C.L. Stanford (1919-2000) (D) U.S. Army
Born and raised in Canton, Texas
( Information taken from manuscript C.L Stanford wrote “My War Years”
C.L. was the eighth and youngest child born to Claud and Georgia Stanford. He was born in Canton in the house located on the Northwest corner of the intersection of Athens Street and Goshen Street, later to be known as the Ashworth house. He was seven years old when he started school, but was only seventeen when he graduated.
His father died when he was only five years old, and his mother lived to be eighty-six. C.L. had three brothers, Raymond, Eric and Paul and all three served in the Army. Later in life all three were also attorney’s. He had four sisters, all would later become teachers. Their names, Ruth, Roxie, Dee and Jerry.
C.L. was a boy scout and a patrol leader. The scout troop was very active in Canton had a Scout Master very interested in his job.
As a teenager he made his spending money by mowing lawns in the summer time. The only mowers in those days were push mowers. “I always worked in the summers, either mowing lawns or picking cotton. I was better with the mower,” said C.L.
In high school C.L. lettered in all of the available sports, namely football, basketball, track and tennis. C.L. was not an exceptional student in elementary or high school. He was too interested in sports.
He attended North Texas Agricultural College at Arlington, which was a branch of Texas A&M. He graduated in the class of 1939. During his senior year he received an ROTC commission, the program compulsory although the school was co-educational. The girls wore uniform dresses.
C.L. attended the University of Texas Law School, and received his license to practice law in early 1942.
In May of that same year he enlisted in the Army and had basic training at Camp Callan, California, near San Diego. The camp was an anti-aircraft training center and he received an appointment to the anti-aircraft officers candidate school at camp Davis, North Carolina.
After receiving his commission as a Second Lieutenant, he was assigned to the 637th Anti-Aircraft Battalion at Camp Stewart, Georgia. After a three-month training period the unit was shipped by train to Fort Dix, New Jersey, and soon thereafter took a ship to Casablanca in North Africa.
The trip across the Atlantic was by convoy and the 40-millimeter anti-aircraft guns were on another ship which was sunk by German U Boat submarine.
Having nothing else to do, the unit was assigned guard duty for the German and Italian prisoners who had been captured in the North African Campaign. Later, replacement guns and transportation were received, and the battalion was assigned to B-17 bases in French Morocco,
Algeria, and Tunisia where they remained for about a year and a half. Since the United States and its allies had air superiority, the unit was converted to the 100th Chemical Warfare Battalion. The reason for this designation was because the 4.2-inch mortar was designed by the Chemical Warfare service to fire gas shells. The mortar was rifled which made it more accurate than the infantry mortars and the unit was needed in Italy. No gas shells were fired on the Italian front, only high explosive and white phosphorus shells. The battalion received Ranger training for about six weeks and was shipped to the front in Italy, north of Florence and south of Bologna where it spent the last six months of the war, with no relief, attached to different American Divisions, where were rotated. Among them was the 1st Armored Division, the 88th, the 90th, the 91st and the 84th Divisions. The Italian front was kept light enough at night to operated motor vehicles with search lights.
Before the final push in Italy, the B-17 bombers bombed the German front for nearly a whole day, but when the Fifth Army pushed off and reached the higher grounds where the Germans had been, no bodies were found.
American aircraft overtook them in the Po Valley and many of their vehicles were destroyed.
The 100th continued north to Cortina d’Ampezzio in the Dolomites. It was a resort town with many hotels which had been converted to German hospitals, all full of German wounded. Everyone in his company was quartered in a comfortable Italian villa which was quite a change, to say the least, from the front. Since Cortina was a hospital town ( the buildings were all marked with red crosses ), it was untouched by allied bombs. The town was beautiful, and the people were well fed. Needless to say, they had a ball.
The orders from 5th Army Headquarters was to set up road blocks at the four roads leading into town and to let no one in. Company D received this specific assignment and the other companies received similar duties nearby but the Cortina assignment was the choice assignment by far.
For much of three years C.L. was overseas, he was a First Lieutenant, the executive officer of B Company. When he received his promotion to Captain, he was the Company Commander of D Company. He was wounded on the Italian front north of Florence in November 1944. He was on the front for six months without relief. C.L. received the Purple Heart along with many other commendations.
