Tom Clow (center) and his wife, Tracy, were presented the medals Tom’s uncle, Elmer Clow earned during his time serving his country. Presenting the medals was Kittson County Veteran’s Service Officer Robert Cameron.
By Linda Andersen
One of the horrific realities of life is war and the consequent ending of lives – often young lives that are just beginning to bloom. One life that was snuffed out far too early was that of Elmer R. Clow, son of Wilbur and Frieda Clow of Orleans, Minn. He died of wounds received on the battlefield of Belgium, at the age of 21, on December 24, 1944.
Elmer was remembered this past Memorial Day in Kittson County when Robert Cameron, Kittson County Veterans Service Officer, presented Elmer’s military medals and badges to Tom Clow, Elmer’s nephew.
Contacted by email, Tom Clow of Fargo, sent information about Elmer, the circumstances of his death and burial, and the awards he had earned in his short military life.
Elmer was born October 20, 1923 in Hallock, attended schools in Orleans and Lancaster, and graduated from Lancaster Public School in 1943. He had five brothers – William, Ivan, Earl, James, Donald – and two sisters – Ruth and Mae. At the time of Elmer’s death, William and Ivan were stationed with the military in Italy.
Few personal memories of Elmer remain, as he died so young. As Tom Clow writes, “Elmer Clow died 16 years before I was born… My father, James Clow, Elmer’s younger brother was only 12 years old when Elmer died so he did not know much about him either. My aunt Barbara (Nelson) Peterson of Lancaster, Minn., told me her father was a good friend of Elmer. What little I have heard about Elmer is that he was a well-respected young man and was admired by those who knew him.”
Tom provided further information about Elmer’s entry into the service, death, and burial: “He was inducted into the service at Ft. Snelling, Minnesota Feb. 14, 1944 and received his training at Camp Croft, South Carolina. Final training was given at Camp Benning, Georgia, and he left for overseas duty Oct. 3, 1944.”
“Elmer was a member of the 517th Parachute Infantry Regiment…They were engaged in the Battle of the Bulge where Elmer Clow was killed by a sniper’s bullet near the villages of Soy and Hotton, Belgium.”
He was buried at Henri-Chapelle American Cemetery and Memorial, Plombiéres, Belgium.
Tom provided a letter addressed to Mrs. Freida Clow from the Office of the Regimental Chaplain of the 517th Parachute Infantry, dated 17 February 1945. It states in part, “The Nation will not forget your sacrifice. And, if it seems too great a one to make, I can only say that, in this tragic time through which we pass, you have followed the example of the Father of us all Who ‘so loved the world that He gave His only Begotten Son’ to redeem the world. I do not believe such sacrifices are in vain.”
Tom also provided a letter, dated 1945, and addressed to Mrs. Clow from one of Elmer’s comrades, Marvin (last name not legible). It reads in part, “We arrived at the front in Belgium on the evening of the 23rd of December and went into action at the point of the deepest German penetration. There is no doubt in my mind that the ‘Battle of the Bulge’ was one of the fiercest engagements of the European War. Elmer was fortunate in being hit so soon rather than later in the campaign. The men who lived through it have memories no man should have to carry through life.”
“He was taken to the aid station immediately and although he had a very slight chance, he died about eight hours later. From the time he was hit until he died he remained unconscious so he suffered no pain.”
“Elmer was highly respected and admired by the men who knew him, I cherished him as one of my best friends, and he is now remembered by us as being one of the many who have given us cause to prevent this inhuman warfare from being engaged in again.”
Tom listed the awards earned by his Uncle Elmer: Parachute Badge, Combat Infantryman Badge, Honorable Service Lapel Button WWII, European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal, Word War II Victory Medal, Army Good Conduct Medal, Bronze Star Medal, Purple Heart Medal.
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Internet information from the American Battle Monuments Commission (http://www.abmc.gov) provided this information about the Henri Chapelle American Cemetery where Elmer Clow is buried: “Here rest 7,989 of our military Dead, most of whom gave their lives in the repulse of the German counter-offensive in the Ardennes popularly known as the ‘Battle of the Bulge,’ or during the advance into, and across Germany during the fall and winter of 1944 and the spring of 1945. Others were lost in air operations over the region.”
“The 7,989 headstones are arranged in broad sweeping curves upon the gently sloping lawn. These Dead came from 49 states, and from the District of Columbia, Panama and England. Among the graves are 33 instances in which 2 brothers rest side by side, and one instance of 3 brothers; also there are headstones marking the tombs of 94 Unknowns whose identity is known but to God.”
It is good to remember Elmer Clow and others like him who have died to ensure the safety and freedom of the American people.
Above Left: Elmer Clow pictured here in a old photograph with a painted background. Clow died on the battlefield in Belgium. He was inducted into service at Ft. Snelling Feb. 14, 1944 and received his training at Camp Croft, S.C.
Above Right: Kittson County Veteran’s Service Officer Robert Cameron recently collected Elmer Clow’s medals and organized them in this wood memory box to present to Elmer’s nephew, Tom, at Memorial Day Services in Lancaster.