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Clifford A. Thompson, Pilot, 397th BG, 599th BS

Clifford A. Thompson, Pilot, 397th BG, 599th BS

Clifford A. Thompson
Major, 9th AF, 397th BG, 599th BS
Distinguished Flying Cross, Air Medal with Nine Oak Leaf Clusters
EAME Camp Medal with Four Bronze Stars
American Camp Medal, WW2 Victory Medal
CAMPAIGNS. Air Offensive Europe; Normandy; Northern France; Rhineland

Left: L to R: Paul Hutchinson, Clifford A. Thompson, C.C. Combest, Lee Rice
Center: Clifford A. Thompson
Right: L to R: Clifford A. Thompson, C.C. Combest, Lee Rice
Clifford Alvin Thompson was born July 29, 1919 in Williamson, West Virginia to Frank and Mabel Thompson. He grew up with his three sisters, Clara, June, and Janice and through high school worked in his father’s business. Following graduation from Williamson High School Clifford enrolled in the University of Kentucky on a voice scholarship. Nine days after Pearl Harbor was attacked, on December 16, 1941, he enlisted in the Army Air Corp as an Aviation Cadet at Fort Hayes, Columbus, Ohio.
He completed his flight training and was awarded his wings at AFS, Lake Charles, LA. and received further training at MacDill and other Fields. His sister June relates that once “Cliff was on a training run close enough to West Virginia that he buzzed Williamson several times. We knew he was going to do it, and as I was walking to work I stopped a perfect stranger and said, ‘That's my brother!’ However, no one at the local radio station knew, and the station manager, a high school chum of Cliff’s, kept trying to tell him on the air where some little field was, because she thought he was in distress. He could hear her, but he couldn't radio her. Once she found out the truth, she refused to ever speak to him again. I guess it WAS embarrassing for her - Exciting for us”
Eventually Clifford was transferred to the ETO arriving there on March 9, 1944 and served in that theater until December 19, 1944 with the 599th BS, 397th BG. Cliff and his crew named their plane “Lassie Come Home”. He was released from active duty Oct. 6, 1946 at the rank of Major.
Blessed with a fine tenor voice, following separation from the Air Force, Clifford studied voice in Italy and then sang in Houston Opera, Theatre Under the Stars, Church Choir and Light Opera. He made his home in Houston, Texas where he married and had two daughters, Catherine and Amanda. He was an inveterate golfer and a successful insurance broker.

Clifford A. Thompson, opera singer

Catherine "Kathy" Thompson Amanda Thompson

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."


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