1943-1945 — Central Pacific
Clifford F. Lemke entered the service in 1943 when he was seventeen years old. After enlisting in the Navy he was sent to Great Lakes Naval Training Station where he received his "Boot Camp" training. After this he was given training in Amphibious warfare. Later, in April of 1944, he was sent to Pearl Harbor where on May 4, 1944 he was assigned to serve on a gunboat called the LCI (G)-449.
The LCI (G)-449 had originally been designed for landing troops on the beaches. It was 152 feet long and about thirty feet wide. It only drew about four feet of water so it was deemed ideal for the additional purpose of providing close in fire support for UDT swimmers as well as Marines making landings. The LCI (G)-449 had been fitted with rocket launchers, three 40-mm guns, four 20-mm guns and various .50 caliber machine guns which the crew could place in different positions.
Aboard the LCI (G)-449 Cliff Lemke saw action at Saipan, Guam, Tinian and Iwo Jima. At Saipan he witnessed the Japanese civilians jumping off the cliffs and throwing their children off at Marpi Point. At Iwo Jima he was assigned to pass ammunition to the starboard side 40-mm gun. When providing fire support for UDT Team 14 at Iwo on D-2, February 17, 1945, his ship was hit three times by Japanese mortars. The hits killed twenty-one of his shipmates and wounded twenty others. Though surrounded with so much death he was untouched. He would later comment that, "The good ones die young." His best friend Lawrence Bozarth has his head blown off. If this were not bad enough he and the rest of the survivors had to pick up all the body parts of all their buddies. He survived the war and had a wonderful life with his wife Eleanore Boyd. They had Mary, Peggy, Ellen, Deborah, Dawn and Clifford Jr.
In 1998 his wife of fifty-five years died of cancer. A year later he took a gun and shot himself. He could not bear life without his wife, my grandmother. We all are so proud of him and his service and are thankful that he was and is our grandpa.