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Personnel

Maj

Gale W. "Buck" CLEVEN

Army Serial Number: O-399782
Assigned to the 100th Bombardment Group
Location: Gowen Field
Unit: 350th Bombardment Squadron
Rank: Major
Position: Command Pilot Position
Beginning Date of 100th Service: October 27, 1942
Time of Service at Thorpe Abbotts: Unknown - Unknown

Other Associated Aircraft

Serial #: 42-30068
Name: Phartzac

Additional 100th Service Notes

Status: ESC
MACR: 00950
CR: 00950
Comments: 8 OCT 43 BREMEN (CO 350th Bomb Squadron) (ESCAPED) DSC

Awards and Commendations (in the order received)

Distinguished Service Cross

Distinguished Flying Cross

Air Medal

Media Articles

Use your thumb to scroll through the results box below.

Media ItemTypePageVolume/IssueBroadcast SourceTimeDescriptionFile
Beirne Lay describes bravery of John Egan, Gale ClevenPrintThe Idaho Statesman Oct 31 194312:00 am

Comments and Notes

Memo 1:
CREW
GALE WINSTON "BUCK" CLEVEN
SN# O-399782
ORIGINAL 100TH BOMB GROUP PILOT
350TH BOMB SQUADRON COMMANDING OFFICER

ORIGINAL 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 ABBOTTS IN APRIL 1945, STANDARD PROCEDURES PROHIBITED HIS RETURN TO OPERATIONS.

Major Gale W. Cleven
Enlisted at age 21 years 2 months
March 29-Aug 30, 1940- Flying Cadet Randolph Field TX - (with John Egan and Ollen Turner)
Sept 9-Nov 14, 1940- Flying Cadet, Kelly Field TX - (With John Egan and Ollen Turner)
Nov 15, 1940 Kelly Field, promoted from Flying Cadet to 2nd Lieutenant ACR (Air Corp Reserve)
(John Egan, Gale Cleven, and Ollen Turner)
March 22, 1941- Advanced Flying School, Barksdale Army Air Field, LA.
April 25, 1942- Promoted to 1st Lieutenant, AC (Gale Cleven, John Egan, and William Veal)
May 25, 1942- McDill AAF, 29th Bombardment Group, Lt John Egan, Lt Gale Cleven Lt William Veal Instructors
July 28, 1942-Transferred to Gowen Field, Boise Idaho, Promoted to Captain
October 1942- Gowan Field Army Air Field, Boise Idaho Commanding Officer 350th Bomb Squadron, 100th Bomb Group (H)
November 1942-Walla Walla AAF, WA
December 1942- Wendover AAF
January 1943-Promoted to Major, Sioux City, Iowa
October 8, 1943, Shot down while on Bremen Mission, Deputy Lead. POW Stalag Luft III
October 1943 – March 1945 POW-Stalag Luft III
Escapes from March 1945 to Mooseberg Stalag VIIA and reaches American Lines, returned to Thorpe Abbotts in April 1945.
Feb 1955 - Cleven is a Full Colonel (retired from the USAF in Oct 1964)

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MAY 25, 1943 KEARNY NEBRASKA TO ENGLAND A/C 42-29738

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

Medals:
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. ALBERT 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 friend 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.

POWs:
"You could tell a new POW because all they talked about was Woman, long time POWs talked about FOOD!!!!!!!!!!!"

One story that wasn't published 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!!

During the forced march to Moosburg, Cleven escaped with Wilbur Aring and George Niethammer. Aring had served with the 319th Bomb Group, and Niethammer served with the 454th Bomber Group. Of note, Niethammer had been a close college friend of Cleven.

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CLEVEN, GALE W. (POW) DSC
Synopsis:
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, 4x Air Medals

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Buck Cleven and George Ott:

While being held as a POW at Stalag Luft III, Cleven developed a close friendship, one that would last a lifetime, with Maj. George Ott of the 92nd Bomb Group. Ott had a strong background in agriculture, and would walk around the prison camp and look for any blade of grass he could find. He would dig it up and he ended up growing a big enough area of grass that he would sit or lay on and read. One day Buck happened to see Ott on this patch of lawn and asked if he could sit on it. Ott said yes and that is how their friendship started. Ott also took part in the "advanced calculus" course Buck taught at Stalag Luft III. Ott always said how lucky he was to know Buck and he couldn’t believe how such a smart man, an astrophysicist, would want to have anything to do with a little sheep herder from North Dakota. They respected each other from that day forward and looked after each other until Buck died. During Buck's final years, Ott and his daughter flew down to Wyoming several times to spend time with Buck at the VA hospital. Though George didn’t need a wheelchair, he feigned the need for one as his old friend Buck had to use a wheelchair. The two old friends were pushed outside for some fresh air, and Buck turned to George and jokingly said “Hey George, remember when we were young and would never let anyone push us around…” Both had a good chuckle about that. (These stories are courtesy of the Ott family and Scott Nelson).

