Cluff, Ivan


Born in 1917 in Mesa, Arizona
823rd Tank Destroyer Battalion
Mechanic 4th Grade
European Theater of Operations

By Adiba Rehman

One of six children of Orson and Helen Cluff, Ivan grew up on a farm in the Chandler-Gilbert area. He graduated from Chandler High School in 1939 and attended college for two years. In 1941, he left college to try his hand at a welding course in Ogden, Utah. The same year he married Maurine Reeder in Salt Lake City. He had been working for six months as a welder in the Lang Company in Salt Lake City, when he the Army drafted him. He was assigned to the 823rd Tank Destroyer Battalion, Company A, on January 9, 1943.

He received three months of basic training in Brownwood, Texas. “After we learned to fire a gun and could hit the side of the barn, they shipped us off to Camp Hood,” Ivan says in a 1985 recording. There he was assigned to Automotive School, for twelve weeks, to train as mechanic 4th grade. “Thank goodness,” he adds, that while others were out training “among the weeds,” he was tightening bolts.

Ivan’s easy humor must have helped him go through the dangerous situations he encountered soon. After transferring to Camp Myles Standish in Massachusetts, they readied to go overseas.  He was assigned to the European Theatre of Operations for nineteen months. His duties included inspecting, maintaining, and repairing gasoline and diesel powered military vehicles.

They first camped at Basingstoke, England.  Here their secondary mission was indirect fire. Ivan thinks he helped direct as much artillery fire as anyone else.

Ivan participated in the Battle of the Bulge, and had many lucky escapes. In Normandy, he was sent to fix a half tract when a barrage of shooting started. He dug a trench with fingers and hands, and survived. “Marvelous what you do when you have to…” he says. He recalls traveling all night long to France, low on fuel, using open-air restrooms. In Belgium, they stayed at the railway station and slept on the floor.

During the Battle of the Bulge, they started with two platoons but lost almost all equipment. He remembered, “The flares from the airplanes lit up the whole area like street lights in a small town.”  In Germany he installed a battery in an M-10 after dark in the snow. When he started it up, the enemy retaliated with gunfire. 

Ivan did not forget about momentos of his wartime experience. He sent an accordion home from Czechoslovakia and three boxes of ceramic dishes from Japan. He bragged that not one was broken. 

On 5th of November, 1945, Ivan was honorably discharged from the Army. He came back to Fort Douglas, Utah with an American Theater of Operations Service Ribbon,

European African Middle Eastern Service Ribbon, Good Conduct Medal, and Distinguished Unit Badge.

His youngest son, Leon Cluff, speaks fondly of his father, who passed away in 2001.

“The earliest memories I had were spending Sunday evenings with my father watching the weekly television programs “Battleline” on PBS channel 8.This program provided a 30 minute documentary of WWII. My father would add his own comments during the program. I was young and I thoroughly enjoyed this 30 minute one on one time with my father, as he wept during some segments of this program, as he shared his thoughts and stories.”

To listen to an oral history recorded in 2009 click on the icon below: