Branch: U. S. Army

   Rank:  PFC

   Status: Killed in action

   Date of Service: WWII

   Home Town: Ebro

1. U S Army Signal Corps Insignia 2. Clarence LaDuke’s headstone in St. Joseph’s Cemetery, Bagley

Clarence Israel LaDuke was born June 13, 1921 in Fosston, Minnesota to parents Philip and Josephine Vezina LaDuke, both members of the White Earth Band of Ojibwe. Philip was employed in the logging and trucking industries, and he and Josephine spent most of their married life in Ebro where they ran the Hartz Store and the DX Gas Station. Clarence had eight siblings: Gladys, Merilla, Russell, Harold, Frances, Phyllis, Margaret and Joani.

Clarence completed 7th grade, then went to work as a farm laborer. He registered for the draft on June 13, 1941 in Bagley, giving his address as Ebro. He had black hair and brown eyes. 

Clarence became a member of the Signal Corps – Company A, 239th Signal Operations Company, 60th Signal Battalion. The Signal Corps’ primary role in WWII was facilitating military transmissions, but it also produced training films and documents combat missions. The Signal Corps radiomen and wire men built networks of wire lines and radio circuits over beaches, mountains, rivers and plains to serve the troops in combat. Signal Corps troops in a typical field army included a headquarters signal service company, a signal operations battalion furnishing communications at the army command posts, one or more construction battalions making telephone cable and wire installations down to corps level and back to army rear, one or more signal radio intelligence companies, a pigeon company, a signal photographic company, the signal repair company and the signal depot company, which tended to the supply and maintenance functions of the field army.

The 239th Signal Operations Company took part in Operation Torch, a large Allied landing to seize control of North Africa from German control. 

Clarence and a fellow soldier were working as message couriers behind the front lines on February 12, 1943 when disaster fell. They were taking turns driving because of the long hours they were working – one would drive the Jeep while the other slept. Clarence happened to be driving when they ran into a German roadblock. Clarence was killed, while the other man lived. 

Philip and Josephine received a telegram from the War Department informing them of the death of their son Clarence, followed by an official letter. A letter from the Catholic chaplain informed them that their son had been buried at the Post near Casablanca. Clarence’s brother Russell, a TEC 5 in the Army, also with the armed forces in North Africa, was able to attend the burial rites. Russell himself would later earn a Purple Heart at Anzio beachhead. The War Department noted that the body could not be returned to the U.S. until after the war, and a Requiem High Mass was celebrated in St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Bagley on Saturday, March 13, 1943. 

When Clarence’s body was finally returned from North Africa two years later, it was interred in St. Joseph’s Cemetery, Bagley with a white marble military headstone requested by his father. Clarence LaDuke was 21 years old.