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Biography of Courtland Earl CLARKE

Source: History of Howard County in the World War C.V. Haworth, Indianapolis: Wm B. Burford, Printer & Binder, 1920. page 57 (photo plate 24)

CLARKE, Courtland Earl, son of Albert J. and Daisy ADARAH CLARKE, was born in Howard Co. Ind.
On Dec. 22 1917, he volunteered and was sent to Fort Thomas. Ky., and then to Camp Hancock, Ga. At the former place he was a dispatch rider, and at the latter camp he was placed in the Motor Mechanics Regiment, Signal Corps.
After arriving in France, he was made tester of airplane motors in Paris, and while serving in this capacity, he was sent to the front lines for a crippled machine. For three weeks he was confined to a hospital suffering from shell shock.
On March 4, 1919, he was stationed at La Palice, France, as a member of the Fifteenth Co., Second A.S.M. Regiment. He returned to the States in May, 1919 and was mustered out of the service early in June.

NOTE: The following entry was found in the Social Security Death Index
Courtland CLARKE born 01 Sep 1899; died May 1978. Last Residence: Milford, Sussex, DE SSN: 221-03-5360 issued in Delaware.

Additional info from Karen: Courtland Earl Clarke, son of Albert Jerry Clarke and Daisy Ada (Rodman)

Clarke was born in Kokomo, Howard County, Indiana, on Sept. 1, 1900.
Note the first error in the biography posted about "Howard County in the World War (1920)

Courtland Earl "Clarkie" Clarke's mother's maiden name was Daisy Ada Rodman, not Daisy Adarah.
His military history also seems to belong to someone else. According to Clarkie and at least one of his three sisters [Rhetta Laura (Clarke) Anderberg, Dorothy May (Clarke) Kiel, and Wanda Virginia (Clarke) Roberts], C.E. Clarke's military service began when he was 17 following his "misrepresentation" of his age to the military recruiters. He lied and said he was one year older than he actually was so that he could get into the military without his parents' permission. Social security still continues to list his birthdate as 1899 rather than 1900.

Because of the huge loss of U.S. military records in a fire, including most of the WWI and WWII servicemen's records, I have found it difficult to track down information that actually "proves" his military service record is different than the one represented in this website and in the source from which the information was drawn. However, as his granddaughter, I will attempt to provide an alternative version of his military record based on both Clarkie's own words and on the family's stories about his military service.
I am certain that Courtland Earl Clarke served part of his military service in Delaware. I believe he was stationed at Fort Delaware, near Delaware City, New Castle County, Delaware. One of his favorite stories was a tale about going AWOL to court my grandmother and the time he was forced to spend in the brig as a result. It was in Delaware that he met my grandmother, Jennie M. Still, married her (on Oct. 19, 1922), and settled down in her home town to raise their daughter. It was in Delaware that he lived all of his adult life and it was in Delaware that he died on May 13, 1978, in the Salisbury Hospital following a heart attack -- the first major illness he had had since he was in the military. He was buried in the Odd Fellows Cemetary in Milford, Sussex County, Delaware.

His daughter, Gertrude "Trudy" Marie Clarke (b. July 24, 1923; d. Aug. 5, 1985) married Disston McCullough "Mickey" Carter (b. Nov. 26, 1921; d. Jan. 7, 1978) on Oct. 19, 1947, the 25th anniversary of her mother and father's wedding. Trudy and Mickey provided Jennie and Clarkie with four grandchildren, who gave him five great-grandchildren. All of his grandchildren and great-grandchildren except one still live in Delaware. So, you see, I am certain that his stories about meeting my grandmother when he was stationed in Fort Delaware must be true. How else would a young Kokomo, Indiana, youth with a close-knit family have gone to Delaware during war time and what temptation other than a new family could have kept him there after the war?

