's Bomber Boys who Fought the Air War Against Nazi Germany. In Masters of the Air, author Donald Miller credits Cleven, Eighth Air Force Squadron Commander, for giging the 100th Bomb Group its personality. Miller's book retells Major Cleven's story: 'On October 8, 1943, Major Buck Clevens (sic) was shot down over Bremen by three Luftwaffe fighters when they flew out of the sun and tore into his fortress, knocking out three engines, blowing holes in the tail and nose, sheering of a good part of the left wing. The situation hopeless, Cleven ordered the crew to jump. He was the last man out of the plane. When he jumped the bomber was only about 2,000 feet from the ground. Hanging from his parachute, Cleven saw he was going to land near a small farm house. He spun out of control and went flying through the open back door and into the kitchen, knocking over furniture and a small iron stove. The farmer's wife and daughter began screaming hysterically and, in a flash, the farmer had a pitchfork pressed against Cleven's chest. 'In my pitiful high school German I tried to convince him I was a good guy. But he wasn't buying it.'
Buck was taken to a prison camp where he spent about 18 months before escaping to Allied lines. Cleven escaped while being marched to Moosburg's Stalag VIIA. Among his many accomplishments during his time of service, Buck earned a Distinguished Service Cross, and Silver Star, Bronze Star. The DFC was for his heroic participation in the 'double-strike' of Regensburg and Schweinfurt on August 17, 1943. Sixty bombers and almost 600 men were lost. The aircraft factories and ball bearing plants were being guarded by the most formidable aerial defenses in the world at the time. Cleven was in the vulnerable low squadron--so called the Coffin Corner, the last and lowest group in the bomber stream. Cleven's plane was being shredded by enemy fighters. Cleven's co-pilot panicked and prepared to bail out. Cleven ordered his co-pilot to stay put. His words were heard over the interphone and had a magical effect on the rest of the crew. They stuck to their guns. His actions that day at Regensburg were said to 'electrify the base'. Lt. Col. Bierne Lay (who would later write the famous 'Twelve O'Clock High) recommended Cleven for a Medal of Honor. This was downgraded to a DFC, but Cleven never went to pick up the medal, claiming he didn't deserve it. He was quoted as saying, "Medal, hell, I needed an aspirin".
More history of Dr. Cleven's leadership at Hughes Aircraft is detailed in The King and the Seven Dwarfs, by Barney Oldfield.
Dr. Cleven is survived by his wife Lee Cleven of Ooltwah, TN, his sister Doris Shaw and one nephew of Dallas, TX. He was proceeded in death by his first wife Marge Cleven. His remains were laid to rest in Sante Fe, New Mexico."
Rest in peace, Buck. Wyoming honors you.
Original 100th, Crew #A3, 350th Squadron Commander. POW Oct 8, 1943, Stalag Luft III and Later escaped from Moosburg March and returned to Thorpe Abbotts in Apr 1945.
Gale Buck Cleven was the "assistant henhouse operator" at Stalag Luft III, West Compound, and I confirmed that henhouse = birds = clandestine radio. So Cleven oversaw the secret radio!
Here is the attached doc.
By the way, I found Egan in West compound this morning. Here are the two men's entries from the West compound book.
Gale H. "Bucky" Cleven
Entry date to West Cpd. C27/04/44 - The C is for Center compound. Just as Egan's, states S for South Compound. Michael, remember we found Egan in that South during the reunion. There's the six months that Egan was missing. This morning I found an entry stating Cleven came into Luft III on October 23, 1943.
8th Air Force
John C “Bucky” Egan
Major, Squadron Commander
MIA – 14/10/43
Entry date to West Cpd. - S27/04/44 – We have confirmation of Egan being in South Compound
That’s the one I purchased. I found an error in Miller’s book. He says Buck escaped with George Aring and George Niethammer. I found today that he was with Lt Col Wilbur W Aring and Niethammer. Aring was with the 319th BG. Aring was with the two remaining Doolittle Raiders in that bomb group when they were shot down. Interesting guy and history. Niethammer, he was Cleven’s best friend in College.
