This story along with 100's of others will appear in Volume II of my three volume series entitled THE STORIES BEHIND THE TREASURES OF WORLD WAR II "The Making of a Collectorholic".
I hope to have Volume II out no later than the spring of 2017. If you haven't ordered your signed, numbered and personalized copy of Volume I, please do so to discover the joys and adventures surrounding more than 55 years of collecting memorabilia. Click here to purchase your copy today!
We get a number of phone calls each day here at the headquarters of the Ruptured Duck located in rural north central Massachusetts. My son, Patrick, who is now my partner in the business, handles a lot of these calls. I saw him talking on the phone one day in late spring 2016 and he was quite animated. Once he got off the phone, I knew why!
He was shaking his head in disbelief because the fellow he was talking to from Louisiana related a story about his Dad’s WWII exploits that only someone who had read my book would be aware of. That is, unless, his Dad was in the same spot, at the same time, as the veteran in my previous story and had witnessed the same events.
Once Patrick told me the details of the conversation, I was also very intrigued and quite anxious to talk with this self described simple man who now owned and lived on his Red Waddle pig farm in Northwest Louisiana.
Ron had served our country for 24 years from 1959 until the early 80’s, mostly with the 101st airborne which included two tours in Vietnam.
Clarence's Son Ron as a young paratrooper in the 101st
Ron was certainly “a chip off the old block” as his Dad Clarence was a proud member of “The Greatest Generation” enlisting on May 26, 1944 at the age of 22 and volunteering for the paratroopers. He completed his jump training at Fort Benning.
Clarence Overman being honored on Veteran's Day in 2011 at the age of 89
Clarence Overman portrait
He shipped overseas and was attached as a replacement to C Company, 506 Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 101st Airborne arriving just after the Bulge. He certainly saw some action in the skirmishes during the winter and early spring of 1945 earning the European, Africa and Mediterranean Campaign Medal with two bronze stars as well as the Combat Infantry Badge (CIB). He was promoted to Private First Class and became a Squad Leader before the shooting stopped in May of 1945.
He was present when the Concentration Camp at Landsberg was liberated and this had a profound and lifelong effect on him. He and his squad went into the town and sternly encouraged the locals to fill six duffle bags with food which they brought back to the camp to feed the inmates.
When his unit arrived in Berchtesgaden and the 101st was officially assigned this sector in early May of 1945(American and French units had already scoured this area), Clarence wasted no time checking out the countryside. Ron had told me that his Dad said he was interviewed by some reporters and that a picture of him appeared in either “The Stars and Stripes” or “Yank” talking about his exploits. Once he told me this, I was on the hunt to seek out this publication. I searched and searched and finally my friend Chris from England came through for me. There was no picture as of yet but the story was wicked cool.
One of Clarence’s first jobs was guarding a safe in Hitler’s house on the mountain called the Berghof. In fact a reporter from Yank magazine happened to encounter him and the following account was published in the June 22nd 1945 issue, “In what had been Hitler’s Arbeitsszimmer, or work room, on the second floor of the Berghof, Pvt. Clarence Overman, a rifleman of the 506th Parachute Infantry, 101st Airborne Division, sat on a closed safe, the only piece of “furniture” in the room. He was keeping guard.
“Don’t know what’s in the safe” said Overman, “but I guess it’s important. Say, was this where the old boy worked?” Told it was, Overman whistled. “That’s something I’ll have to write home about.”
Later the safe was opened ; there were only a few autographed copies of Mein Kampf inside.
For a historian like myself who relishes in applying pedigree to a war souvenir, this was a great moment. It was only superseded by the looks on Ron and Sheila Overman’s faces when I read them this paragraph from the magazine.
Clarence took this and all his other responsibilities seriously and so when one of the officers asked for volunteers to hike up to the top of the Kehlstein mountain to Hitler’s retreat known as “The Eagle’s Nest”, PFC Overman was quickly selected because he and his squad consisting of 10 men were in tip-top shape. At this point nobody wanted to use the special elevator because they thought it might be booby-trapped.
Once this task was accomplished, they moved quickly inside “The Adler Horst” and immediately set out looking for souvenirs. When they entered the kitchen area and began tapping on the walls for hidden places, Clarence discovered a pocket door and slid it open revealing a huge cache of shiny silverware. These kids must have thought they had hit the “mother lode”.
Rare interior shot of the kitchen area in the Eagle's Nest