Missing No More

Veterans Day, 2010

This article was written by my brother, Mike Bennett, editor of the Legionnaire, Post and Unit 72 of the American Legion, New Albany, Mississippi. This is a poignant—even uncanny—story about yet another American war hero... very special to our family for several generations.


October 12, 2010
No. LXVI
MISSING NO MORE!

My wife, Gloria, and I are genealogy buffs and thus far have amassed 5,876 names into our family history beginning before the American Revolution and all the way up to the present. There are many of our family members who served our country during the course of history. We listed one such name several years ago from the lineage of my grandmother, Vallie Georgia Clark Smith. Her sister, Lillie Roane Clark Hellums and her husband had nine children, one of which was a son named Judge Clayton Hellums, who is my second cousin.
 

On October 9, 1944, Clayton gave his life for his country while fighting the Germans in the Forest de Parroy, Lorraine, France. A German Panzer fired a round and struck his M10 tank and the resulting damage presumably killed and burned the bodies of Clayton and two other crewmen. It was unclear concerning the fate of the crew due to the catastrophic nature of the German attack. Since there was no body to bury, Clayton could not be officially listed as dead. The War Department notified the family that Clayton was “Missing” and no recoverable remains were to be found.

End of Story. Not by a long shot! In 2003 a Frenchman contacted the family and revealed that he had found a military dog tag with Clayton’s name on it. Thinking it was a hoax to scam funds from the survivors, the call was dismissed. However, a few days later the family received another call stating that the item found was a bracelet with Clayton’s name on it and the name “Martha” was on the opposite side. This changed the whole complexion of the situation, for Martha was Clayton’s fiancĂ©e!

A United States military excavation team went to the site and removed the remains of all three soldiers transporting them to Hawaii. The Hellums family provided DNA samples and the resulting tests matched the DNA of Clayton. All three soldiers were identified.

Larry Hellums, nephew of Clayton, said, “At the same site where Clayton’s M10 Tank had burned and deteriorated, battle artifacts have been found from World War II, World War I, and a Franco-German war fought in 1870. This is a place that has been fought over too often and with much sacrifice.” 

The repatriation of American military war dead is an ongoing program. Resolution 288, adopted at the Sixty-seventh American Legion National Convention calls for "Designating a POW/MIA Empty Chair at all official  meetings of The American Legion as a physical symbol of the thousands of American POW/MIA’s still unaccounted for from all wars and conflicts involving the United States of America. Accordingly, this is a reminder for all of us to spare no effort to secure the release of any American prisoners from captivity, the repatriation of the remains of those who died bravely in defense of liberty, and a full accounting of those missing.” This is the reason that Post 72 sets aside a time of remembrance in each of our meetings.

Last week Clayton Hellums' remains were transported from Hawaii and returned to Calhoun County. Gloria and I were privileged to attend the memorial service and visit with friends and family of Clayton. Many stories were told concerning the events surrounding the young soldier who volunteered for the mission that took his life. Following in the shadow of his older brother, Dwight joined the Marines and served his country in Guadalcanal and several other Pacific battles.

“Before Clayton was shipped overseas, I was able to visit with him briefly near San Diego, California, as one soldier to another—as one brother to another,” said Dwight. “We had breakfast together and as it turned out, that was the last time I saw my brother.”

On Saturday, October 9, 2010, sixty-six years to the day of Clayton’s death, his remains were laid to rest in a family plot near a small white wood-framed church where he was a member and also taught Sunday School. He is finally at rest in the shade of the stately oak trees that line the churchyard and cemetery.


His long journey home is complete. Clayton Hellums is “Missing No More.”


Mike Bennett is a Vietnam War Veteran, 
Purple Heart recipient. Our brother. Our hero. 
Pat, Jane, Grace, Charlie, Lynn, Caren, David, Stephen

Comments

  1. What a beautiful and amazing entry. Thank you for sharing with us. What a handsome man he was...There is just something about the men of the World War II era. Something that goes beyond skin deep...I had the privilege of befriending some at our local nursing home, they were treasures. I loved them and found such true fellowship with them.

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