Private Clifford L. Hook (1915–1944)

Private Clifford L. Hook (Courtesy of the Delaware Public Archives)
Home StateCivilian Occupation
DelawareMillwright
BranchService Number
U.S. Army32485735
TheaterUnit
EuropeanCompany “A,” 610th Tank Destroyer Battalion
Military Occupational SpecialtyCampaigns/Battles
531 (antitank gun crewman)Northern France campaign

Early Life & Family

Clifford Leslie Hook was born in Marshallton, Delaware, on December 17, 1915. He was the son of Ernest Herman Hook (1872–1924) and Caroline Hook (née Foote, 1876–1941). Various records between 1915–1924 describe his father, a German immigrant, as a carpenter, iron worker, and railroad machinist. Hook had five older brothers, two older sisters (one of whom died before his birth), and a younger sister. The family was recorded on the census on January 23, 1920, living on Marshall Avenue in Cranston Heights, west of downtown Wilmington.

Tragedy repeatedly stuck Hook’s family during the 1920s. Hook’s father died on September 10, 1924, aged 52, after falling while working on the new Newark High School building (now the University of Delaware’s Pearson Hall). His older brother, David E. Hook (1905–1926), was one of three firemen from the Cranston Heights Fire Company who were killed after their engine rolled over on icy roads while responding to a house fire on the night of January 15, 1926. David Hook suffered a severe head injury in the crash. Rushed to the Delaware Hospital, he died during surgery early the following morning. Two other brothers, Lewis Heisler Hook (1898–1950) and Leonard E. Hook (1903–1966), also Cranston Heights firemen, were aboard the engine, but survived the accident—in Heisler’s case, despite being thrown from the engine and knocked unconscious.

Front page article reporting the tragedy that claimed the life of David Hook (The Evening Journal)

According to Journal-Every Evening, Clifford Hook “attended the Marshallton School.” When he was recorded on the census on April 27, 1940, Hook was living with his mother and older brother. He was described as a high school graduate, working as a foreman at a fibre mill. Later that year, when he registered for the draft on October 16, 1940, he was working for the Arctic Roofing Company in Edgemoor Terrace—as a millwright according to a Journal-Every Evening article. His wife’s statement to the State of Delaware Public Archives Commission also listed his occupation as millwright. The following year, Hook’s mother died on November 30, 1941.

Sometime between October 16, 1940, and December 29, 1942, Hook moved to 407 Howard Street in Richardson Park, Wilmington. He married Sarah Latham (née Reynolds, 1911–2008) in Elkton, Maryland, on August 24, 1942. The couple had one daughter.


Military Training

Hook was drafted. His enlistment data card is among those that were lost or could not be digitized successfully, though his wife’s statement indicated that Hook was inducted on December 29, 1942. Her statement indicated that after a brief period at Fort Dix, New Jersey, he transferred to Camp Hood, Texas, then Camp Atterbury, Indiana, and finally Camp Kilmer, New Jersey. A July 5, 1944, summary of his service printed in Journal-Every Evening stated that Private Hook “trained at Camp Hood, Tex.; Camp Bowie, Tex., and Camp Atterbury, Ind.”

The only unit Sarah Hook listed was the 610th Tank Destroyer Battalion, which had been activated at Camp Barkeley, Texas, on April 11, 1942. The battalion moved to Camp Bowie, Texas, in December 1942 and then to Camp Hood in March 1943.

After basic training, Private Hook presumably joined the 610th Tank Destroyer Battalion at Camp Bowie or Camp Hood sometime in early 1943. (If not before, by August 1944, Hook was a member of Company “A.”) In June 1943, the 610th Tank Destroyer Battalion moved to Camp Atterbury. In mid-August 1943, the unit moved to Camp Forrest to engage in a series of simulated battles in the Tennessee Maneuver Area. On November 11, 1943, the unit headed back to Kentucky.

U.S. Army tank destroyer units in World War II came in two types: self-propelled and towed. Self-propelled tank destroyers were similar to tanks. Towed antitank guns were hauled into place by vehicles, but otherwise had to be manhandled. Since they were lower profile and easier to conceal than self-propelled tank destroyers, antitank guns had some utility in ambushing enemy armor. However, they were generally less effective than self-propelled units because they had significantly less mobility, took far longer to get set up for action, and offered no protection for their crews other than the gun shield.

