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First Name: Clarence

Last Name: Vammen, Jr

Birthplace: Aberdeen, Grays Harbor, WA, US

Gender: Male

Branch: Navy (present)


Home of Record: WA
Middle Name: Earl

Date of Birth: 17 October 1919

Date of Death: 07 June 1943 (Presumed)

MIA Date: 06 June 1942

Rank or Rate: Ensign

Years Served: 1941-1043

•  World War II (1941 - 1945)


Clarence Earl Vammen Jr.

Ensign, United States Naval Reserve

Distinguished Flying Cross & Purple Heart

Clarence Earl Jr was the only child of Clarence Earl Vammen Sr., and Mildred Cooksey Burgher who married 01 March 1919 in Montesano, Grays Harbor, WA. Clarence and Mildred were divorced before 15 Jul 1929 when she married Renie Robert Chabot. This was her third marriage having previously married Frank Carl Kohnert Mcray on 12 Jul 1918 in Beadle county, SD.

In 1930, Clarence Sr and Clarence Jr were living with his parents, Ole and Leona (Wilson) Vammen, in Aberdeen, Grays Harbor, WA. Clarence Jr or "Junior" or "J", as he was known at the Aberdeen/Weatherwax High School, was active in Basketball, Football, Intramural Basketball and the Golden "A" Club. He graduated in June 1938. Other Vammens to graduate from Aberdeen/Weatherwax High School were Clarence's aunts, Vera and Bessie, and two uncles, Floyd and Ralph. Vera (Mrs. Earle Morgan) would later be the sponsor of the USS Vammen (DE-644).

Following high school Junior attended Pomona (Calif.) Junior College (PJC) beginning in Sept 1938. He was a stand-out football and basketball player with the Red Raiders of Pomona JC in 1938-1939 sports seasons. In addition to academic courses, Junior also took aviation training at PJC. Junior apparently didn't take the full 2-year course load of classes because he was still playing basketball for the Red Raiders in late Feb 1940. and may have left school briefly in 1940 when he was enumerated in the 1940 US census at Grays Harbor, WA on 1 Apr 1940. He was back in Pomona playing in the area Church Basketball League in late Jan 1941 as an "ex. J.C. athlete." Whatever the situation, Junior completed his Associate Degree requirements before he applied for the Volunteer United States Naval Reserve V-5 flight training program at the Naval Reserve Aviation Base (NRAB), Long Beach in late 1940. His diploma was officially presented (in absentia) with 131 other graduates at commencement exercises at the Greek theater in Pomona on Thursday evening, 19 Jun 1941. Junior Vammen was engaged to be married to Miss Maureen Cochran of Pomona, CA.

He completed the application process which included a personal resume, current photo, background check, three personal references, a physical exam, all high school and college transcripts and an interview with the Naval Reserve Flight Selection Board at NRAB, Long Beach prior to being allowed to enlist. After he was deemed qualified for the program, Vammen enlisted as a Seaman Second Class (S2/c) in the V-5 program on 17 February 1941 at Long Beach, Calif.

After four months of arduous flight training, AVCAD Vammen detached on 19 August from NAS Pensacola and transferred to Opa-Laka, FL and NAS, Miami for temporary duty with the Advanced Training Specialized Carrier Group. The training was for officers who were to be carrier-based pilots, and who will fly carrier-based aircraft. Vammen received his designation as a naval aviator (heavier-than-air) on 23 September 1941. The following month he completed his flight training under instruction and took the oath of office and accepted his commission as an Ensign, United States Naval Reserve, AV(N), USNR, on 20 Oct 1941. His date of rank was 06 Sep 1941 (according to the 01 Jan 1943 Military Register). He was placed on active duty status other than training and was assigned to Advanced Carrier Training Group (ACTG), Pacific Fleet, San Diego for duty involving flying. After he completed his training with ACTG, Ens. Vammen along with thirty-three other new pilots from only the second ACTG class, boarded the transport President Hoover at San Diego on 08 April 1942, and arrived in Pearl Harbor on 16 April. This group was moved to NAS Kaneohe and then assigned, based upon their training, to various carrier squadrons.

Vammen and eleven other new pilots reported for duty to Scouting Squadron 6 on 28 April 1942. Of the twelve new pilots only four had previous carrier sea experience and eight were fresh from the ACTG including Ens. Vammen. Underway on 30 April, Enterprise and USS Hornet received their squadrons from bases on Hawaii. It was to be a badly needed training cruise, however, several days later Enterprise and Hornet were directed to the South Pacific to assist aircraft carriers USS Lexington (CV-2) and USS Yorktown (CV-5) engaged in the battle of the Coral Sea. The battle was over before they could arrive on-scene. Enterprise was then directed to perform a feint towards Nauru and Banaba (Ocean) islands which caused the Japanese to delay Operation RY to seize the two islands. On 20 May, just after the "Big E" cross the international date line sixteen SBDs took off on a reconnaissance flight.

The wind conditions weren't the best. As Ensign Wm West's plane roared down the flight deck for take-off, he lacked sufficient airspeed. As he lifted off his plane stalled, careening off the starboard bow and into the water. West managed to free himself and make it out onto the wing. Just as the plane started to sink West's boot became entangled in the radio antennae wire. He was unable to free himself in time and he went down with the plane. AMM2 Milton W. Clark, his rear-seat radioman/gunner was able to clear the sinking aircraft. He was picked up by the plane guard destroyer, USS Conyngham (DD-371). USS Conyngham would go on during WWII to earn 14 battle stars. She was sunk as a target during the atomic bomb tests in 1946. AMM2 Clark was to be Ens. Vammen's rear-seat gunner at Midway.

