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A Tradition of Service Logo 75Harold J. Cloutman

Submitted by: Kevin Cloutman {Grandson}

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Harold J. Cloutman was born around 1893. Harold Cloutman served in World War 1 with the United States Marine Corps. The enlistment was in 1917 and the service was completed in 1918.

Story of Service

 

My Grandfather, Corporal Harold J. Cloutman, enlisted in the US Marine Corps at the outbreak of the American involvement in WWI. Being 24 years old, and a college graduate, he was quickly promoted to the rank of Corporal. He arrived in France with the first deployment of the AEF assigned to the 5th Marine Regiment which was part of the larger Marine Brigade. He was a gunner on a .30 caliber water cooled machine gun.

Upon their arrival in France, the Marine Brigade participated in a few quiet sectors, but their biggest challenge came during Germany’s last great offensive in the Spring of 1918 when they broke the French lines southeast of Paris. The Marines were thrown into battle to plug the gap in the line in what would famously be called Belleau Woods.

According to my Grandfather’s writings, the Marines arrived in station on Memorial Day 1918. The German vanguard arrived June 1st. As a gunner, he and his crew, typically a crew of 4, were positioned for maximum effective fire. Because of this, they were often the target of artillery fire prior to the German advances. The level of artillery fire from both sides was intense. During this period, a round landed in his gun placement sparing my Grandfather, but killing the rest of his crew. He was assigned to another crew, when on June 18th, 1918, a shell would again land in his position, again sparing him but killing the rest of his crew. This time, though, as he tried to get to his feet, he realized that he, too, was hit.

As he would tell us as kids, “21 wounds, count them.” He was treated for 21 wounds in the lower back and legs. Most were resolved in a field hospital, but, like a lot of War Vets, much of the shrapnel he would carry for the rest of his life, occasionally setting off metal detectors at airport. He would not return to the front, marking his War Time Experience to 18 days in Battle. He was awarded the Silver Star and Purple Heart, which I am the custodian of, and the entire Marine Brigade, the 4th, 5th, and 6th Regiments were awarded the French Croix de Guerre.

He often spoke proudly of the Marine Corps. He would say, “The Marines Corps is the finest outfit in the World. And if you don’t believe me, just ask any Marine.” His son, my Father, would serve with the 1st Marines in WWII as a “China Marine” in 1945. I would enlist in 1979, and work as an Avionics Man on CH53D Helicopters in New River Air Station, NC.

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