Initially equipped with towed 37 mm antitank guns, from March 1943 through December 1943, the 610th Tank Destroyer Battalion was a self-propelled unit. The unit trained on the M3 Gun Motor Carriage and later the 3-inch Gun Motor Carriage M10. Surprisingly, in 1943, with the support of the head of Army Ground Forces, Lieutenant General Leslie J. McNair (1883–1944), the U.S. Army began to convert a significant number of self-propelled tank destroyer units to towed ones, including the 610th. In his 1946 book, The 610th Tank Destroyer Battalion, Captain Roy T. McGrann wrote that the battalion received the “disquieting news” on December 5, 1943, and that “The first reaction was heartbreaking for every member of the battalions loved the self-propelled guns with which they had been trained.”

The battalion had to rapidly retrain and reequip. The battalion’s new weapons were towed 3-inch antitank guns, which required a 10-man crew, double that of a self-propelled tank destroyer. A unit morning report after the change listed Private Hook’s Military Occupational Specialty (M.O.S.) as 531 (antitank gun crewman).

Illustration of a halftrack towing an antitank gun from an April 1944 field manual, Tank Destroyer Towed Gun Platoon (University of North Texas Digital Library)

On March 31, 1944, the 610th Tank Destroyer Battalion left Camp Atterbury by train, arriving the following day at Camp Kilmer, New Jersey. Although Camp Kilmer was a staging area for the New York Port of Embarkation, the battalion did not go overseas immediately. Instead, they transferred to Fort Dix, New Jersey, on May 5, 1944, before returning to Camp Kilmer on May 29. The battalion boarded a Dutch ocean liner turned troop transport, the S.S. Nieuw Amsterdam, sailing from New York on the morning of June 3, 1944. While in transit, the soldiers aboard learned that the invasion of Normandy had begun. The transport arrived in Scotland on the night of June 11–12, 1944, and the 610th Tank Destroyer Battalion headed south to England by train.


Combat in France

Company “A,” 610th Tank Destroyer Battalion arrived in Normandy on August 1, 1944, aboard a Landing Ship, Tank (L.S.T.). By that time, the Allied armies had broken out of Normandy, and the battalion was ordered south. The battalion suffered its first combat fatality on the night of August 7–8, 1944, when Technician 5th Grade Edgar M. Bird (1920–1944) was killed during a German air raid on Avranches. Shortly thereafter, the battalion was attached to the 80th Infantry Division. Company “A” added its guns to the divisional artillery. The 610th Tank Destroyer Battalion moved east as Allied forces worked to encircle German forces in what became known as the Falaise pocket. On the evening of August 19, 1944, the 610th Tank Destroyer Battalion command post was hit by enemy artillery fire and the battalion commander, Lieutenant Colonel William L. Herold (1912–1944), was mortally wounded.

Illustration of an antitank gun in position, from an April 1944 field manual, Tank Destroyer Towed Gun Platoon (University of North Texas Digital Library)

With the German positions crumbling, the Allies swept across France. At the end of August 1944, the 610th Tank Destroyer Battalion drove 347 miles to Sainte-Flavy, Grand Est, France, without encountering any resistance. The unit returned to combat on August 29, 1944, with Company “A” supporting the 318th Regimental Combat Team of the 80th Infantry Division near Matougues. They continued to push east during the next week, drawing close to the river Moselle. By that time, if not before, Private Hook was a member of a 3-inch gun crew in 3rd Platoon, Company “A,” led by Sergeant Carl J. Maurana (1918–1992).

A 610th Tank Destroyer Battalion after action report stated that:

On Sept 7, “A” Company moved to vicinity SAIZERAIS in direct support 318th combat team.  They fired 55 rounds of HE [high explosive,] accounting for 6 machine gun positions and one enemy OP [observation post].

Early in the morning of Sept 8, [1944,] the enemy launched a counter-attack on positions occupied by 3rd platoon,  “A” Company, 1-1/2 miles SE of SAIZERAIS.  The supporting Infantry fell back without warning the platoon, and heavy mortar and machine gun fire forced the platoon to fall back abandoning three 3inch guns, three half-tracks, and three 1/4 tons [trucks]. The attack was halted about 1000 meters to the rear of the original positions by the reorganized Infantry.  The enemy turned the 3inch guns on our friendly units and one gun was destroyed by artillery fire and it was later determined that the other two guns were destroyed by [the] 702nd Tank Battalion.  One entire gun crew has been reported missing.

