For those of you who don't know, during WWII the Army Airforce plane crews had to fly 50 missions before they could go home. Imagine, if you will, every time it was your turn to put on your gear to go on another mission. What would it bring?
Was he scared?
"Yes. Very! Every time you went over a target you were scared. Even when we took off and had that much of a load. We had a lot of planes that didn't make it off the ground and blew up at the end of the runway."
An engineer gunner on a B-24, he did training in the states, first Charleston, South Carolina, and then Langley AFB, Hampton Roads, Virginia.
"We got to fly to Cuba and stay overnight, flying over the water for training over water flights. Cuba at that time, was beautiful. You could go any place and have anything you wanted. At that time you couldn't buy silk hose or chewing gum in the U.S. We could get any of that down there plus stuff from Japan and Germany. It was fun and educational."
At Langley, Clarence was part of a crew flying the people who were testing the bomb sites before his crew was sent overseas, based in Lecce, Italy.
"We ended up on a brand new maiden voyage ship - a B-24," Clarence said. "When we dropped bombs it was strictly pickle barrel. When the lead place bombardier dropped his bombs, everybody else dropped their bombs. There was only one bomb site and that was designated by the lead plane. If you hit it, you hit it. If you didn't, you didn't. Today, it's one bomb and that's it!"
His stint of 50 missions was over in six months.
"Our pilot was lead pilot so we always had an extra navigator or bombardier. That left a nose gunner available for the upper turret and I flew strictly as an engineer. I did fly a gun once in a while."
It was that last mission out that probably scared him the most.
"I was supposed to fly with our co-pilot but they came and got me as a trainer for a brand new crew to fly on their first mission. We had Tail End Charlie plane which is always the worst plane. We were the last plane in the box of seven. That's when I was scared. I'll admit it," he said, his lips turned up.
"Today it's all together different. We knew who we were fighting and it seemed the American people were all behind us at that time. They couldn't do enough for you. People aren't as supportive these days."
It turned out it was on the ground that was the most damaging for him. Along with 70 percent of his outfit, he contracted Hepatitis C and was in the hospital for six weeks. It was the Hep C that led him into another career. But first - getting home.
Perhaps the fear he felt was because his one and only was waiting back home for him and he wanted to get there safe and sound.
"I was stationed at the airbase in Lincoln. My buddy and I went in to get some ice cream at the hotel coffee shop. It was so crowded there wasn't any place to sit. We saw two young ladies sitting in a booth, approached them and asked if we could sit with them. We were in uniform - had to back in those days. They said yes. I sat with Floy and the other fellow sat with the other gal. I married Floy, the love of my life, on December 4, he married the other gal five days later," he said, with a hearty laugh.
Returning home from the war, Floy and Clarence moved to a farm and he began his lifelong dream - becoming a farmer. However, the jolting work riding the equipment and the farm chemicals brought up physical problems.
"We were farming and ranching, had over 100 head of stock cows. Floy took care of them when I was in the Vet Hospital. It's the only year we had 100 percent calf drop!" Clarence said, laughing merrily.
Reluctantly leaving the farm, his brother headed him into the Post Office, which happened to be hiring veterans. Spending the rest of his career with the U.S. Postal Service, they still had one more career to add to their resume.
After raising their three children, their five bedroom house was mighty empty.
"We just decided maybe we needed to take care of some more kids. We got into foster care. We had one for five years and kept in touch with him until we moved down here full time in 2006."
He was the one who had been in a car wreck with his mother and he went out through the windshield, disabling his left side for life. His mother ran off with another fellow and left her four kids behind.
"Nobody wanted him as a foster child. He had a little bit of a learning problem but not bad - he just needed extra help. He was one of those who went out for track - always the last man in but he finished. He always finished."
"Another little boy we had for about three years. He was a real character. One time a neighbor and Floy were picking tomatoes from Floy's large garden. He was sitting in the pickup. They'd bring in their baskets and his job was to put the tomatoes in a larger bushel basket. After a bit they noticed every time he moved a tomato, he'd take a bite out of it before putting it in the big basket!"
"He loved tomatoes," Floy said, chuckling happily.
Countless other foster children came and went. Then it was time to retire.
"We started coming down here in ‘82 when I retired. We put 100,000 miles on two different motor homes seeing various states of the union. We've been to Alaska twice, Australia, New Zealand, and Mexico."
"We were very fortunate. We think God took care of us," he said with a contented sigh.
Now they work at staying healthy. Clarence, at 91, works out on the bowflex machine and lifts weights daily, while Floy, 88, finishes on the treadmill.
"We used to volunteer for the Salvation Army the first few years we were here. We'd ride bikes along the canal. We had fun," he said. "We still have fun."