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Clarence Lewis Dragoo

West Virginia
Veterans Memorial


Clarence Lewis Dragoo

"Airman of keen judgment, who unselfishly gave his best for his country's cause"

Commanding officer of Clarence Lewis Dragoo

Clarence Lewis Dragoo, son of James Turner Dragoo and Stella Blanch Waggoner Dragoo, was born on December 30, 1923 in Sandyville, Jackson County. He was the second of four children. Clarence was very close with his siblings: older sister, Dorothy; younger sister, Bernice; and a younger brother, James Melvin Dragoo. He liked to play the guitar and sing in the Copperfork Community Church in Sandyville. Clarence also enjoyed reading and was interested in mathematics.
Family of Clarence Lewis Dragoo
1st row: Clarence, Melvin, Bernice and Dorothy Dragoo. 2nd row: James and Blanch Dragoo

Students at Copper Fork School
Students at Copper Fork School. Clarence is in second row, second from right; sister Bernice is in the second row, far left.
Clarence attended Copperfork Grade School and graduated from Gilmore High School in May 1941. While attending Gilmore High School, he was the treasurer of the FFA, the editor of the yearbook, and was involved in the Drama Club.

After high school, Clarence attended Capital City Commercial College in Charleston, where he served as president of the Pi Rho Zeta fraternity. While in college, he was involved in the Drama Club and a member of a local band, which performed on Charleston's WCHS Radio Station. Clarence also worked as a local bookkeeper. After two years, Clarence left college and joined the US Air Corps. He was inducted in Huntington on January 19, 1943 and entered into active duty on January 26, 1943 at Fort Thomas, Kentucky. Clarence accepted a commission and was appointed second lieutenant. Clarence Lewis Dragoo
Clarence Lewis Dragoo

Telegram reporting  Clarence L. Dragoo missing in action
Telegram reporting Clarence L. Dragoo missing in action
Clarence left for overseas service on October 21, 1944. He was a member of the 716th Bombardment Squadron, 449th Bombardment Group. On February 28, 1945, Clarence, a Navigator aboard a B-24J Liberator, carried out his last military combat mission. They departed from Grottagile, Italy and flew toward their target: the Isarco-Ables Railroad Bridge in Northern Italy. While over the target, the aircraft sustained serious damage from enemy anti-aircraft fire, which knocked out two engines. The plane stayed in formation as long as possible, then eased off to the right of the formation and eventually lost altitude heading towards the Adriatic Sea. All eleven soldiers aboard the Liberator perished that day. Several of the bodies, including Clarence Lewis Dragoo, were never recovered. On March 16, 1945, James and Stella Blanch Dragoo received a Western Union telegram notifying them that Clarence was officially missing in action. He was never to return to West Virginia again.

For Clarence's bravery and his sacrifice for his country, he was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart, Air Medal, WWII Victory Medal, Good Conduct and Honorable Service Lapel Button. These medals were never seen by Clarence's parents. It was not until an inquiry to the federal government by his sister, Bernice Dragoo Bruno, that these medals were finally delivered to the family in 2003. Clarence Lewis Dragoo and sister Bernice
Clarence Lewis Dragoo and sister Bernice
"My brother, my best friend"

Clarence L. Dragoo memorial marker
Clarence L. Dragoo memorial marker
It was discovered that Clarence was eligible for a memorial marker for his military service. The marker was set at the foot of his parent's grave in the Independence Cemetery in Sandyville by his nephew, Jim Staats. Clarence is also listed on the Tablets of the missing in the American Cemetery, Florence, Italy.

Because Second Lieutenant Clarence Lewis Dragoo's plane crashed into the Adriatic Sea, it appeared that he would never be found and thus never able to return to his beloved state of West Virginia. But modern technology has made the impossible possible. An obituary for Dragoo in the Charleston Gazette-Mail (11 October 2017), more than 70 years after the event, states that his parents were notified he was MIA, but never lost hope their son would return home.

Discovered by scuba divers and recovered by U.S. Navy divers, the plane was located in the Adriatic Sea in 2015. According to the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA), scientists from the agency and the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System used mitochondrial DNA analysis, which matched his family, as well as dental and anthropological analysis, which matched his records. DNA samples were submitted by his sister Bernice Bruno and two grand-nieces. According to Bernice, "It took two years to complete the testing, but once it was done, it turned out to be an undeniable match."

Like so many World War II mothers, Clarence's mother Stella kept a photo of her son displayed prominently in her home until she died. That photo, posed next to a B-24 Liberator bomber, is now displayed by Bernice, who says "I don't think Mother ever recovered."

In October 2017, 2nd Lt. Clarence Dragoo returned to West Virginia. A West Virginia National Guard honor guard met the coffin at Charleston's Yeager Airport. A "small procession of family vehicles and military personnel" returned it to Jackson County for a service and burial accompanied by about 30 motorcycles from the Patriot Guard. Dragoo was interred at Independence Cemetery in Sandyville. (Rick Steelhammer, "WWII Airman Returns Home after 72 Years," Charleston Gazette-Mail, 12 October 2017.)

Article update by Patricia Richards McClure
September 2019


West Virginia Archives and History welcomes any additional information that can be provided about these veterans, including photographs, family names, letters and other relevant personal history.

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