Similarly, an account by Staff Sergeant Edward Mitreuter included in the 1946 McGrann history stated:

During the morning of the 8th, the Platoon encountered a heavy mortar barrage while in position, followed by a counterattack. O’Donald’s gun was hit and after the forward infantry positions were overrun[.] Sgt. Carl Maurana[’]s gun crew were captured with the exception of Pvt. Clifford Hook, who was killed. Lt. Staib ordered a withdrawal to the edge of the woods. Two guns of the Platoon were destroyed in the action.

According to a digitized hospital admission card under his service number, Private Hook was struck in the face by shell fragments and killed. He was the first member of Company “A,” 610th Tank Destroyer Battalion to be killed in action during the war. Total Company “A” casualties for September 8, 1944, were one dead, two wounded, and nine missing (captured).

It came too late for Private Hook, but at the end of September, the 610th Tank Destroyer Battalion was pulled out of the line to convert back to a self-propelled unit, reequipping with the powerful new 90 mm Gun Motor Carriage M36. The battalion served through the end of the war in Europe.

Private Hook was honored on a plaque honoring servicemen from Cranston Heights unveiled at Newport-Gap Pike and Capitol Trail on March 19, 1945, as well as at Veterans Memorial Park in New Castle.

After the war, Private Hook’s family requested that his body be repatriated to the United States. After services at St. Barnabas Episcopal Church in Marshallton on December 4, 1948, Private Hook was buried at the church cemetery (now the Kings Assembly of God Church Cemetery).

Private Hook’s widow, Sarah, remarried to Vincent V. Swiatek (1924–2000) in Elkton in late 1953 or early 1954.


Notes

Date of Birth

It is surprisingly frequent for an individual born before World War II to have discrepancies in various records about what year they were born. When available, I usually consider the birth certificate to be authoritative. Hook’s birth certificate gave his date of birth as 6 p.m. on December 17, 1915. It was filed on December 28, 1915, so there seems little reason to doubt its accuracy. It is supported by the 1920 census, which indicates that Hook was four years and zero months of age as of January 1, 1920. However, his draft card gave his date of birth as December 16, 1917. Adding to the confusion, when Sarah B. Hook applied for a headstone on December 8, 1948, she listed his date of birth as December 17, 1916! A government official checked it off as accurate, suggesting it matched the date of birth listed in military records, that’s the date of birth on his headstone.

Hospital Admission Card

Hospital admission cards were filled out even when the soldier died prior to reaching the hospital. Since his status was listed as killed in action (rather than died of wounds) and the card does not record any treatment, he most likely died immediately after being hit.


Acknowledgments

Special thanks to the Delaware Public Archives for the use of their photo of Private Hook.


Bibliography

“3 Firemen Killed, Engine Upsets on Icy Highway.” The Evening Journal, January 16, 1926. Pg. 1 and 16. https://www.newspapers.com/clip/91042385/david-hook-killed-pg-1/, https://www.newspapers.com/clip/91042486/david-hook-killed-pg-2/

Applications for Headstones, compiled 1/1/1925–6/30/1970, documenting the period c. 1776–1970. Record Group 92, Records of the Office of the Quartermaster General, 1774–1985. National Archives at Washington, D.C. https://www.ancestry.com/imageviewer/collections/2375/images/40050_2421401755_0405-01529

Company morning reports for Company “A,” 610th Tank Destroyer Battalion, August 1944. National Personnel Records Center via the 80th Division Digital Archives Project website. https://www.80thdivision.com/MorningReports/AUG44/MR610TDBnA_01AUG44-31AUG44.pdf

Company morning reports for Company “A,” 610th Tank Destroyer Battalion, September 1944. National Personnel Records Center via the 80th Division Digital Archives Project website. https://www.80thdivision.com/MorningReports/SEP44/MR610TDBnA_01SEP44-30SEP44.pdf

“Cranston Heights Rites Dedicate Service Plaque.” Journal-Every Evening, March 19, 1945. Pg. 16. https://www.newspapers.com/clip/91046612/cranston-heights-plaque/

