A Family History
William Bernice Clark (1924-1944)
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Born: 24 Jan 1924 Carroll County Tennessee. 1
Died: 6 Jun 1944 Normandy France. 2 3
Buried: Normandy American Cemetery, Colleville-sur-Mer, France. 3 4
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
24 Jan 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 ofOmaha Beach June 6, 1944

HUNTINGDON - An Englishman picked it up while combing thebeaches of Normandy, France, nearly 60 years after it waslost in World War II. Ava Clark Smothers welcomed itsreturn here Wednesday morning and will keep it to pass onto her family's next generation. The dog tag belonging toPvt. William Bernice Clark of Carroll County had been lostin the sand of Omaha Beach since the young soldier's deathon June 6, 1944. Clark, 20, was killed in the first wave inthe invasion of Normandy, better known as D-Day. The daymarked the start of the Western Allied effort to freemainland Europe from Nazi occupation. An official with theNational D-Day Memorial Foundation presented the dog tag toAva and Lloyd Smothers, Clark's cousins, during a briefceremony 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." Thedog tag was found in 2002 and made its way several thousandmiles to a New Jersey collector of D-Day artifacts. Then onMonday the D-Day Memorial Foundation in Bedford, Va., gottemporary stewardship of it before it reached theSmotherses on Wednesday. "Can you imagine a piece of metallying in the sand for nearly 60 years, and you can stillread it?" D-Day veteran Tom Meadows said. "... It's justsomething very unusual. I just hope they don't find anymore." Meadows was among about 50 people who attendedWednesday's ceremony. "It sent chills up and down my spinewhen I heard about it," said Ron Gilbert, commander of theVeterans of Foreign War Post 1294 in Lexington. JeffreyFulgham, director of development for the D-Day Foundation,presented the dog tag to the Smotherses, along with aletter from Bill Santora of New Jersey. Santora collectsD-Day artifacts. The collector from England who found thedog tag didn't believe selling it would be the right thingto do and gave it to Santora, according to the D-DayFoundation. The idea to give it back to Clark's familyarose when Santora visited the National D-Day Memorial oneday and spoke with Fulgham. Thus began a search for Clark'sfamily members. At the same time Fulgham was presentingthe dog tag Wednesday, Santora announced at the NationalD-Day Memorial in Bedford that the tag had been deliveredto Clark's family. The Smotherses also will receive theAmerican flag that flew Wednesday at the Memorial.Huntingdon Mayor Dale Kelley presented a proclamationduring Wednesday's ceremony from the town designating theday as "Pvt. William B. Clark Day." "This is a prettyremarkable day, and it's nice that some of his livingrelatives are still here to enjoy the day and celebrate thelife," Kelley said. The dog tag ceremony was held at theWar Memorial Monument in Huntingdon's Thomas Park. Clark'sname appears on the local memorial as well as on the one inBedford. Thomas Park is also near railroad tracks wherethere had once been a train station from which Clark andother soldiers would have departed for the war. Clark waspart of Company E of the 116th Regiment of the 29th "Blueand Gray" Division. On D-Day he had been designated to landon a sector that was a stretch of Omaha Beach, officiallyknown as Easy Green. But "with strong currents carryinghis landing craft far east and heavy smoke obscuringlandmarks, Clark instead found himself landing on Easy Red,(the) scene of some of the most intense fighting of theday," the D-Day Foundation's news release said. Clark wasamong 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 agood Christian boy." Ava's husband, Lloyd Smothers, isalso a cousin of Clark's through a different family. Clark,Ava and her sister Lota Park were reared together in thecountry and were all more like siblings than cousins, Parksaid. Their fathers were brothers. Park said her cousinalso had a sense of humor. She called him by his middlename. "Bernice was such a nice person," Park said. "...This was just fitting for Bernice." Fulgham saidWednesday's event was the highlight of his work with theD-Day Foundation. "This is what we're about ...," Fulghamsaid. "This is the first time we've been able to send a dogtag, that I'm aware of, to surviving family members. It'svery special, and to be able to do it on the 63rdanniversary of D-Day, which is also the 63rd anniversary ofhis death, is also very significant."5 6 7

Sources:

  1. Ancestry.com. U.S. WWII Draft Cards Young Men, 1940-1947
  2. William B. Clark Death Notice
  3. American Battle Monuments Commission,http://www.abmc.gov/home.php
  4. Ancestry.com. U.S., Headstone and Interment Records forU.S. Military Cemeteries on Foreign Soil, 1942-1949
  5. The Jackson Sun,7/NEWS01/706070311
  6. William's Dog Tag and Photograph
  7. Letter From England


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