By: Friedrich Seiltgen
Copyright © 2022
In March 1942 a farm boy from Elmwood, Illinois decided to join the U.S. Army and serve his country after seeing the film Sergeant York starring Gary Cooper. There was only one problem; he was just 14 years old. Clifford Wherley decided he would serve, and nothing was going to stop him. He hopped on a bus from his hometown to the recruiter’s office in Peoria, Illinois. Wherley sat in the recruiting office on April fool’s day, 1942, lied about his age to Army recruiters, and forged his parents’ signatures. Before the Army found out his real age, Staff Sgt. Wherley was assigned as a turret gunner and had already flown twenty-two missions over North Africa in a B-26 Marauder. During his short career, Wherley flew with Jimmy Doolittle, was credited with sixteen kills, although he actually shot down more, and was the recipient of an Air medal with three oak leaf clusters!
Wherley’s secret was found out over a year after his enlistment. His Mother couldn’t take the worry anymore and sent the military a copy of his birth certificate. Wherley was honorably discharged and sent home immediately in August 1943. Wherley’ s aircraft commander, angered by the loss of his gunner, changed the name of his marauder to “Wherley’s Vindicators.” After his discharge, Wherley went on a nationwide war bond drive and then worked for the Martin Company building the very model in which he had flown. Wherley attempted to enlist in the Navy, and then tried to fool the Army once again. He was unsuccessful on both attempts.
After his discharge, Wherley moved briefly to Florida then Texas where he passed away in 2013 at the age of eighty-five. In stark contrast to the majority of young folks today who believe they are owed something from their country, Clifford Wherley was a patriot who only wanted to serve.
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Friedrich Seiltgen is a retired Master Police Officer with 20 years of service with the Orlando Police Department. He conducts training in Lone Wolf Terrorism, Firearms, and Active Shooter Response. His writing has appeared in RECOIL, The Counter Terrorist Magazine, American Thinker, Homeland Security Today, and The Journal of Counterterrorism & Homeland Security International. Contact him at [email protected]