A Family History
William Bernice Clark (1924-1944)
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Born: 1924 Tennessee.
Died: 6 Jun 1944 Normandy France. 1 2
Buried: Normandy American Cemetery, Colleville-sur-Mer, France. 2
View Headstone/Memorial at www.findagrave.com

James Nelson Clark
28 Mar 1863-29 Oct 1901
William Clarence Clark
28 May 1894-3 May 1973
Married: 12 Nov 1885
Martha Ann Norwood
Aug 1866-5 Dec 1936
William Bernice Clark
1924-6 Jun 1944
Married: 12 Mar 1922
World War II Thomas Jordan Smothers
20 Nov 1871-8 Aug 1956
Alvada Pricilla Smothers
1903-13 Jan 1988
Married: 5 Mar 1893
Martha Elizabeth Brackin
1 Jul 1875-2 Jan 1957

D-Day dog tag makes it home, Soldier died in the sand of Omaha Beach June 6, 1944

HUNTINGDON - An Englishman picked it up while combing the beaches of Normandy, France, nearly 60 years after it was lost in World War II. Ava Clark Smothers welcomed its return here Wednesday morning and will keep it to pass on to her family's next generation. The dog tag belonging to Pvt. William Bernice Clark of Carroll County had been lost in the sand of Omaha Beach since the young soldier's death on June 6, 1944. Clark, 20, was killed in the first wave in the invasion of Normandy, better known as D-Day. The day marked the start of the Western Allied effort to free mainland Europe from Nazi occupation. An official with the National D-Day Memorial Foundation presented the dog tag to Ava and Lloyd Smothers, Clark's cousins, during a brief ceremony Wednesday - 63 years to the day of his death. "It's just a very thrilling experience," Ava Smothers said. "Well, it's something that happens just once in a lifetime. I just couldn't believe it was actually happening." The dog tag was found in 2002 and made its way several thousand miles to a New Jersey collector of D-Day artifacts. Then on Monday the D-Day Memorial Foundation in Bedford, Va., got temporary stewardship of it before it reached the Smotherses on Wednesday. "Can you imagine a piece of metal lying in the sand for nearly 60 years, and you can still read it?" D-Day veteran Tom Meadows said. "... It's just something very unusual. I just hope they don't find any more." Meadows was among about 50 people who attended Wednesday's ceremony. "It sent chills up and down my spine when I heard about it," said Ron Gilbert, commander of the Veterans of Foreign War Post 1294 in Lexington. Jeffrey Fulgham, director of development for the D-Day Foundation, presented the dog tag to the Smotherses, along with a letter from Bill Santora of New Jersey. Santora collects D-Day artifacts. The collector from England who found the dog tag didn't believe selling it would be the right thing to do and gave it to Santora, according to the D-Day Foundation. The idea to give it back to Clark's family arose when Santora visited the National D-Day Memorial one day and spoke with Fulgham. Thus began a search for Clark's family members. At the same time Fulgham was presenting the dog tag Wednesday, Santora announced at the National D-Day Memorial in Bedford that the tag had been delivered to Clark's family. The Smotherses also will receive the American flag that flew Wednesday at the Memorial. Huntingdon Mayor Dale Kelley presented a proclamation during Wednesday's ceremony from the town designating the day as "Pvt. William B. Clark Day." "This is a pretty remarkable day, and it's nice that some of his living relatives are still here to enjoy the day and celebrate the life," Kelley said. The dog tag ceremony was held at the War Memorial Monument in Huntingdon's Thomas Park. Clark's name appears on the local memorial as well as on the one in Bedford. Thomas Park is also near railroad tracks where there had once been a train station from which Clark and other soldiers would have departed for the war. Clark was part of Company E of the 116th Regiment of the 29th "Blue and Gray" Division. On D-Day he had been designated to land on a sector that was a stretch of Omaha Beach, officially known as Easy Green. But "with strong currents carrying his landing craft far east and heavy smoke obscuring landmarks, Clark instead found himself landing on Easy Red, (the) scene of some of the most intense fighting of the day," the D-Day Foundation's news release said. Clark was among the more than 4,000 Allied soldiers killed that day. He was buried in the American Cemetery near Colleville, Normandy. Ava Smothers described Clark, her first cousin, as a kind man who was friendly and outgoing and "just a good Christian boy." Ava's husband, Lloyd Smothers, is also a cousin of Clark's through a different family. Clark, Ava and her sister Lota Park were reared together in the country and were all more like siblings than cousins, Park said. Their fathers were brothers. Park said her cousin also had a sense of humor. She called him by his middle name. "Bernice was such a nice person," Park said. "... This was just fitting for Bernice." Fulgham said Wednesday's event was the highlight of his work with the D-Day Foundation. "This is what we're about ...," Fulgham said. "This is the first time we've been able to send a dog tag, that I'm aware of, to surviving family members. It's very special, and to be able to do it on the 63rd anniversary of D-Day, which is also the 63rd anniversary of his death, is also very significant."3 4 5

Sources:

  1. William B. Clark Death Notice
  2. American Battle Monuments Commission,http://www.abmc.gov/home.php
  3. The Jackson Sun,7/NEWS01/706070311
  4. William's Dog Tag and Photograph
  5. Letter From England

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