The town was strictly off-limits to all unauthorized personnel. The tires were shot off of an American Colonel’s jeep when he attempted to run a road block. We did let two American nurses in and entertained them during their leave. One nice hotel had not been converted to a hospital, so we took it over and established a club for the entire battalion. We called it club Chinto. We had been ordered to raid al the German’s quarters for musical instruments and refreshments, so the club was well stocked. In fact, when we were eventually ordered to Rome, I requisitioned a boxcar to carry the liquid loot with us. We were accordingly able to supply our battalion with refreshments until we shipped out to come home.
Our battalion commander designated me to lead the battalion convoy to Rome, which took several days. Upon arrival to Rome we were quartered in an old Italian camp, but several of us arranged for an apartment in town. Our new mission was to train for the Pacific theater and we our training ground was at Anzio; that is until I saw an Italian man get blown up by a land mine. I gave marching orders and told the battalion commander that he would have to find another place for us to shoot the mortars. After a few weeks the war with Japan was over, so all plans changed.
The unit participated in three campaigns in Italy and received three stars on their campaign ribbon. When the war with Japan was over, the unit was shipped to Naples to wait for a ship to bring them home. A liberty ship was available after about two months and the battalion sailed for fort Miles Standish in Boston and our unit was disbanded.” From Boston C.L. was assigned to a troop train for Fort Sam Houston where he was released from active duty but remained in the Reserves.
C.L. served until the war ended in 1946. He ended his career as the youngest Captain in his unit. He served in three campaigns, Rome, Arno, North Apennines, and the Po Valley.
C.L. Stanford’s World War II Memoirs
( Note: Manuscript dictated during July- September 2000 )
In 1942, I enlisted in the U.S. Army and received basic training at Camp Callan, California. There I took an electrical course. I was promoted from private to corporal and sent to OCS (Officer Candidate School) at Camp Davis, North Carolina.
Incidentally, I was located only 50 miles down from my ancestor Samuel Stanford’s grave in Keenanville, North Carolina, but didn’t know it at the time. I graduated from OCS with a commission as 2nd Lieutenant, and later was promoted to 1st Lieutenant while overseas. I was transferred to Camp Stuart, Georgia, to join my unit the 637th Anti-Aircraft Battalion in training. My job was shooting 40mm Belgian “bofers,” automatic guns, since I had received training in these. Finally, we were transferred to Ft. Dix, N.J.
We were sent to North Africa in 1943 on the “Mariposa,” one of two big US ocean liners. We were in a convoy from Stanton Island, N.Y. to Casa Blanca, French Morocco. During the convoy, a German U-boat sank the ship with our 40-mm guns. This was our first close shave.
Since our battalion was without guns for a couple of months, we were put in charge of transferring German and Italian prisoners coming in on boxcars in the hot desert sun to the stockade.
One of our jobs was to “delouse,” them as we called it – dust them to get the lice off them. The prisoners were pretty happy about their fate – they were being shipped out to the US prisoner of war camps.
The stockade was a fence-in area with 36mm machine guns set up in the corners on lookout towers. I remember the Italians were overburdened with razors, shampoo and cologne, items of personal care nature. The Germans, however, traveled light.
Rommel, the German General, was trying to take over all of North Africa and turn it over to the Germans. We had to protect it. We were shipped to several North African cities, including Bizarre, Algiers, Tunis, and Ferryville. Our battalion guns were set up around the B-17 “Flying Fortress” bases to protect the planes and we were on call 24 hours a day. Our guns were fired by remote control with a director set up with cables to the guns to move the gun barrel to aim and then shoot it. The projectors (bullets) weighed 40 lbs. and held clips of 6 rounds of ammunition each.
We would watch the B-17’s go out in the morning and count them when they came back at night. This as an eerie business since we knew a lot of pilots and personnel.
Our unit had tents and stayed in the field. An Arab detective friend taught me how to survive in the desert and have comfortable life with the use of few rugs and proper use of tents. He showed us how to roll our tents and where to acquire rugs for the floor. I visited him many times in his home in Tunis. He had a nice two-story house and I remember he served crab for dinner once.
Back in camp we ate “C-rations” which were terrible. They were in small or large cans. This was also served in the mess hall. Choices included meat and vegetable stew, hash and spam. Sometimes we could trade with the Arabs for tomatoes and eggs they raised.
It was nothing unusual to open the door to your tent and see a camel grazing in the field. The poor Arabs lived in shacks or tents with many of their animals. One night a group of Arabs came through the camp and stole most of our shoes.
We had an occasion to run across the French Foreign Legion many times. We participated with them in a parade on one occasion, for fun, we’d get acquainted with the French and two of their officer’s clubs. They served what they called “beefsteak.” I never knew if it was a beef or horsemeat except that I thought it was good, so I figured it was beefsteak.
