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Marine and Stafford resident Harry Clark was among the 'Devil Dogs' who fought in an iconic battle with the Germans in June 1918
Harry (on right) poses with one of his three brothers, who was in the Army.
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By RUSTY DENNEN
The date June 6 is usually remembered for the start of the Allied invasion of Normandy in 1944.
But there's another June 6--exactly 26 years before D-Day--for which Gunnery Sgt. Harry Clark and his fellow Marines will always be remembered.
Clark, who trained at Quantico Marine Corps Base and lived in Stafford County, survived the Battle of Belleau Wood, which began June 6, 1918. That fight, also in France, lasted 20 days and was the first time U.S. Marines faced a battle-hardened foe--the German army.
The National Museum of the Marines Corps is memorializing the battle in one of three new galleries that opens today. Belleau Wood is a centerpiece of the World War I gallery honoring Marines like Clark, whose daughter, Mary Clark Bryant, 89, lives in southern Stafford with her husband, Ralph, who is 86.
Her father, who died in 1963, kept records and pictures of his time as a Marine, though he rarely talked with family or friends about his experiences. He served not only in the trenches of France, but in Haiti, Nicaragua and Mexico over his 32-year career.
The Bryants wanted to tell his story after reading Free Lance-Star articles last year about the museum and a film shot in Bealeton re-creating the fighting at Belleau Wood for the World War I gallery.
Ralph Bryant said he approached the museum to see if it would be interested in what they had uncovered on "Grandpa Clark," but there was little interest.
"So we started getting stuff together, and we were amazed at what we had."
A 'HUMBLE MAN'
Boxes of Clark's belongings, unopened for decades, contained medals, pictures, log books, mementos and diary entries--though none described the scene at Belleau Wood.
Ralph Bryant, a Stafford native who served in the Marines, and Mary, who grew up in Louisiana, met in Stafford and married in 1944. They spent months piecing together Clark's military career.
"He was really a humble man," Mary said. "He never bragged, never talked about his experiences."
She laughed, "The only thing he joked about was the kind of [doughboy] helmet they had to wear. He said it beat a bald spot on his head.