Pfc. Clifford C. Spencer, USMC
Cliff lives comfortably, at 82, in retirement in the beautiful little foothill town of Ramona, California, in the north central part of San Diego County, only about thirty five miles from where he went through “Boot Camp” at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in January 1942!
Living alone with Life Alert as his only in house companion after, being married several times to lovely ladies who for one reason or the other moved on, agrees with Cliff! Having lived a lifetime of supporting his mother (from age 14), wives, and children, his and theirs, he is finally free of responsibility for others!
His days, mostly nights really, have a consistent pattern, he sleeps comfortably until noon or one and then has a light breakfast, while having his first coffee he answers emails and makes telephone calls that are necessary. Then off to the Post Office and on to Cheers a bar/eatery where he has coffee with his many friends, Sean the owner kindly donates his coffee!
In the evenings until the wee hours of the morning he writes, prints, packages for delivery any of his four copyrighted books for next days mailing. Often, when bored, he goes to Barona an Indian casino, which he has frequented for many, many years.
The reader is now wondering, yes all well and good, but how did this grizzled old man come to be? Read on…
Cliff Spencer Clifford Spencer
LEFT: CLIFF AT 14 IN KENTUCKY. RIGHT: CLIFF AT 16 IN INDIANA.
PFC. CLIFFORD C. SPENCER’
MARINE DET. USS SAN FRANCISCO
Private Spencer, born in 1925, came from adventurous pioneer stock his GGGGrandfather Joseph Charles Spencer arrived in Virginia sometime around 1760 from Wales. His son Moses settled in Wolfe County Kentucky shortly after it became a state in 1792, and his GGrandfather Goolman and Grandfather Jacob both served in the Civil War.
He spent his childhood until 14 with his father Green Berry Spencer and mother, Ada Katherine Day Hale Spencer, his father was half Oglala Sioux, grubbing out an existence as the son of a sharecropper in the hills of Northeast Kentucky. Spencer always said that after living through “The Great Depression” on parched corn coffee and wild bee honey fighting the war was easy!
After his father’s death in 1939 he moved with his mother to Anderson, Indiana, there he learned a complete new way of life in the two years before the Japanese made the fatal mistake of attacking Pearl Harbor! He immediately contrived to enter the fray and at age 16 lied his way into the US Marine Corps on Dec. 28, 1941.
Thriving on Boot Camp food, he gained 25lbs, and feeling that he really was finally beginning a great adventure, after a shortened boot camp, he arrived in Pearl Harbor March 2nd 1942. Being accepted into the Marine Detachment aboard the USS San Francisco, heavy cruiser, on March 28th. surprised and delighted him! From this point on all individual activity was merged with the ship to become the best Marine he could be! Slowly becoming a real Seagoing Marine and comfortable in his billet, he was truly on his way to ‘High Adventure!’
PFC SPENCER NOW A SEASONED AND BLOODED COMBAT VETERAN
AT THE RIPE OLD AGE OF SEVENTEEN!
THIS POEM OF MINE PUBLISHED IN 1995 BY THE
SETS THE MENTAL ATTITUDE I HAD AS A BOY/MARINE!
MEMORIAL DAY 1995
CLIFFORD C. SPENCER
The guns, the sounds, the smells, and dreams of war have long left my conscious and subconscious mind.
And yet on this day of remembrance the sight of a face beneath an old campaign hat clearly showing the price of time and memories,stirs me to think back.
The snappy salute to the officer of the deck, again to the colors aft, as I board the quarterdeck of the “Old Frisco Maru” the loving name given the U.S.S. San Francisco, heavy cruiser, U.S. Navy Her size and big guns were awesome to a green country boy from Indiana and Kentucky,16 years old.
This was high adventure of greatest sort! Thus started the year in which I lived with fear, bravado, happiness, and pain.
You are never more alive than when you are in the face of death. Every fiber of your being is vibrating at once with invincible power and yes, fear! The guilt for surviving and the eternal sadness does not occur until later.
So, on this day of dedication, I say thanks to all who died and wonder, why and for what purpose I was spared.
Editor’s note: Clifford C. Spencer, a Ramona resident, was a private first class sea-going Marine on the USS San Francisco. At the age of 16 he enlisted in the Marines and served in World War II from 1941 to 1944. He spent 16 months in Naval hospitals recovering from shrapnel and gunshot wounds received during the Battle of Guadalcanal, the turning point of the war in the Pacific.
THIS POEM THAT I WROTE IN 1995 FOR OUR LOCAL RAMONA NEWSPAPER NOT ONLY REVEALS MY INNERMOST FEELINGS BUT IS TYPICAL OF MILLIONS OF YOUNG MEN, AND SOME WOMEN, WHO RUSHED TO DEFEND OUR FREEDOM DURING WWII! WHETHER IT WAS A YOUNGSTER BECOMING A TAIL GUNNER ON A B-17 BECAUSE HE WAS SMALL OF STATURE OR AUDIE MURPHY IN DESPERATE COMBAT, FIGHTING THE AXIS POWERS WAS PARAMOUNT BECAUSE WORLD FREEDOM WAS IN DANGER!! GERMANY, JAPAN, AND ITALY’S LEADERS WERE DEAD SET ON SNUFFING OUT INDIVIDUAL RIGHTS OF ALL THE FREE PEOPLES OF THE WORLD!