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Gale Cleven Pre-War Years:

Gale Winston Cleven was born in Lemmon, rural Perkins County, South Dakota. The primary employment in Lemmon at that time was cattle ranching or working for the railroad. In 1920, Cleven's family moved to Lusk, Wyoming. Gale was a baby, age 1. Again, a small rural community surrounded by the great outdoors. When he is 11 the family lived in Midwest, Natrona County, Wyoming. Cleven graduates, as valedictorian, from Midwest high school. This is oilfield country, home of the Salt Creek oil fields. His father worked in the oil fields, as later, did he. Cleven was a member of the Boy Scouts and went on to achieve the rank of “Eagle Scout.”

Cleven would learn about the outdoors here because there isn't much else to do. During the depression hunting provided the family with wild game for food. Hunting would also teach Cleven a great deal about how to live in the world. Cleven is tough, confident, self contained, and shows no fear under fire. Research shows, that later, he worked in the oil fields to pay for his education at the University of Wyoming of three years. He received a full academic scholarship, and majored in math. Later he returned and finished his degree in Math, then earned a Masters in geology. Sometime in 1937, he moved to Bairoil, Wyoming in Sweetwater County, and again worked the oil fields. Cleven then joins the C.M.T.C. (Civilian Military Training Camp) program held at Fort Douglas, Utah. There his squad is awarded medals for efficiency. In 1939 Cleven is, again, a student at UW and lives in Laramie, Wyoming. Cleven had ambition as is seen throughout his life, and he exemplifies the toughness of a Wyomingite.

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Buck Cleven Post-War Years:

Following his return from Europe, Cleven married Marjorie Spencer in Lovington, New Mexico on July 3, 1945. John Egan served as the best man. Marjorie had been Cleven’s childhood sweetheart in Wyoming, and the two reconnected in Texas while Cleven was attending cadet training and Marjorie was in school at Texas Tech University. Marjorie died unexpectedly died of a brain aneurysm in 1953, and her death broke Cleven’s heart as she was the love of his life. In Cleven’s final years he still maintained a photo of Marjorie on his mantle.

After WWII, Cleven finished his undergraduate degree in mathematics at the University of Wyoming. Cleven cited the lack of money for mathematicians, and subsequently obtained a degree in Geology. Cleven obtained an M.B.A. from Harvard University in 1949. Cleven remained in the USAF and conducted atomic energy research during the Korean War. Cleven held a number of assignments in the USAF and was stationed at bases including, but not limited to, Norton AFB, Sandia AFB, and Bolling AFB. Cleven was ultimately promoted to full colonel. Cleven obtained a PHD in Astrophysics from Georgetown University in 1962, and wrote a dissertation titled “An astrometrical study of the region of Orion to utilize a method of amending astrographic data”

While stationed in Washington, D.C. circa the early 1960s-1964, Cleven was a project manager with the Advanced Research Projects Agency, Department of Defense. Cleven retired from the USAF on October 31, 1964.

In 1965, Cleven briefly served as the president of Network Electronics, owned by Curtis LeMay, though he later returned to Hughes Aircraft. In 1966, Cleven served as a Vice President of Hughes Aircraft. Following his time with Hughes, Cleven became the chief scientist of the Federal Highway Administration. Cleven’s final job was as the president of Webber College in Babson Park Florida from 1986-1988, where he worked to bring the school out of financial hardship and helped make it viable once again. Though this was Cleven's last full-time position, Cleven had a deep desire to remain useful and active, and took part in multiple collegiate substitute teaching opportunities in the years that followed. Cleven passed away on November 17, 2006 in Sheridan, Wyoming.

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November 2006:

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: "When Buck passed away in Sheridan, Wyoming, I tried to get the paper 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 giving 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."

KIA / MIA / EVA / INT Information:

Target:
Bremen
Aircraft:
"Our Baby" (42-3233)
Date:
1943-10-08
Cause:
EAC

Burial Information:

Cemetery:
Santa Fe National Cemetery

Photos

Crew List

1st Crew List

Use your thumb to scroll through the results box below.

Rank Name Pos Status
Maj CLEVEN, Gale W. COM ESC
Capt DEMARCO, Bernard P POW
F/O THAYER, James P. CP POW
Lt DOWNS, John W. NAV POW
Lt HARPER, Francis BOM POW
T/SGT BARR, Benjamin J. TTE POW
T/Sgt CALLAHAN, Leo T. TTE POW
S/SGT STRINGFELLOW, Thornton ROG POW
S/SGT FREITAS, Albert M. BTG POW
S/SGT CALHOUN, Harry C. WG POW
SGT WOODBURY, William R. WG POW
S/Sgt CASTRO, Leon TG XFR
2nd Crew List

Use your thumb to scroll through the results box below.

Rank Name Pos Status
Maj CLEVEN, Gale W. COM ESC
LT MENZIE, Kenneth I. CP/P CPT
Capt SCOTT, Norman P XFR