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Shiprock-born war hero, Mark Radcliffe, dies at 92
By Kurt Madar email@example.com
Posted: 04/09/2012 12:06:54 AM MDT
FARMINGTON — Mark Radcliffe was a war hero, something his son, Bob Radcliffe, didn't know growing up.
Radcliffe, a highly decorated World War II Army veteran who was born in Shiprock, died at the age of 92 on April 1 in Montana.
"I never knew growing up what he had done," Bob said. "He was a kind of easygoing normal guy. What can I say, he was my dad."
He was also tough as nails.
According to Bob, the actual phrase used to describe his dad's toughness was "tougher than a woodpecker's lips."
After being ordered into active duty in 1941, Radcliffe was selected a year later for the Plough Project, which at the time was described as a suicide mission.
The Plough Project was an invasion of Norway by a small, highly trained unit that would strike deep behind enemy lines. The problem was no such guerrilla-style unit existed.
Enter the First Special Service Force, an elite commando unit created for the Plough Project that combined Canadian and American soldiers.
"These guys were the original special ops," Bob said. "When Canada did a documentary about them, they recruited ex-special forces and put them through the same training with the same equipment. By the end of the training, only seven of them were left."
While the Plough Project was scrapped, the 1st Special Service Force created for it was extremely effective. Earning the nickname Black Devils from the Germans, their exploits were eventually made into the movie "The Devil's Brigade."
Trained as paratroopers, they were assigned to the European Theater. Radcliffe commanded troops that captured Mount Magio in Italy, and led the first troops into Rome. He holds battle credits in North Africa, the South Pacific, Asiatic Pacific and throughout Europe.
Radcliffe was also captured.
"When he was a POW, he was beat across the throat and shot in the foot," Bob said. "One night the position where he was being held came under artillery fire."
As the two German soldiers guarding him looked out to see where the shells were coming from, Radcliffe, who they thought was unconscious, grabbed a board and took them out.
"There were three of them that escaped," Bob said. "That night they hid in a tree. The next morning they each went their separate ways to try and make it back to the lines. My dad was the only one that made it."
Radcliffe was awarded a Silver Star, six Bronze Stars, three Army Commendation Medals and a Purple Heart with three clusters.
After returning from the war, he continued his military career in the Army Reserve, retiring in 1978 as a full colonel.
He also returned to Helena, Mont. where the 1st Special Reserve Force trained, and where he met his wife, Edith Kathleen Bauer, during training.
"He met my mom at a dance," Bob said. "At the dance he saw my mom across the dance floor and told his buddy, "I'm going to marry that woman.'"
Two months later that is exactly what he did. They were together for the next 70 years.
"It was love at first sight and ever after," said Radcliffe's daughter, Carolyn Doering. "I mean I'm sure they had their moments, but I never heard my parents argue. My dad never went anyplace without my mom, they were always together."
While Radcliffe was a very private man, and Carolyn rarely saw public displays of affection, she had no doubt that he adored Edith.
"Every year, even when my dad was overseas, he made sure my mom had a dozen red roses on their anniversary," Carolyn said. "He was amazing."
Obituary from Anderson Stevenson Wilke Funeral Home:
Colonel T. Mark Radcliffe fought his last battle on April 1st, 2012, wrapped in the love and care given by his family, the wonderful dedicated staff at Aspen Gardens, and Hospice of St. Peters.
Mark was born September 6, 1918 in Shiprock, New Mexico, the first of three boys, to Marcus and Evelyn Radcliffe. He spent his early years in New Mexico and Salt Lake City, Utah, attended the National Defense School at the University of Utah and was ordered into active duty in 1941.
Mark was stationed at Pearl Harbor when the Japanese attacked. After the attack, he was sent to Officer Candidate School in Fort Benning, Georgia. In 1942 Mark was interviewed and selected for duty with the First Special Service Force at Fort William Henry Harrison in Helena as Company Executive Officer. He was trained as a paratrooper and a member of the elite Devil's Brigade. He was assigned to the European Theater and participated in all the major force combat missions. Mark commanded the troops that captured and secured the enemy on Mt. Magio in Italy, was captured and wounded, and lead the first troops into Rome to secure their liberation. He was awarded the Silver Star, six Bronze Stars, three Army Accomodation medals, the Purple Heart with three clusters, the combat infantry badge, parachute wings, commendation for superior combat operations, and an official commendation for leading the first combat patrol into the City of Rome. He holds battle credits in North Africa, the South Pacific, Asiatic Pacific, Naples, Foggia, Rome Arno, Corsica, Southern France, Franco Italian border, Rheinland and Norway. After returning from the war in 1944, Mark continued his military career by joining the Army Reserve as Deputy Commander, then becoming Commander of the Helena unit. He served in many capacities, retiring in 1978 as a Full Colonel.
While training in Helena, Mark met the love of his life, Edith Kathleen Bauer, at a USO dance.......the beautiful girl across the room. He wrote his mother that he had met the girl he was going to marry. Two months later on September 3, 1942 they were married at St. Paul's Methodist Church.