“Ernest Hook Killed by a Fall at Newark.” Every Evening, September 11, 1924. Pg. 1. https://www.newspapers.com/clip/91044618/ernest-hook-killed/

“Fire Engine Wrecked; Three Men Dead.” Every Evening, January 16, 1926. Pg. 1 and 4. https://www.newspapers.com/clip/91043002/cranston-heights-fc-crash-pg-1/, https://www.newspapers.com/clip/91043039/cranston-heights-fc-crash-pg-2/

FM 18-21: Tank Destroyer Towed Gun Platoon. War Department, April 1, 1944. University of North Texas Digital Library. https://digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc11809/

Hook, Sarah. Clifford Lesslie [sic] Hook Individual Military Service Record, c. 1946. Record Group 1325-003-053, Record of Delawareans Who Died in World War II.  Delaware Public Archives, Dover, Delaware. https://cdm16397.contentdm.oclc.org/digital/collection/p15323coll6/id/19227/rec/1

Clifford Leslie Hook birth certificate. Record Group 1500-008-094, Birth certificates. Delaware Public Archives, Dover, Delaware. https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:S3HY-6SP7-1LP

“History of Organization. (After Battle Report).” Headquarters 610th Tank Destroyer Battalion, November 3, 1944. TankDestroyer.net. http://tankdestroyer.net/images/stories/ArticlePDFs/610th_TD_Aug-Sept_44_AAR_Opt.pdf

“Married in Maryland.” Journal-Every Evening, February 9, 1954. Pg. 53. https://www.newspapers.com/clip/91055144/sarah-hook-remarriage/

McGrann, Roy T. The 610th Tank Destroyer Battalion. Unknown publisher, 1946. TankDestroyer.net. http://tankdestroyer.net/images/stories/ArticlePDFs2/610th_TD_Bn_History_-_Complete_2.pdf

“Our Men and Women In Service.” Journal-Every Evening, July 5, 1944. Pg. 18. https://www.newspapers.com/clip/91056732/clifford-hook-training/

“Reburial Rites Planned For Private C. L. Hook.” Journal-Every Evening, December 1, 1948. Pg. 31. https://www.newspapers.com/clip/91055681/clifford-hook-burial/

“Sarah B. Swiatek.” Find a Grave. https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/26789947/sarah-b-swiatek

“Sgt Carl J Maurana.” Find a Grave. https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/60264705/carl-j-maurana

Stanton, Shelby L. World War II Order of Battle: An Encyclopedic Reference to U.S. Army Ground Forces from Battalion through Division 1939–1946. Revised ed. Stackpole Books, 2006.

“Table of Organization and Equipment No. 18-37: Tank Destroyer Gun Company, Tank Destroyer Battalion, Towed.” War Department, September 1, 1944. Military Research Service website. http://www.militaryresearch.org/18-37%201Sep44.pdf

United States of America, Bureau of the Census. Fourteenth Census of the United States, 1920. National Archives at Washington, D.C. https://www.ancestry.com/imageviewer/collections/6061/images/4295772-00032

United States of America, Bureau of the Census. Fifteenth Census of the United States, 1930. National Archives at Washington, D.C. https://www.ancestry.com/imageviewer/collections/6224/images/4531891_00598

United States of America, Bureau of the Census. Sixteenth Census of the United States, 1940. National Archives at Washington, D.C. https://www.ancestry.com/imageviewer/collections/2442/images/m-t0627-00545-00602

U.S. WWII Hospital Admission Card Files, 1942–1954. Record Group 112, Records of the Office of the Surgeon General (Army), 1775–1994. National Archives at College Park, Maryland. https://www.fold3.com/record/704803731/blank-us-wwii-hospital-admission-card-files-1942-1954

World War I Selective Service System Draft Registration Cards, 1917–1918. National Archives at Washington, D.C. https://www.ancestry.com/imageviewer/collections/6482/images/005207029_04056

WWII Draft Registration Cards for Delaware, 10/16/1940–3/31/1947. Record Group 147, Records of the Selective Service System. National Archives at St. Louis, Missouri. https://www.ancestry.com/imageviewer/collections/2238/images/44003_02_00003-00807


Last updated on January 17, 2022

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