CAPTAIN JOHN BENNETT, NAVY CROSS RECIPIENT, STILL WITH US AT 89, DECRIBES MY LIFE WITH ELOQUENT SIMPLICITY.
HE WAS A LT. JG. ONBOARD THE SAN FRANCISCO DURING MY SMALL ADDITION TO THE WINNING OF
THIS WINDOW HANGER, WHICH STILL EXISTS,
HUNG IN MY MOTHER’S FRONT WINDOW FROM
1942 TO 1944
World War Two was more than huge armies, navies, and airplanes battling each other in some far distant land, I will leave it to others to describe the bloody battles. I want to tell you of a nation of mothers and families that held their breath every time the telephone rang while murmuring a small prayer “Please God don’t let it be about my boy!” The dreaded Western Union Messenger at your door was a sure harbinger of bad news about the loss or wounding of a loved one!!!
Because their country needed them no one shirked their duty to leave the farm and work in defense factories while enduring rationing of food, clothing, and gasoline there was a bit of grousing, I understand, among the young women when ‘silk stockings went to war!’ They paid the price willingly knowing;
FREEDOM IS NOT FREE!
BELOW IS A COUPLE OF EXCERPTS FROM MY BOOK TO SHOW A BIT OF THE SCENE AND FEELING OF GOING INTO NIGHT SURFACE BATTLE, AND A BIT OF MY PERSONAL AFTER MATH!
Chapter 19: “The rain squalls let up and the moon shown intermittently, with stars close enough to pick them by hand covering the sky, and the Southern Cross hung in its prominent place in the Southern Hemisphere.
I could see the vague outline of the ATLANTA ahead, in the luminescence stirred up by her screws, as we slowly worked our way west by a bit north. Behind us the PORTLAND was just a darker patch of night, about five hundred yards dead astern.
We talked in hushed tones, while we made sure our gun was ready for the fifth time since dusk. We had donned flash proof clothing to protect our bodies from the searing heat caused when shells explode. Nothing was used back then for the face and hands. Nothing has changed for gun crews going into battle since Nelson at Trafalgar, except that we didn’t paint the deck red to camouflage the blood that would be spilled. We still had the cotton for our ears and buckets of sand to soak up blood or contain blobs of magnesium thermite, left over from antipersonnel shells. With no function except to fight, for us Marines, the minutes seemed like hours as we waited.”
AFTER THE FURIOUS BATTLE WITH MANY DEAD AND MORE WOUNDED THE PARAGRAPH BELOW DESCRIBES A MOMENT IN MY PERSONAL STRUGGLE TO LIVE. READ IT KNOWING THAT SUCH STRUGGLES WERE BEING REPEATED ALL OVER THE SURVIVING SHIPS AND FOR HUNDREDS OF YOUNG MEN IN THE WATER TRYING TO STAY AFLOAT AFTER THEIR SHIPS WERE SUNK BY THE JAPANESE BATTLE FORCE!
Chapter 19: “Going down was easy for me until I arrived at the last ladder going down to the quarterdeck. Only the top few rungs were there, the rest had been shot away, so I lowered myself down, hanging by my left hand and dropping the last foot or two. I collapsed from pain, lying there in a heap, I felt my legs and they were all wet! Soaked with blood from wounds I didn’t even know I had, it alarmed me, I knew I needed help soon or I would bleed out! I had to get to the sickbay or mess hall as soon as I could!
THIS CLOSES A BRIEF PEEK INTO THE LIFE OF ONE PROUD AMERICAN!!
WHO PROUDLY SERVED HIS COUNTRY IN A MODEST WAY
CLIFFORD C. SPENCER, MARINE
SPENCER,CLIFF USS SAN FRANCISCO
My ship of life was sailing along on a pleasing and direct course to a sunset far to the West and good things were happening. Trips to the monument for the USS San Francisco, in San Francisco , to honor a living legend Capt. John E. Bennett and bring back to current consciousness Ensign Jean Carter Witter, Jr. a young officer who gave his life for his country in that glorious, victorious, but deadly battle on Nov.13,1942. His sacrifice was not in vain because he helped to buy our freedom for these wonderful, nation building, fifty nine years! Also a wonderful trip by auto up America’s West Coast for 1,150 miles to Clackamas, Oregon, to attend the annual reunion of the San Francisco’s crew. In this day of speed, I hardily recommend a trip along the highways and byways of this majestic land that we call home! Earlier in the year I finished writing my book THE WAR YEARS and it has been selling quite well, with only word of mouth exposure. With a publisher I believe it will be accepted as an honest account of the conditions of our nation in 1942. Then after a gallstone attack and subsequent surgery it was discovered that I had a believed to be unacceptably large abdominal aortic aneurysm. It was a great shock to me, I had always felt that I was impervious to any weakness in the structure of my body, oh well, I found I had feet of clay just like ordinary people. Shock and fear reigned for a few weeks until I could come to grips with it. My ticking time bomb will be excised or ignored in strict compliance with the instructions of my doctor. This then is the last chapter, to date, of my memorable year!
MAY THE GODS BE WITH YOU IN THE COMING HOLY DAYS AND HAVE A GREAT NEW YEAR!!
Cliff Spencer, USS San Francisco