My grandfather, Arthur Clendenin (“Clen”) Robertson, became a soldier at the age of 37. That’s him, second from the right:
And on the far right of the back row here:
He tried to enlist following the bombing of Pearl Harbor but was turned down based on his age. From a letter to my Dad:
I then wrote Charlie Nelson, Chairman of Davidson County Draft Board no. 6 asking to be transferred from 4a[*] dependents to 1a., which was granted. I was inducted at Ft. Oglethorpe June 18, 1942, did basic training at Ft. McClellan, alabama; admitted to OCPS in September and to OCS at the Infantry School in Ft. Benning, graduating as a Second Lieutenant December 23, 1942.
He served from 1942 to 1946 — including a stint in the occupation government (“Office of Military Government”) in Wurttemberg-Baden — achieved the rank of Major, and received a number of commendations. From his official record:
According to the letter to my Dad, he also received the Croix de Guerre and the Legion d’Honneur from the French government for his service in that country. I knew very little of this when we traveled to France together in 1981. While there, he wore small colored bands in his lapel — called, I just learned, “lapel threads” — which turned out to be real conversation-starters and respect-generators among the French people we met.
Here are the Three Clendenins (Peter, Bruce, Clen) traveling in France in 1981. Can you tell Bruce has (1) a cold and (2) a bad attitude about driving around France in a small car with his father, grandfather, and sister?
Granddaddy’s military service provided a lifetime of interesting stories, deep respect for national service, and some of the weirdest political views I’ve ever encountered.** After he left the army, he got a master’s degree at Colorado College, and taught and tutored in various locations. He eventually retired to Wisconsin to fish,
and when he could not live alone in a cabin in the woods, re-retired to my father’s house to write the definitive but sadly unfinished history of the Alger Hiss case and argue with my Dad over the proper number of squares of paper towel appropriate for any given use. Here I am listening respectfully but skeptically to an in-depth, fully-researched, well-thought-out, utterly-off-the-wall political disquisition.
Miss you, Granddaddy, and thank you for your service.
* A bit of research on Wikipedia suggests that he meant “3-A” which was the classification that permitted deferrals for men with dependents. 4-A was for men who had previously served which, to my knowledge, he had not. While it was very brave of him to change his draft status to serve, and I honor his service to our country, as a point of fact in 1941, he had dependents: my father and my uncle. He and my grandmother had divorced, and I suppose joint custody wasn’t quite as popular as it is now. Nothing’s ever simple.
** This will have to be the subject of a separate post. After Granddaddy passed in 1997, we had his mail forwarded to me. His political interests were such that he was on the mailing list of almost every fringe group on the far left and far right. And God knows who buys what mailing lists, because he just received — at my address — an offer for $10 off an Old Chicago pizza