Frederick Clinton didn't fight in just one war. He fought in three.

Julia LeDoux
April 26, 2019 - 3:38 pm
Frederick Clinton



Frederick Clinton was a boy of 14 when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.

Two years later, he lied about his age in order to enlist in the Army, beginning what would be a 30 plus year career that would see him fight on the battlefields of World War II, Korea, and Vietnam.

The 91-year-old resident of Alexandria, Virginia chuckled as he noted, “they thought I was 17, and said ‘you’re a warm’ll do’”.

Frederick Clinton
Veterans History Project/Library of Congress

Expecting to capitalize on his experience as a full-time employee at the Norfolk Naval Air Station in Clinton’s hometown, the Army wanted him for its Air Corps, while he wanted to “ride motorcycles.”

In a “classic” compromise, Clinton “ended up in the medical field” after he “did pretty well on the test, even though I was a high school dropout.” After several months in “Army health”, he volunteered for the 63rd Infantry Division and was with that unit in “April of 1944 (when) the division shipped thousands of us to Europe for D-Day.”

Clinton recalled trekking across France helping to liberate the country from Nazi Germany and the bonds he formed with those he fought beside. “I got close to them” he said, adding that “those are the people I’ve stayed in touch with.”

His devotion to his 63rd Division brothers moved him to digitize all the unit’s paper records, which he has shared with “a lot of military organizations and museums.”

Clinton said the decision to re-enlist after the war was a relatively easy one for him because “I didn’t really have anything to go back to Norfolk for.” He served in a few different Army billets, including that of supply clerk, and was a first sergeant by the time he shipped out to Korea in 1950. At one point, he was offered a battlefield promotion to 2nd lieutenant, but turned it down, noting that “2nd lieutenants don’t rise too high in combat.” He did express interest in the promotion if he could transfer to the Adjutant General Corps, and “30 days later I was an Adjutant General 2nd lieutenant.”

With no plans to leave the Army, he spent time in Europe, Turkey, and at the Pentagon. The one-time high school dropout also earned a college degree while serving, and by 1968 Clinton was a lieutenant colonel stationed in Vietnam.

Medical issues necessitated his return stateside, so he didn’t experience the antipathy that so many of those who fought in Vietnam had to endure, though he commented that “there really wasn’t any greeting when I got back.”

Clinton retired from the Army in 1973 with the rank of colonel.

He noted that people always thank him for his service, but says that he thanks them for allowing him to serve. Clinton adds “I was a high school dropout...I got my college degree in the Army...I saw a lot of different places and met a lot of people. The total career was phenomenal as far as I’m concerned.”

Despite his age, Colonel Clinton shows little interest in slowing down, and so far this year, he’s been to China and the Caribbean. He is, of course, planning to attend the 75th-anniversary celebration of D-Day at the National World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C. in June. “I try to stay busy,” he says.

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