Norman Clyde was possibly the finest mountaineer in the history of the Western Hemisphere.
Beginning in 1910 Clyde achieved over 130 first ascents of mountains in the Sierra Nevada, Montana, Utah, Idaho, Mexico, and the Andes Mountains in South America. After he made his first mountain ascent in 1910, he joined the Sierra Club in 1914, and was the subject of the boo “Norman Clyde: Legendary Mountaineer of California’s Sierra Nevada” by Robert Pavlick. Clyde was also known for his mountaineering expertise in helping rescue numerous climbers who got themselves in trouble as well as his help in recovering the bodies of those who perished in remote mountain climbing accidents.
Major General Herbert A. Dargue graduated from West Point in 1911 and was one of the pioneers of Army Aviation. In 1940 he was Assistant Chief of the U.S. Army Air Corps. In the chaos after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Secretary of War Henry Stimson assigned General Dargue to take over all Army operations in Hawaii. Dargue was piloting a B18 Bolo bomber on his way across country to Hamilton Field in the San Francisco Bay area. Hamilton Field was a primary jumping off spot for the flight to Hawaii. Unfortunately his plane never arrived at Hamilton because he crashed in the High Sierra near Mount Whitney, only five days after Pear Harbor, on December 12 1941. Dargue was the first American General to die in World War II.
My Dad met Norman Clyde in the early spring of 1942 when he was assigned to lead a squad of soldiers to ascend the mountains and search for the wreckage and retrieve General Dargue’s remains.
Norman Clyde gave Dad and his men a crash course in mountaineering before they began their trek into the mountains. His instructions were clear: find the General’s remains and return them for formal burial at Arlington National Cemetery. His instructions did not, however, include recovering the remains of the seven other officers and crew who were on the B18 with General Dargue.
As we were growing up, many times I recall how Dad described event. He deduced that as soon as the General’s remains were discovered, the search would be called off for the remaining soldiers. Dad thought they deserved better treatment than that. Their search procedure was to probe the snow banks with long rods until they found the bodies. As luck would have it, Dad and his men found the General on their first day. That’s when the plot thickened. Norman Clyde, Dad, and his men hid the General in a snow bank for several days until they had recovered all of the missing fliers. Then only after the final man was recovered did they “discover” General Dargue.
Dad and Norman Clyde remained friends until Clyde’s death in 1972 . Clyde’s ashes were scattered at Norman Clyde Peak in the High Sierra that he loved. Mom and Dad would stop by to see Clyde in Independence and later in a rest home in Bishop. There is a Norman Clyde display at a museum in Independence and many articles have been written about Norman Clyde but none ever mentioned the time he conspired with my Dad to hide a dead General until his men could be recovered and properly interred as well. That’s the story of Norman Clyde, Dad, and the Dead General.
Until Next Week