Although she missed the Coral Sea action, Enterprise -"The Big E"—did participate in the pivotal Battle of Midway one month later. Ensign Vammen, did not take part in the strikes of 4 June against the Japanese carrier fleet. He received his baptism of fire soon enough.

On the second day of the Battle of Midway, Friday evening, 5 June, Vammen—flying a Scouting Six Douglas SBD-3 Dauntless dive bomber, 6-S-1, with Aviation Machinists' Mate 2d Class Milton W. Clark in the rear seat—took off with eight other planes of VS-6, as part of the strike launched to locate and sink what had been erroneously reported as two enemy carriers. Subsequently, the SBD's from Enterprise and Hornet found and attacked what they reported to be a "Japanese CL" (light cruiser)— a ship that turned out to be the destroyer Tanikaze. The Dauntlesses that made the dusk attack failed to score any hits with their 500-pound bombs on the twisting, turning destroyer. Vammen, who had never received instruction in night carrier recoveries, made his first night landing—not on Enterprise, but on Hornet. That mistake may have cost him and his gunner, AMM2 Clark, their lives.

The next morning, 6 June, Vammen joined Hornet's planes in attacking the fleeing Japanese heavy cruisers Mogami and Mikuma, a strike that inflicted such severe damage on the latter that she sank later that day. During the attack, Ens. Vammen's plane suffered a direct hit by anti-aircraft fire and disintegrated in flight. Their remains were unrecoverable. Vammen and his gunner, AMM2 Milton W. Clark were listed as missing in action on 06 Jun 1942 and presumed dead on 07 Jun 1943.

Ens. Vammen was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, The Purple Heart, Enterprise Presidential Unit Citation w/ribbon, American Defense Service Ribbon w/Fleet Clasp, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with one bronze battle star and the World War II Victory Medal.

His NOK was his father, Clarence E. Vammen, Sr., 812 E. 1st St., Aberdeen, WA


Distinguished Flying Cross Citation reads:

The President of the United States of America takes pride in presenting the Distinguished Flying Cross (Posthumously) to Clarence E. Vammen, Jr., Ensign, United States Naval Reserve, for heroism and extraordinary achievement while participating in aerial flight as Pilot of a Scouting Plane, in action against enemy Japanese forces in the Battle of Midway, 4 to 6 June 1942. With marked skill, Ensign Vammen delivered repeated devastating attacks against the enemy Japanese invasion fleet, tenaciously holding to his purpose in the face of violent enemy fighter opposition and against tremendous anti-aircraft fire, thereby contributing decisively to the success of our forces in this battle. His courage and unflinching devotion to duty were in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.

General Orders: Bureau of Naval Personnel Information Bulletin No. 312 (March 1943)


Enterprise Presidential Unit Citation reads:

For consistently outstanding performance and distinguished achievement during repeated action against enemy Japanese forces in the Pacific war area, 7 December 1941, to 15 November 1942. Participating in nearly every major carrier engagement in the first year of the war, the Enterprise and her air group, exclusive of far-flung destruction of hostile shore installations throughout the battle area, did sink or damage on her own a total of 35 Japanese vessels and shot down a total of 185 Japanese aircraft. Her aggressive spirit and superb combat efficiency are fitting tribute to the officers and men who so gallantly established her as an ahead bulwark in the defense of the American nation.

Actions of the Enterprise mentioned in the citation include the Gilbert and Marshalls raid of 01 Feb 1942; Wake Island raid, 24 Feb 1942; Marcus Island raid, 04 Mar 1942; Battle of Midway, 4-6 Jun 1942; Occupation of Guadalcanal, 7-8 Aug 1942; Battle of Stewart Islands, 24 Aug 1942; Battle of Santa Cruz Islands, 26 Oct 1942; and Battle of Solomon Islands, 14-15 Nov 1942.


His family also received a commemoration from President Franklin D. Roosevelt. It reads: In grateful memory of Clarence Earl Vammen, Jr., who died in the service of his country, SEA, Pacific Area, ATTACHED U.S.S. ENTERPRISE, 7 JUNE 1943 (Presumed). He stands in the unbroken line of patriots who have dared to die that freedom might live and grow and increase its blessings. Freedom lives, and through it, he lives -- in a way that humbles the undertakings of most men.

(Signed) Franklin D. Roosevelt,

President of the United States


The USS Vammen (DE-644) was named in his honor. She was a Buckley class destroyer escort. Her keel was laid on 01 Aug 1943 at San Francisco, CA by the Bethlehem Steel Co.; launched on 21 May 1944; sponsored by Mrs Earle Morgan, aunt of the late Ens. Vammen; and commissioned on 27 July 1944. She was assigned to Pacific duty during WWII. She saw extensive service as a convoy escort but her combat role was limited. She saw service in Korea and Vietnam. She was struck from the Navy list on 12 July 1969. Used as a target for a "Condor" missile test, Vammen was sunk on 18 Feb 1971. Vammen (DE-644) earned one battle star for her World War II service and one engagement star for her Korean War service.


Combat Action Ribbon (CR) note:

None of the Navy/Marine flight crews in the Battle of Midway were eligible for or were awarded the Combat Action Ribbon (CR). See Navy and Marine Corps Awards Manual (SECNAVINST M-1650.1 of 16 Aug 2019, Appendix 2C.1.c (3) Amplifying Guidance). It reads in part, “The CR will not be awarded in connection with aerial flight, . . . “ The CR was established in 1969 and made retroactive to 07 Dec 1941. According to the Awards Manual, when deemed appropriate, the award for aerial combat is the Air Medal.


[Bio #201 compiled by Gerry Lawton (GML470)]

Many of the facts pertaining to Ens. Vammen's service dates were obtained from the Naval History Center files of the USS Vammen (DE-644). Family information was compiled from records available on Ancestry.com.

Find A Grave memorial #56134155

Honoree ID: 103611   Created by: MHOH




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