Mark was a professional engineer and started his career at McKinnon and Decker Construction Co. in Helena after the war. He was Deputy Director of the Montana Aeronautics Commission and retired as Deputy Director of the Federal Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Mark designed the First Special Service Force Monument at Memorial Park and the Cenotaph that stands behind it. He was instrumental in the development of the Montana Military Museum at Fort Harrison and after retirement worked to secure the designation of Fort Harrison as a high altitude training facility.
Mark was preceded in death by his parents and his youngest brother Robert Radcliffe. He is survived by his wife of almost 70 years, Edith Radcliffe of Helena; a daughter Carolyn (Chuck) Doering of Helena and a son Bob (Jeannette) Radcliffe of Bozeman. Grandchildren; Annette (Randy) McDowell of Bozeman, Lynne (John) Armbruster of Snohomish, WA., and Mark Radcliffe Jr. (Anna) of Belgrade. Step-grandchildren: Stephanie Borash of West Yellowstone and Suzie Hockel of Bozeman. He has eight great grandchildren. He is also survived by his brother Bruce Radcliffe of Tempe, Arizona, and several nieces and nephews.
A Memorial Service and Reception will be held on Tuesday, April 10, 2012, starting at 1:00 pm. at Anderson Stevenson Wilke Funeral Home, 3750 N. Montana Ave in Helena. A burial with Military honors will follow at the State Veterans Cemetery at Fort Harrison.
In lieu of flowers, memorials in Mark's name may be sent to the Montana Military Museum Foundation, PO Box 125, Fort Harrison, Montana 59636-0081 or the Wounded Warrior Project, 4899 Belfort Road, Ste. 300, Jacksonville, FL. 32256. Condolences may be sent to the family by visiting: www.aswfuneralhome.com
Montana State Veterans Cemetery
Lewis and Clark County
Mark Radcliffe of the First Special Service Force, while on patrol on the Anzio beachhead before the Allies broke the German defenses, was captured by the Nazis. He was then taken to La Torre for questioning by a German officer.
“All I was giving was my name, rank and serial number,” Radcliffe relates. “Suddenly he whacked me across the throat with a 14-inch rubber truncheon.”
About then the interrogation was interrupted when Allied artillery started shelling the area. Radcliffe’s captors scattered for shelter, leaving only one German to guard three prisoners.
“When he wasn’t looking, I hit him over the back of the head with a piece of wood, and we escaped,” Radcliffe said.
The GIs worked their way back to the Allied line, traveling at night and hiding in trees during the day. On the third day, Radcliffe was almost back to his outfit when he was spotted and hit by mortar shrapnel, severing some tendons in his ankle.
When Sgt. Erickson found his immobile company commander, he began banging Radcliffe’s head on the ground, demanding “Where the hell have you been?!”
Radcliffe was born in Farmington, N.M., in 1918, and graduated from high school in Albuquerque in 1937. He was ordered into active duty in 1941 to Fort Lewis as part of the 41st Division. He deployed to the South Pacific as Operations Sergeant Headquarters of the 161st Infantry Regiment, but before he saw any combat he was selected for Officer Candidate School at Fort Benning, Ga.
After graduating OCS in July 1942, he was selected to participate in the
Plough Project at Fort Harrison in Helena. In early August, while attending a dance at the Armory, Radcliffe’s buddy called him “chicken” if he didn’t approach one particular girl. So he asked her to dance, and it was “love at first sight.” The wedding took place a month later, and this September Mark and Edith (Bauer) Radcliffe will celebrate their 60th wedding anniversary.
Radcliffe shipped out to North Africa with the FSSF as Commander of the 3rd Company, 3rd Regiment. He was involved in the conquests of Mount la Difensa and Mount Majo in southern Italy in the freezing winter of 1943-44, and then the force was assigned to assist at the Anzio beachhead.
After his escape, Radcliffe was transported to the hospital in Naples. He decided to return to the FSSF, in spite of the Army’s standing orders that all wounded were to be sent to Repo-Depo.
“When I got back to Force Headquarters I was AWOL from the hospital. General Fredericks then assigned me to a special mission,” Radcliffe recalls.
He was instructed by Major General Keyes to lead an independent corps reconnaissance mission along Highway 6 and penetrate Rome prior to the main entry.
“I was told the reason an officer from the force was selected was because of the FSSF’s ability to get the job done,” Radcliffe says.
They departed II Corps Headquarters on June 3, 1944, with intentions of joining the Ellis Task Force, which was spearheading the drive on Rome. But after passing a convoy, which they learned later was the task force, near Frascati and encountering enemy fire, the mission turned out to be a lot more than just public relations. They engaged in several skirmishes along the way, and then at 6 a.m. on June 4, Radcliffe’s special corps patrol passed through Rome’s Porta San Giovanni gate, one-half hour before any other Allied unit.
Radcliffe returned to Helena after the war (some of his medals include the Silver Star, the Bronze Star with cluster and the Purple Heart with two clusters), where he and Edith raised their children, Bob and Carolyn. He spent a career in civil engineering and stayed involved with the armed forces in the Army Reserves and, more recently, with the Montana Military Museum.
Nowadays, whenever his throat hurts and goes hoarse, it reminds Radcliffe of a certain truncheon-wielding Nazi officer in La Torre, Italy.
Taken from the Helena Independant Record http://www.helenair.com/articles/2002/08/17/stories/helena/6a1.txt