McClusky, Clarence Wade.

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McClusky, Clarence Wade, born 01-06-1902, in Buffalo, New York. the second of five children to Clarence Wade McClusky, Sr, an accountant, and his wife Mary Anastasia, born Stears “May” McClusky. Both of his parents were born in Pennsylvania, but had spent their adulthoods in Buffalo. Wade, Sr. was a Presbyterian of Scotch-Irish ancestry, while May was an Irish Catholic. Wade, Sr. refused to raise the children in the Catholic faith, and forbade May from attending Catholic Mass. Wade, Sr. died in an automobile crash on 08-10-1928, after which May returned to the Catholic Church. May persuaded one of McClusky’s sisters to convert to Catholicism, but McClusky himself became an Episcopalian.

McClusky disliked his first name Clarence, and always signed his name as “C. Wade McClusky”. He attended South Park High School in Buffalo, where he was a clever and hard-working student. McClusky graduated in 1918 at the age of 16. As his family’s financial situation was strained, he sought employment instead of applying to colleges. His first job involved cleaning the interiors of railroad tanker cars, and associated exposure to various chemicals. McClusky’s son Philip recalled in 2015: “He told me once that it was a miserable job and as a result he was determined to go to college or the academy!

Clarence graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 1926 and became a Naval Aviator three years later. Over the next decade, he served in several air units, as well as on command staffs, as an instructor at the Naval Academy and at shore facilities. In 1940 he was assigned to Fighting Squadron Six, based on USS Enterprise, and assumed command of that squadron in April 1941. Lieutenant Commander McClusky became Enterprise air group commander in April 1942. During the Battle of Midway, while leading his air group’s scout bombers on 04-06-1942, he made the critical tactical decision that led to the sinking of two of Japan’s fleet carriers, Kaga, and Akagi.

The Battle of Midway was a major naval battle in the Pacific Theater of World War II that took place 4–7 June 1942, six months after the Empire of Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor and one month after the Battle of the Coral Sea. The U.S. Navy under Admirals Chester William Nimitz, Frank Jack Fletcher, and Raymond Ames Spruance  defeated an attacking fleet of the Imperial Japanese Navy under Admirals Isoroku Takano Yamamoto, Chūichi Nagumo and Nobutake Kondō north of Midway Atoll, inflicting devastating damage on the Japanese fleet. Military historian John Keegan called it “the most stunning and decisive blow in the history of naval warfare”, while naval historian Craig Symonds called it “one of the most consequential naval engagements in world history, ranking alongside Salamis, Trafalgar, and Tsushima Strait, as both tactically decisive and strategically influential.”

When McClusky could not find the Japanese carriers where he expected them, and with his air group’s fuel running dangerously low, he spotted the Japanese destroyer Arashi steaming north at flank speed. The Arashi had stayed behind to attack the USS Nautilus, which had been harassing the Japanese fleet. Taking the Arashi’s heading led him directly to the enemy carriers. He then directed his dive-bombers into an attack which led to the destruction of both Kaga and Akagi. A squadron from the Yorktown, led by Max Leslie, had taken off an hour later, but it used a more recent, and hence more accurate, sighting for the location of the Japanese carriers. It arrived at the same moment as the Enterprise’s bombers and attacked the Soryu, and within minutes, three of the four Japanese carriers had been turned into burning hulks. McClusky, through his intelligence, courage and sheer luck, had thus made a vital contribution to the outcome of this pivotal battle. For his actions, McClusky was awarded the Navy Cross. Later in World War II, he commanded the escort carrier USS Corrgidor.  Captain McClusky served in a variety of staff and shore positions in the later 1940s. During the Korean War, he was Chief of Staff to the Commanders of the First and Seventh Fleet. He commanded NAS Glenview, Illinois, in 1952–53, and the Boston Group of the Atlantic Reserve Fleet in 1954–56. McClusky retired from active duty in July 1956. At that time, in recognition of his vital contributions to the outcome of World War II, he was advanced to flag rank.

Erie County Clerk Chris Jacobs along with Congressman Brian Higgins and other distinguished guests took time to celebrate the heroic actions of a true war hero and alumnus of South Park High School, Rear Admiral C. Wade McClusky.  A navy veteran and native of Buffalo, Admiral McClusky’s efforts have been recognized at the national level however, there has been no local recognition over the years.

Death and burial ground of McClusky, Clarence Wade.

McCluskey died at the age of 74, on 27-06-1974 and is buried with his wife Ruth Goodwin, born Mundy, who died age 65, on 07-12-1967, on the US Naval Academy Cemetery of Annapolis, Maryland. Close by the graves of the General, who directed the development of the United States’ original jet engine and jet aircraft. Benjamin Wiley Chidlaw,   Air Force Lieutenant General. Commander 5th Bombardment Wing, Joseph Harris Atkinson, General Lieutenant, Commander Sixth Air Force, Hubert Reilly Harmon, General, Commander 15th Air Force, Emmet “Rosie” O’Donnel Jr., Emmet “Rosie”, Lieutenant General, Chief of Air Staff, George Edward Stratemeyer.

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