Wisconsin Veterans Museum image

Archive Record

  • Email This Page
  • Send Feedback
Collection Clyde Stephenson
WVM ID Number OH 1175
Object Name Oral History
Title Oral History Interview with Clyde Stephenson
Date 2008
Event World War II
Narrator's Name Clyde Stephenson
Interviewer's Name Bill Brewster
Description In this oral history interview, Clyde Stephenson, a Milwaukee, Wisconsin native, discusses his service in the Marine Corps before and during World War II, including his experience during the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Stephenson mentions growing up on a farm, attending Oshkosh State Teachers College, having difficulty finding a job, and enlisting in the Marines in January of 1940. He talks about boot camp and sea school in San Diego and assignment to the USS California, a flagship with Admiral Bill Pye in command. Stephenson describes Marine Corps duties aboard the battleship: manning the broadside guns, manning the gangway planks, and orderly duty. He talks about the cruise to Hawaii, the rotation of battleships to the States for repairs, limited firing practice, and uniforms. He talks about going back to Wisconsin on leave with Earl Wallen, a friend who was the first person from Green Bay to be killed in World War II, and Stephenson tells of presenting photographs of Wallen to Sullivan-Wallen American Legion Post 11. While on a night firing practice two weeks before the attack on Pearl Harbor, he recalls hearing about unknown submarines in the area and using live ammunition. The week before the attack, Stephenson talks about having rifle training at Fort Weaver (Hawaii) and requesting to spend the weekend there. He describes the morning of December 7: playing cards in his tent, hearing airplanes overhead, hearing explosions, and realizing the Japanese were attacking. Stephenson portrays getting a rifle from the armory and firing at enemy planes until the attack was over.

After two days of patrolling roads and beaches, he tells of going to Ford Island, where the California had been tied up when it sunk. He discusses living conditions after the attack and salvaging the guns from his ship for use at West Loch. Stephenson talks about the dry dock repairs of the California and going to Bremerton (Washington) for further repairs. He relates hearing about Wallen's death. Stephenson speaks of radio school at Camp Lejeune (North Carolina), taking courses at Wright Junior College and the College of the Ozarks (Arkansas), and radio and radar school at the Naval Research Lab in Washington, D.C. Shipped out in late 1944 with Marine Air Group 11, VMF-114, he states he was in Peleliu when the war ended. Stephenson talks about duty as a tech sergeant repairing radios and IFF (Identification friend or foe) equipment on Corsair airplanes. He talks about getting orders to return to the States but being unable to find transportation until he hitched a ride on a plane. Stephenson tells of only having khaki clothing and catching pneumonia when his transport ship took a northern route home. Because the Navy hospital in San Diego was full, he explains he was housed in a monkey cage at the Balboa Zoo. He characterizes some of the admirals he worked for, including James Richardson, Bob Carney, Earl Stone (from Milwaukee), and Richard Byrd.

After his discharge, Stephenson became an electrician and expanded his business, Town and Country Electric, with his sons. He details the story of his brother, Glenwood Stephenson, who was killed in the service, and Clyde's contributions to a book (Operation Plum) about his brother's unit, the 27th Bombardment Group. Clyde mentions another brother who was in the Navy during World War II and who committed suicide while in the Pacific Theater. Stephenson describes going to an island with coconut trees to spot targets for practicing Corsairs, people collapsing in the intense heat, and dealing with a gnat infestation.


Extent and Medium of Description Analog audio recording: 2 audio cassettes (approx. 1 hour, 15 minutes)
Transcript: 42 pgs.
Reproduction Conditions / Copyright WVM owns copyright to this material. Contact the WVM Research Center for further information about Terms of Use.
Biographical Record Stephenson, Clyde