Hamilton County

Ensign Gerald A. Cleckner

 

Relatives of three Webster City servicemen received news over the weekend that they were war casualties with Ens. Gerald A. Cleckner being reported drowned Jan. 9, 1945, and Capt. O. C. Buxton and Pfc. Arthur Wensel being listed as missing in action in Luxembourg shortly before Christmas. 

Mr. and Mrs. Harry Cleckner were notified Sunday morning in a telegram from the Navy department of their son’s death, apparently in the South Pacific. Further details, the Navy department said, would be forwarded as soon as possible.

A Deck Officer.
Ensign Cleckner, 23, had been serving aboard a supply ship as a deck officer and assistant navigator since September. A graduate of Webster City schools in 1939, the navy officer received his Bachelor of Science degree at Iowa State college in 1943. Prior to entering the service he was employed with Thompson Products Co., Cleveland, Ohio.

The Webster City officer received his commission in June, 1944, and reported June 28, at Fort Schuyler, N.Y., where he received his indoctrination training. He completed the course Aug. 23, and was home on a short leave before leaving for San Francisco where he reported Sept. 5, and left shortly afterwards for sea duty.

Monday morning, Mr. and Mrs. Cleckner received a letter from their son, dated Jan. 6, 1945, in which he complained of the hot weather where he was located. Although there is no information to substantiate the belief, it is thought the ensign may have lost his life in a sudden storm at sea.

Source: Daily Freeman Journal, Monday, January 15, 1945 (photo included)

HEAR DETAILS OF ACCIDENT

Mr. and Mrs. Cleckner Have Letter From Navy Officer.

Ensign Gerald Cleckner, who was reported drowned Jan. 9, lost his life in an accident just off a small, uninhabited island in the Pacific, his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Harry Cleckner of this city, have been notified in a letter sent them by Commander Jack J. Hughes, commander of the ship on which Ensign Cleckner was serving.

Although the exact location of the island could not be given, the navy commander did give many details of the Webster City officer’s death. Portions of the letter follow:

“The sad accident that caused Gerald’s death occurred at 11 a. m., on Tues., Jan. 9. The ship was at anchor and early in the morning he and three other officers received permission to leave the ship in a motor launch to go on a fishing party. They sailed by a small uninhabited island, and when about 100 yards off, three of the officers, including Gerald, decided to swim ashore.

In Difficulty

“Two of the officers struck out ahead. Your son followed, and the launch followed him. Shortly after this, the officer in the launch noticed that Gerald was in difficulty and hastened toward him. However, before the launch could reach the spot your son had sunk from sight.

“Immediately steps were taken for rescue. The launch remained on the scene searching. The two officers that had made the beach notified the shore station on the next island and this station signalled the ship of the disaster at 12:03 p. m. The ship immediately sent the executive officer, the medical officer, and a rescue party in the fastest motor launch to the scene of the accident.

“Meanwhile the two officers that had gone to the shore station had returned with a party of natives to continue the search together with the rescue party from the ship. At 2:30 p.m., Gerald’s body was recovered by natives in 50 feet of water and at some distance from the spot at which he was last seen. Due to the length of time taken to find him, resuscitation was impossible.

Full Military Honors

Full military honors were accorded Ensign Cleckner at funeral services held the next afternoon, the naval commander wrote. The services were held in the navy chapel at the shore station and burial was made in the navy cemetery, which, according to Commander Hughes, “is located in a secluded part of the island beneath the palm trees and is bordered at a small distance on one side by the ocean and on the other by a tropical lagoon.”

In closing his letter to Ensign Cleckner’s parents, Commander Hughes wrote:

“During the three and one-half months that Gerald was with us he proved himself an extremely capable and valuable naval officer, deeply respected and sincerely liked by all on board. As his commanding officer I want you to know that the navy and the nation will badly miss the valuable services of such a person as your son.” 

Source: Daily Freeman Journal, Webster City, IA - Feb. 5, 1945

PLAN MILITARY RITES NOV. 11

Ensign Gerald Cleckner Died in Service.

Military services will be held here Tuesday afternoon at 2 o’clock at the Methodist church for Ensign Gerald A. Cleckner, son of Mr. and Mrs. Harry Cleckner of this city, who died in service Jan. 9, 1945.

The Rev. J. J. Share of Le Mars and the Rev. J. A. Farnham will officiate with burial in Graceland cemetery.

Among the First.

The Webster City serviceman’s body was among the first of American war dead to be returned to this county from the Pacific war theater.

Ensign Cleckner, who was awarded posthumously the World War II victory medal, was serving as a deck officer and assistant navigator on a supply ship when he lost his life in an accident just off a small, uninhabited island in the Pacific. He was first buried on the island of Funa-Futi in the Ellice island group and in April, 1946, the body was reinterred at Honolulu, Hawaii.

Gerald A. Cleckner was born Aug. 7, 1921, in Webster City. He grew to young manhood in this community and received his education in the Webster City schools, graduating from Lincoln high school with the class of 1939. He was an active member of the local DeMolay while in high school and later became a member of the Masonic lodge.

I. S. C. Graduate

After attending Webster City junior college for one year, Gerald entered Iowa State college and received his B. S. degree in mechanical engineering in 1943. Following his graduation, he was employed by the Thompson Aircraft and Automotive Company, Cleveland, Ohio.

He enlisted in the naval reserve and received his commission as ensign June 3, 1944, after which he entered indoctrination training at Fort Schuyler, N. Y. He left for sea duty in September, 1944.

Baptized in the Methodist faith, he was active in all church activities. He was a member of the Epworth League and church choir.

He is survived by his parents and also a number of aunts, uncles, cousins and a host of friends.

Source: Daily Freeman Journal, Nov. 6, 1947

Notes:

Gerald A. Cleckner was born Aug. 7, 1921 to Harry A. and Mildred ‘Millie’ Blue Cleckner. He died Jan. 9, 1945 and is buried in Graceland Cemetery, Webster City, IA.

Ensign Cleckner’s death was by accidental drowning in the South Pacific area. He was serving aboard the USS Arided (AK-73) as a deck officer and assistant navigator. 

Memorial services for Ensign Cleckner were held Sunday, Feb. 25 at the Methodist church in Webster City.

Sources: Daily Freeman Journal, Webster City, IA
ancestry.com
World War II Memorial