Clifford A. Thompson, Pilot, 397th BG, 599th BS
Clifford died of cancer on June 10, 1987 and is buried in the
VA cemetery in Houston. Catherine "Kathy" Thompson and Amanda Thompson
With Wife's Blessing
Thompson Sold Firm For Chance to Sing in Italy
Back from Italy - Cliff Thompson recently returned from a year's study in Italy where he took singing lessons. He previously sang with the Houston Symphony.
Husbands, would your wife let you go to Europe for a year by yourself? Probably not, but Fran Thompson not only let her husband Cliff go, but urged him to do so. It all began in 1947 when Cliff began voice lessons from Edward Bing here. For six years he studied, singing both with the Houston Symphony and the Summer Symphony. Last year he decided to sell his glazing business and spend a year in Italy, studying under Maestro Gennaro Barra in Milan. While in Italy he sang the tenor role with the Fenice opera production of the "Jumping Frog of Calaveras County."
"It is very difficult for Americans to get roles over there," he commented. "Where there were 300 theatres before the war, there are now only 30 or 40. The Italians claim that the Americans usurp their roles."
Maestro Barra urged Cliff to stay an additional six months, for he felt sure that in that time he would be singing regularly with the Italian opera. However, Cliff thought that a year was long enough to stay away from his wife and 11 year old daughter Kathy.
Fran and Cliff met here in 1942 when he was a pilot in the Army Air Corps. They were married and then he went overseas. Returning to Houston he started the glazing business. The stocky tenor says that opera is his strong field, and his favorite role is in "Tosca". Present plans include going back to work in Houston and doing concert and television work.
"The next day saw the first fatality for the 397th when the group were assigned a Noball (buzz bomb launch site) target at Le Grismont in the Pas de Calais. Lt. Thompson's aircraft was hit by flak and 2nd Lt. Frank Evanick, the bombardier, was killed when a fragment penetrated his compartment. With the co-pilot wounded and severe damage to the hydraulics and rudder and elevators, the plane returned to Rivenhall and landed safely. 'Tommy' Thompson had a bad spell in May when on four occasions his aircraft received widespread damage, but each time his skillful airmanship got the crew home. During the mission of May 24th against the well defended harbour at Dieppe his aircraft was hit in the main fuel tank and other parts, but he pressed on with the attack. His right tyre had also been punctured which caused some anxious moments when landing at Rivenhall. Those who took part in the Dieppe mission spoke of it as one of the hottest places they'd visited so far.
Thompson was in trouble again two days later on May 26th when attacking the Luftwaffe airfield at Chartres. One of his engines began running rough soon after turning away from the target and he had to feather the propeller. Three of the Mustang escort kept him company on the two hour flight back, on a single engine, and he landed safely at Rivenhall.
Mission 71 on July 18th saw them assisting the Second British Army by taking part in a massive bombing concentration around the historic town of Caen in a bid to break the deadlock between the opposing forces. The little village of Demouville was their target, some four miles East of Caen. Visibility was poor, probably not helped by the saturation bombing, and half the group were unable to bomb the primary target. Capt. Thompson's luck let him down once again and they were hit by flak, wounding Lt. Stephenson, the bombardier. Despite their difficulties "Tommy" got them back again, as he did on so many occasions. One week later they performed a similar task for the First United States Army when they bombed the area around Montreuil in support of Operation COBRA and the Allied sweep across France began."