Gale "Bucky" Cleven - Original 100th. Cleven was the first Commanding Officer of the 350th. Gale was shot down on the 8 Oct 1943 mission to Bremen. (100th Photo Archives)
Press release photo of Gale W. Cleven. (100th Photo Archives)
Gale W. Cleven, 350th CO with his Orderly Room Personnel. This photo was taken in 1945 upon Cleven's return to Thorpe Abbotts. The personnel with Bucky are from left Nelson, Zinkine, Williams, and Spence (100th Photo Archives)
Gale W. Cleven in the 350th area at Thorpe Abbotts. (100th Photo Archives)
Gale W. Cleven and Richard A. Carey (100th Photo Archives)
Gale W. Cleven addresses 350th personnel upon his return to Thorpe Abbotts in 1945. The popular 350th CO had returned from captivity in April 1945 to the elation of his squadron mates. (100th Photo Archives, Nathan Howland restored
350th Squadron Commander - Gale W. Cleven (100th Photo Archives)
Gale "Bucky" Cleven - Original 350th Commanding Officer. (100th Photo Archives)
Original photograph of Gale "Bucky" Cleven returning to the 350th after escaping from Mooseburg March in April of 1945. William H. Fletcher Collection
Gale "Bucky" Cleven and Robert "Rosie" Rosenthal at the 100th Salt Lake City, Utah reunion. (Photo Courtesy of Cindy Goodman)
Standing L to R; Maj. Bill Veal 349th CO, Unidentified Seated: Maj. Gale "Bucky" Cleven, and Capt. Richard Carey 350th Operations Officer (100th Photo Archives)
(Article courtesy of Matt Mabe)
(Article courtesy of Matt Mabe)
Maj Gale "Buck" Cleven escape and evasion photos . (100th BG Photo Archives)
Photo taken at Stalag Luft III with Gale Cleven believed to be in back row
Buck Cleven and Don Bradley stateside. Photo courtesy of Donald "Duck" Bradley/Laurence Bradley.
UNK person drawing Gale Buck Cleven. Photo courtesy of Donald "Duck" Bradley/Laurence Bradley.
Maj Gale "Buck" Cleven, CO of 350th BS in B-10 jacket and famous crusher. Photo taken between July-October 8, 1943 by John Schwartz and cleaned up by Matt Mabe.
Maj David “Handlebar Hank” Lyster, Major Gale Cleven Major Gale “Buck” Cleven, Major Robert “Rosie” Rosenthal upon Cleven’s return to Thorpe Abbotts in April 1945.
From Left: Robert V. Kaiser, J. W. Hardy, Bucky Elton, holding one of the 100th's newest mascots, McMatron and Bucky Cleven. Compassion and caring for animal was a common thing for the men of the 100th. One cannot but be awed by the gentle manner in which Elton is holding the small kitten. At Elton's right is Doc Hardy - 350th Flight Surgeon who often ministered to the 350th's "guests." To display such regard for all life while in the company of violent death themselves is just one of the reasons they are "Our Greatest Generation." (100th Photo Archives)
Some original 350th Squadron Officers: From left; Unk, Donald Blazer, Mark Carnell, Frank Seibert, Tim MacMahon, Bucky Cleven, Richard ??, Horace Varian, and Robert Tinken. This photo was made in 1945 after Cleven escaped and returned to Thorpe Abbotts. He was, in keeping with normal procedures, was rotated to the States. (100th Photo Archives)
Major William Veal, the 349th Squadron Commander left, and Gale W. Cleven, 350th Squadron Commander. The others in the photograph are not identified. (100th Photo Archives)
350th Officers; From left: J. E. Bowers, Horace Varian, Gale W. Cleven, Albert Paul, Clouter (100th Photo Archives)
Major John C. Egan, 418th Squadron Commander, left and Gale W. Cleven, 350th Squadron Commander. They were two of the 100th's three Buckies. The third was Albert Elton, the only one of the three to complete his tour. Cleven was shot down at Bremen, Oct 8, 43 and Egan was to follow him into captivity 48 hours later, 10 Oct 43 at Munster. (100th Photo Archives)
Cleven and Egan re-enacting classic photo 10 years later.
Original tooled 350th patch on Buck Cleven Jerkin jacket (courtesy of Jack O'Leary)
The first reunion of the 100th after WWII. Bolling Field -- 22 Nov 1946. Pictured are many notables of the group -- Standing L-R Buck Cleven, John Egan, David Lyster, Jack Wallace, Butch Rovegno,
Sitting: Al Paul, Butch Goodwin, Harry Cruver, Horace Varian to name a few.
- DEMARCO, Bernard A. - P
- THAYER, James P. - CP
- DOWNS, John W. - NAV
- HARPER, Francis C. - BOM
- BARR, Benjamin J. - TTE
- CALLAHAN, Leo T. - TTE
- STRINGFELLOW, Thornton - ROG
- CLEVEN, Gale W. - COM
- FREITAS, Albert M. - BTG
- CALHOUN, Harry C. - WG
- WOODBURY, William R. - WG
- CASTRO, Leon A. - TG