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Clifford Ray Hall

Young American Patriots, 1946

West Virginia Veterans Memorial

Remember...

Clifford Ray Hall
1921-1943

"Older men declare war. But it is the youth that must fight and die."

Herbert Hoover

Herbert Hoover spoke the truth, as millions of young men sacrificed their lives for their country in World War II. Clifford Hall, a young man from West Virginia, was one of those brave heroes who gave up his life for his country.

U.S. Army Staff Sergeant Clifford Ray Hall was born on January 29, 1921, to unknown parents, but was then adopted by parents William M. Hall and Lillian Hall. He was raised along with a younger sister by six years, Ethel. His adopted father, William Maurice Hall, was born in 1893 in Roane County, West Virginia, to parents Erastus Hall and Lucy Della Greathouse; William was the oldest of six children and lived in Clay, West Virginia. William attained an eighth grade education, married Lillian Hall, and then raised Clifford and Ethel. According to the 1940 United States Federal Census, William supported his family by operating a cutting machine with a yearly income of $1,100.

Clifford grew up in Widen, a coal-mining town in Clay County that was extremely prosperous in the 1920s when he lived there. Coal mining towns, extremely prevalent in West Virginia, were owned entirely by coal companies, and almost impossible to leave. One of the only escapes was enlisting in the army, something Hall would later do. Clifford Hall attended Widen High School and while a source places him in the class of 1942, that would have made him a 21-year-old senior. At age 19 in the year 1940, Hall was counted as a household member of William Hall in the census. He was also a Presbyterian, as noted in an entry in Young American Patriots. When he was 18 years old, Clifford Hall married Charlotte Marshall, who originated from Lowmansville, a small unincorporated town in Lawrence County, Kentucky.

Hall enlisted in the newly formed Army Air Corps in Fort Thomas, Newport, Kentucky, on August 13, 1940, more than a year before the infamous attack on Pearl Harbor and when the United States officially entered the war. Fort Thomas, a city in Campbell County, Kentucky, is the site of an Army post, founded in 1890, that was the place of enlistment for Paul Tibbets, the pilot known for dropping the first atomic bomb during World War II. Clifford Hall was given the service number 15054322, a number that would soon appear on the incident report of his death.

Hall, who rose through the ranks to become a staff sergeant, was a part of the 8th Bombardment Squadron, a unit redesigned in 1939. The group, stationed and trained in Georgia, was deployed to the Southwest Pacific after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. They arrived in Australia as the first U.S. troops to reach that continent. The 3rd Bomb Group had its first mission on April 1, 1942, as they attacked Japanese forces occupying New Guineas towns. Their Papua Campaign against Japanese ground targets in New Guinea earned the first Distinguished Unit Citation. The second Distinguished Citation was earned for support of air attacks on Japanese-held islands that led to a clearing of the New Guinea coast and Japanese troops in Dutch New Guinea, allowing for further U.S. advancement in the Pacific. (Source: C. Peter Chen, “Dobodura Airfield,” World War II Database, Web, accessed 1 June 2015.)

Hall himself won the Air Medal, awarded for meritorious achievement in aerial flight, and the Distinguished Flying Cross, awarded for heroism and extraordinary achievement in aerial flight. There is a picture of Hall with other members of his squadron—Cpl. Thomas Priddy, Cpl. Versil Chapman, and Capt. James Downs—with the caption stating they are all West Virginia airmen of the first American bomb squadron in Fort Moresby, New Guinea. The group was given credit for sinking Japanese cruisers and destroyers with the Douglas Dauntless A-24 bomber planes.
Hall in New Guinea

L-R: Cpl. Thomas E. Priddy, Cpl. Versil R. Chapman, Sgt. Clifford R. Hall, and Capt. James A. Downs, photo taken in New Guinea. WWII U.S. Air Force Photos, National Archives and Records Administration, accessed on Fold3

Clifford Hall was killed in action on September 27, 1943, when his airplane crashed into the ocean due to damaged controls. An eyewitness description of the crash reports that when the plane attempted to join formation, the plane began to lose altitude and twist violently. It skidded into the water, leaving no sign of wreckage or survivors. Crew members involved in the fatal crash of Hall were Pilot Miles Green, Co-Pilot Wayne Berta, and Gunner Lloyd Popwell. His tragic death earned him a Purple Heart, memorializing him forever as a fallen soldier.

Manila American Cemetery

Wall of the Missing, Manila American Cemetery.
Courtesy American Battle Monuments Commission

Hall is memorialized in the Manila American Cemetery in the Philippines. This 152-acre cemetery is home to 17,201 buried soldiers, with 36,285 missing in action memorialized. Dedicated in 1960, it contains the largest number of American dead from World War II of any overseas cemetery. Hall is memorialized on the Wall of the Missing, a structure that lists all the names of those killed in action with unrecoverable or unidentifiable bodies.

In 1947, the Widen Women’s Club erected a memorial in remembrance of Hall and another six Widen-grown men who had died in the war, planting seven oak trees around a memorial stone. Widen, torn apart by union squabbles, is now nearly deserted.

Hall was a youth, barely 22, and had enlisted at age 19 to escape the drudgery of a coal town. Too young to even start a family before going off to war, Hall was one of the many young men and women who fought for their country in a war they did not ask for. His bravery must be commended and his memory must be preserved, as he gave the ultimate sacrifice for his nation.

Article prepared by Grace Ward, George Washington High School, Advanced Placement U.S. History
May 2015

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Clifford Ray Hall

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