I also know that during WWI he served in the Panama Canal zone from which he was returned to the states for nose surgery in a military hospital (? Johns Hopkins in Baltimore ?). I believe he was assigned to serve at Fort Delaware when he was discharged from the hospital following his surgery and I think that his honorable discharge from the army came while he was still stationed in Delaware. However, it is possible that he was stationed in Panama after he met my grandmother and that he returned to Delaware to marry her following his military service in Panama.

As children, my siblings and I were told many stories about Clarkie's military service -- including how he watched a fellow serviceman dive through a man-o-war jelly fish which rose to the surface of the water just as the man dove into the Panama Canal. He told us how he and the others who had been swimming during their off duty hours covered the injured man with butter as they took him to get medical care, but the man subsequently died from the injuries. He often wished he had photographs of the relaxed military clothing rules that were prompted by attempts to find relief from the hot, blasting equatorial sun. He told us about getting bitten on the ear by a scorpion and how common scorpions were in the Panamanian jungle. And he regaled a tale of how he got his beautiful tatoos following an evening of unmitigated revelry with some of his mates. He awoke in the morning with a tatoo on each arm (butterfly on one, a rose on the other) much to his surprise and ultimately to the chagrin of his mother. Fortunately, the tatoo artist was truly an artist since he had to live with this permanent arm art for the rest of his life!

Although the AWOL story and the tatoo story could have occurred at any military site, I wonder whether there are many six foot man-o-war jelly fishes, equatorial temperatures, and scorpions in France, especially on the front line. The richness of the stories about Panama and the dearth of stories about France would suggest that Clarkie was in Panama and he was not in France.

Since my family lived with my grandparents until I was 8 and since I returned to live with them when I was 15 and stayed until I graduated from high school, I had many opportunities to observe and discuss his life, including his military career. He never once mentioned being trained to work on airplanes nor did he ever mention doing so. I do not believe he repaired airplane motors -- he could barely take care of his car. He was never a person who worked on or showed any interest in working on motors.

And, even though he could completely dismantle a watch or a parking meter and subsequently reassemble it (at various times in his adult life he worked as a jeweler and, in retirement, as a parking meter repair person for the City of Milford). . .
-- and even though he could from photographs completely reconstruct a ship in miniature (the U.S. Navy once offered him $2000 for one of his ships because it was such a beautiful masterpiece of an historical craft) . . . -- and even though he was an accomplished carver of wood sculptures . . . only once in my whole life did I see him try to work on a car and that was under the careful tutelage of my father when my car dropped its universal joint on the road next to the driveway and they were trying to rescue it and me. My grandfather clearly had no idea how to begin to reconstruct my old, pre-computer, 1950 something car. I certainly would not have wanted him to work on an airplane in which I was going to travel! Clarkie, like his father before him who was a diamond cutter, was a man whose gifts involved working on SMALL things.

I also think reports of his efforts to join the VFW serve as proof that he never served in France. Our family was a very involved VFW family. Military personnel could not join the VFW unless they had served overseas during a war. When my grandfather applied for membership as a charter member of the Milford, Delaware, VFW Post, there was some contention about my grandfather's qualifications. Some members argued that he should join the American Legion and be done with it! After all, he had not served OVERSEAS; he had ONLY served in Panama. Other members pointed out that Clarkie's service in Panama was service in a foreign country and that it was service designed to prevent the enemy from capturing and controlling the Panama Canal, service as potentially dangerous as any service designed to protect and defend sites critical to the American military. The "yea" votes prevailed. Ergo, Clarkie was registered as a charter member of the VFW Post in his adopted home town of Milford, Sussex County, Delaware.

I have applied to receive copies of his military medical records since many of these records do still exist (in contrast to the regular military records which were destroyed in a fire). When and if these records become available to me and if they contain more accurate information about his service record, I will provide the more concrete form of "proof" regarding his service activities. (Or I will be an extremely surprised person who will have to admit that her family lied to her and her siblings for years!)

Monument at Crown Point Cemetery
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