One thing that was outstanding was the French sidewalk cafes although food was limited.
One time I walked into battalion headquarters and the captain looked at me and said, “look at me; let me see your eyes.” I had yellow jaundice; it was spreading like wildfire through the Air Force. They put up hospitals downtown. I craved sweets and sent letters home asking for anything sweet that they could send.
A friend of mine, Company Commander John Lesesne, and I met a couple of girls and invited them to the beach. Their parents were very strict and came along to chaperone our dates. The parents would give us a little distance but always stayed in sight, as we’d wander along the sand dunes. At the movies, the parents would sit in the front and allow us to sit in the back since they knew there’d be a little smooching going on.
In Tunis, the battalion commander designated me to the manager of the officer’s club that served both American and French officers. I lived with a French doctor in an apartment.
The Arabs had different names for the different areas of town. One was the “kazba.” One night my Arabian friend took me to an Arabian dance. He and I and the rest of the men sat downstairs above the dance floor and the women sat upstairs. The belly dancer danced a long time. It was boring since it lasted so long.
There is a pitiful part to this story. When we would “bevwack” (campout) in North Africa quite a bit of clutter and refuse would accumulate. The commanding officer required the area to be perfectly policed before it was abandoned. We would spend a lot of time cleaning up the area but before we would get out of sight the poor old Arabian women would be digging up the tin cans and other things we buried. They would use anything available and food for them was scarce. Even sticks and small twigs to burn at night were in demand by the Arabs.
One of the most interesting sights in North Africa was the abandoned Roman aqueducts. They were obviously built by experience engineers of another era. Some of them were still in fairly good condition. The Romans could run water uphill with these aqueducts. Also, there were a lot of original Roman roads still in existence. These old stone roads were long since abandoned.
In 1943 we were sent to the Italian front until the war was over. At this point in the war there was no more need for anti-aircraft guns since there were no more German planes. As a result, in Italy we received “Ranger training” from Hobby’s Ranger Battalion a small elite troop of combat fighters. This Mr. Hobby later because the football coach at the University of Texas in Austin.
We were then assigned to Mark Clark’s 5th Army and became the 100th Chemical Mortar Battalion. We were extremely accurate. However, we endured six months of heavy shelling with no relief on the Italian front. We were stations north of Florence, south of Bolognia with the nearest town called Livonia.
When we went to Italy, we took a contingency of Senegalese, who were big, strong and tall black men from the French West African country of Senegal. The Germans were scared to death of them and the Senegalese hated the Germans. These men would sneak up on the Germans at night and slit their throats. There was only one catch. They wouldn’t go unless we brought their girlfriends along, plus their native foods. We nearly fainted when we saw these women boarding the ship. A lieutenant in our company was put in charge of them.
A funny side story to this is these Senegalese women had a man who controlled them, like a “pimp.” We discovered him hiding with them, camouflaged as a woman. We stripped him of his ownership and threw him out.
We were in some pretty precarious situations but we tried to play it safe. In other words, we tried to shoot the Germans and not let them shoot us. Although I did get hit in the leg with shell fragments one time. A couple of fellows and I were in a bunker when the shell came through the window and exploded.
On the front there were no trenches. We dug foxholes by our tents and put our cots in the holes for the night. The Germans would machine-gun the tents from their airplanes and afterward we’d pick up shrapnel when it had cooled. We lit the front up at night with big spotlights so we could see.
There in the Italian Alps, during winter, the American infantry wore all white camouflage because of the snow.
I remember one funny story about our “Spit and Polish” Colonel, as we called him. One day he made us shine his vehicle. We thought this was odd since we had more important things on our mind.
John Lesesne was our company commander and I was the Executive Officer under him until I got my own company at the end of the war.
I was promoted to Captain and later Headquarters Company Commander and Executive Officer of Company B. The first promotion of a line officer in our battalion. But, a captain was shipped into our battalion and I lost my promotion. In our battalion there were four companies (1-D) and four platoons in a company plus a headquarters company. Finally, I was promoted to Company Commander of Company D.
My promotion to captain came, I believe, when I captured a group of Germans in a small Italian town. We were on patrol throughout the Alps in our jeep. We rounded a corner and found ourselves looking straight into the end of a gun on the German tank. There was no place to hide, or no turning back, so we drove straight on in and took the town. I became the youngest captain in the battalion.
