Clarence C. Herrick
Army Private First Class Clarence C. Herrick was born on the 4th of July, 1923, in the Industrial or Broadway section of Clarksburg, West Virginia, to Syrian immigrant parents Charles H. Herrick and Estella Saab Herrick. Clarence, or “Hotty” as he was known to friends, became part of the large and growing Herrick family. Writing for the website Find A Grave in 2000, James Robert Cottrill identifies the following siblings: sisters Mary, Ida, and Madeline and brothers Henry, George, Joseph, Francis, and John. (Source: James Robert Cottrill, “Clarence (Hotty) Herrick,” Find A Grave, accessed March 21, 2014, http://www.findagrave.com.) In 1942 Pfc. Herrick graduated from Clarksburg’s Roosevelt-Wilson High School where, according to West Virginia State Senate Concurrent Resolution No.22 (which named a bridge for him in 2008), he “excelled in sports.”
Post-high school, Hotty went to work after graduation as a semiskilled structural and ornamental metal worker as detailed in U.S. Army Enlistment Records, 1938-1946. He initially attempted to enlist in the Marines, but was refused due to poor eyesight. Undeterred, Clarence enlisted in the Army on December 14, 1942. From there he underwent basic training and was assigned to Company E of the 1st Ranger Battalion, an elite unit that had hitherto participated in some of the heaviest fighting of the war.
The Rangers had been brought into existence in 1942 under the command of West Point graduate William Darby. Initially they were conceived as a fighting force of 500 men meant to be used in elite raids in the spirit of Britain’s commandos; in fact, the first American soldier to die in World War II was a Ranger from the first battalion, killed in a special force’s operation on mainland Italy. Those selected to be Rangers were trained in cliff climbing and amphibious landings. Widely considered one of the hardest units to serve in, Rangers had to possess extreme mental and physical toughness. Having been intimately involved in the North African campaign, where the success of the 1st Battalion paved the way for the establishment of more units, the Rangers were already a hardened unit by the summer of 1943. (Source: “The 1st Ranger Battalion,” accessed March 21, 2014, http://www.wwiirangers.org.)
By the time Pfc. Herrick joined the Rangers, they were on the offensive in Italy. Sometime thereafter he was awarded his first of two Purple Hearts for injuries sustained in combat. He was killed in action on November 23, 1943, in Casini, Italy. The West Virginia Senate resolution naming a bridge in honor of Herrick recounts the fateful night of his death:
Hotty Herrick served his country honorably, making the ultimate sacrifice of his life during the Allies’ advance from Naples to Rome in 1943. Had it not been for Hotty Herrick volunteering to take the place of a married man with children on that fatal mission, he might have returned to his home and family.
Pfc. Herrick was initially buried in Italy, but on June 17, 1949, he was reinterred at Holy Cross Cemetery in his hometown of Clarksburg. Hotty Herrick continues to be honored as travelers pass over the bridge that commemorates him.
Some family information provided by Elaine George, Clarence Herrick’s great-niece. Article prepared by Camden Elliott.
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