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Clarence E. (Buster) Campbell - Personal Communication

Phone conversation, 17 July 2001
by Lowell Skoog

Buster Campbell grew up in Leavenworth, Washington. He was state high school jumping and cross-country skiing champion in 1940. He recalled jumping on the 90-meter hill at Leavenworth when he was 14. He enlisted in the army in late 1940 and entered the medical corps. In February or March of 1941 he was transferred to Fort Lewis as a surgical technician. He heard about the 15th Infantry ski patrol of the 3rd Division and wanted to transfer into it. He knew John Woodward, who was several years older, from competitive skiing in the 1930s. Buster won the PNSA junior championships in cross-country and jumping that winter and took a bust in rank (from Pfc. to Pvt.) to join C Company of the 15th Infantry in March or April.

Buster joined the 15th Infantry ski patrol shortly after the unit finished its on-snow training exercises in the winter of 1940-41. He did not participate in the long ski maneuvers led by John Woodward and others. He recalled that there was a CCC camp at Longmire that had been abandoned. The 15th Infantry occupied that camp during the winter and was trucked up to Paradise for training. The unit was about the size of a platoon (20-25 men). They bought civilian equipment for their training at a Tacoma hardware store. Buster recalled that in addition to Paul Lafferty (commander) and John Woodward (executive officer), Company C included Ray Zoberski (a ski jumper from Iron Mountain), Glen Stanley (a top skier from St Paul, MN), and Walter Prager (coach of the Dartmouth College ski team).

The 41st Division was a National Guard unit in Washington. They had a special camp across the road from Fort Lewis. In 1941, the 41st was sent to the South Pacific to fight the Japanese at Guadalcanal. Around the same time, the 3rd Division was sent to North Africa. Company C of the 15th Infantry was separated from the rest of the 3rd Division and remained at Fort Lewis as a cadre. This was the nucleus around which the 1st Battalion of 87th Mountain Infantry Regiment was formed. The new 87th Regiment occupied the buildings vacated by the 41st. Buster recalled that all of Fort Lewis (four huge divisions) was vacated the night after Pearl Harbor was attacked.

Buster won the 30km military ski race held near Tennessee Pass above Camp Hale, Colorado on Mother's Day, 1944. Racers carried a 35-lb pack including rifle. Buster felt that cross-country was what the mountain troops should be training for on skis, not playing on rope tow hills. He noted that most army records before the military ski race listed him as Clarence E. Crane. He changed his name to Campbell after he turned 21. Crane was the name of Buster's biological father (he was born out of wedlock) and Campbell was the name of the man his mother later married. Buster was raised by his grandparents. This naming confusion resulted in visits to him by FBI agents when he was in the army. They had been tracking him for some time, suspicious that he was part of Hitler's "fifth column" of Germans who infiltrated the U.S. before the war broke out.

In July or August, 1945, the 10th Mountain Division was sent home from Italy to Camp Carson, Colorado. Here they were to regroup and train as "more of a flatland outfit," preparing for the big invasion of Japan. The 10th was expected to go to the Kurils, the coldest and most northern of the Japanese islands. "We'd be back in our third war," recalled Buster. "The Aleutians, Italy, then Japan." As Buster and his unit were passing through St Louis on a train bound for Camp Carson, with windows shuttered to maintain secrecy, the train was blocked. "There were sirens blowing," he recalled. "The fire hoses were out. They were celebrating the end of the war with Japan." Buster spent several weeks at Camp Carson with a dozen or so men from the 10th sorting through the division files before transferring them to the Pentagon. Thus he was among the "first in and last out" of the division. He was Bob Parker's last company commander.

After the war, Buster returned to the University of Washington. He was the ski coach there for four or five years and he was named president of the Pacific Northwest Ski Association (PNSA) in about 1950-51. PNSA wanted an all-around skier to smooth things out between the Nordic and Alpine factions of the division.

Phone conversation, 12 October 2001
by Lowell Skoog

Buster called back to apologize for not sending me the photos he had promised sooner. The conversation turned to his Camp Hale experience with the 10th Mountain Division. He was eager to explain the background of the pictures he was sending.

In the spring of 1944, Buster was a Master Sergeant at Camp Hale. He was in the Mountain Training Group, in charge of the medical wing of the mountain troops. His specialty was rescue, evacuation and survival. He said Walter Prager and Peter Gabriel were also Master Sergeants. Prager was the downhill skiing expert and Gabriel was the climbing expert. Buster was considered the informal expert on cross-country skiing, though apparently there was no formal training program for this discipline in the mountain troops. He felt that cross-country was the most important skill for a ski soldier. I got the impression that Buster and John Woodward (commander of the Mountain Training Group instructors) had a friendly but long-running dispute about this. (The mountain troops were trained mostly in downhill skiing.)

When Buster was in high school in Leavenworth, WA he did snow surveys for the U.S. Forest Service. These were often 30 to 40 mile tours on skis. Before and after the war he was a competitive cross-country skier and jumper. At Camp Hale, he would ski a 15 mile course up into the hills and back after working in the office and before dinner. He logged 100 training miles a week on skis this way. Thus he was in excellent shape for the 1st National Military Ski Race in May 1944.

Colonel Stenerson of the Royal Norwegian Army came to Camp Hale. General George Marshall wanted Col. Stenerson to check out the 10th Mountain Division and assess its capabilities. "What do I have at Camp Hale?" Marshall asked, according to Buster. The Military Ski Race was staged as a way to test the mountain troopers. Buster said that a number of captured SS troops from the German 99th Battalion, all skiers and mountaineers, were at Camp Hale as laborers. The soldiers of the 10th trained against them. According to Buster, a number of these men were entered in the race.

It was a 30 kilometer race. Each ski trooper carried a backpack and rifle, wearing standard Army clothing, boots and skis with metal edges (not lightweight cross-country gear). The race involved target shooting, like the modern biathalon. Not knowing about his personal training regimen, the officers told Buster not to push himself. Buster said he skied in his underwear for most of the race, then put his military clothes on near the finish. He won the race in 3 hours, 20 minutes (or so). Buster felt that the race helped save the 10th, because it proved that the Americans were ready to go up against the Germans.

Buster retired from the Army as a Colonel. He became a physical education coach at the University of Washington. He also worked at A&T Ski Company designing ski equipment. He said Elvin R. (Bob) Johnson was a friend and competitor in cross-country skiing.

Buster was National four-way ski champion in the early 1950s. He said the four-way championship was disbanded around 1952 due to a lack of generalists. He said Alf Engen, Hjalmar Hvam and Sigurd Hall were all four-way competitors. Buster said he was one of the few four-way skiers who wasn't Scandinavian. He recalled that during one of the Silver Skis races (1942?) he took it straight from Camp Muir to Panorama Point. He tried to win the race by jumping 100 to 200 feet from bump to bump, somewhere near Panorama, but crashed.

Buster noted with pride that the 10th Mountain Division started in the Northwest, not Colorado or New England. (See cec-clippings.)

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Last Updated: Sat Sep 10 10:43:18 PDT 2005