To show how desperate the Germans were toward the end of the war the company commander I replaced had a jeep stolen from right next to his house. We called it the “Rat Race,” when the Germans retreated into the Po Valley.
After the war ended in Europe, my company was assigned the town of Cortina dAmpezzio, a German occupied hospital town in 1944. Cortina was a luxury alpine resort town consisting of about 10-12 large hotels with red hospital crosses, therefore left untouched by the war. Wounded or sick German soldiers occupied the hotels, except one, which my company took over for the Battalion’s club. The club was called “Club Chinto,” meaning “one Hundred” in Italian. Villa Renata was the house where the officers lived. The house next door was for enlisted men.
When the war was over our commander put me in charge of the battalion to lead the battalion to Rome. Altogether, I spent three years overseas in North Africa and Italy.
My closest friends who I have kept in touch with include Rasmussen, the 1st Sargent of Company B. He lived in Minnesota where he worked for Hormel before retiring. Lesesne lives in Gross Point, Michigan and practiced medicine as an asthma and allergist specialist before retiring.
Friends of mine who were killed in WWII include A.J. Mann and Conn Mims. Close friends from NTAC (Arlington) who went to Texas Law School were Tommy Morris (a pilot in the Air Force, Army or Navy and later taught law at Texas before living in Amarillo and working with a large law firm there and Charlie Shields ( who worked for the FBI in Dallas). Another friend from NTAC is Victor Copeland, a geologist who became a demolition expert in Colorado. Copeland served in the Army in India and China.
I enjoyed most of my time in World War II. I was overseas for three years and just about forgot what things were like in the states. We were in North Africa for about half of the time and in Italy for the remainder. In Italy I saw St. Peter’s and the Pope, the Colosseum, Naples, Sorrento, Pompeii, Venice and the Italian front for six months.
After the war, C.L. first started to work in the legal department of the Veterans Administration in Dallas where he met Kathleen. They were married in April of 1947, and moved to Canton in February of 1949. Ann was born in August of 1948 and in early 1951 he was recalled to the Korean War.
He, Kathleen and Ann moved to Baltimore, Maryland, where he took a course in Army Intelligence at Fort Holabird.
There he was briefed and studied the Japanese language. He had transferred to Army Intelligence while in the reserve. His assignment was the Far East, so they came back, to Canton. There he rented a house and then took a train at Dallas for Seattle, Washington. From there he was sent by train to Vancouver and by plane to Japan with two stopovers. At Tokyo he was assigned to the Counter Intelligence Corps of the 24th Infantry Division which had just arrived in Japan from Korea, so this duty was different from WWII. The time was more less uneventful until his tour of duty was over when he took a plane to Wake Island in late 1952.
After passing the point of no return, a typhoon was spotted and it blew away everything on the island except the planes which were tied down into the wind. After it was over none of them would fly. He was evacuated by naval sea plane to Hawaii and then to San Francisco, where he took a plane to Dallas where Kathleen and Ann met him.
After the Korean War, I got out of the reserves, which was a mistake. If I had stayed in, I should have been promoted a few times and would have been drawing retirement pay for many years.
Moving to Canton
When C.L. returned home he formed a law partnership with L.F. Sanders until 1960. Julia was born in 1955 and Carol in 1960. He and Kathleen have twelve grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.
“In February 1949 Kathleen, Ann and I moved from Dallas to Canton where I practiced law for a while and then ran for District Attorney but was defeated. The defeat was the best thing that ever happened to me but of course I did not think so at the time. I was recalled in the Army in the Korean War in early 1951 and after I came home I found that I was easy to get elected to non-paying jobs. I was on the Board of Trustees of the Canton Independent School District for sixteen years, fourteen of which I was president. I also served as president of the 86th Judicial District Bar Association, the Van Zandt County Bar Association, the Canton Chamber of Commerce, The Canton Lions Club and was a member of the Masonic Lodge and the Veterans of Foreign Wars.”
Many civic and professional recognitions and awards were earned through the years including Man of the Year, Canton ISD School Board President (14 years), and recognition by the State Bar of Texas along with many other awards and achievements throughout his career.
C.L.’s daughters Ann, Elaine, Julia and Carol and family members taken on Thanksgiving Day 2019 at the Veterans Memorial to pay tribute and honor to their father and grandfather for his service to our country.
In honoring him the family purchased a memorial bench which was placed inside the pavilion. A plaque in his memory adorns each end of the bench.
C.L. Stanford, thank you for your service to our country while serving in the United States Army. Your courage and bravery will not be forgotten.
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