Bio: Sturdevant, Clarence L. (1949)

Contact: Dolores Mohr Kenyon


Surnames: Sturdevant, Youmans, Mac Arthur, Eisenhower, Stillwell  

----Source: Clark County Press (Neillsville, Clark Co., WI.) October 14, 2009 

Sturdevant, Clarence L. (1949) 

From the news of October 1899, of the Good Old Days: 

Clarence L. Sturdevant has been back in the Old Home Town this week, after concluding a distinguished career in the Corps of army engineers. This is his first visit in Neillsville in 18 years.  It was 45 years ago that as a senior in Neillsville High School he went to West Point and began a life work, which led him to the rank of major general and which, at one time, gave him command of 283,000 men. As a professional soldier he holds the highest rank ever attained by a son of Neillsville. 

At the upper end of his high school days young Clarence Sturdevant fastened his eye upon the army.  Knowing that he must pass a stiff examination to enter West Point, he centered his interest upon subjects required for that examination.  Thus he worked his way into the army school without finally graduating here.  He left it to George Zimmerman and to his other local friends to garner such laurels as commencement day offered in Neillsville. 

But commencement day at West Point found Clarence Sturdevant standing so high in his class that he had the choice of coveted assignment to the engineer corps, regarded by most West Pointers as the choice service of the army. 

As a member of the corps of engineers, he began after graduation the series of steps, which finally led to assignment as assistant to the chief of engineers, to the chief command in the construction of the Alcan Highway and to the command of the New Guinea base section of the service of supply of General MacArthur’s command. 

But before beginning his wanderings in the engineer service, Clarence Sturdevant was married in Neillsville to Beth Youmans, a Neillsville girl, and it was in the Youmans’ home in Neillsville that John, their second child was born. 

The first army assignment was to a battalion of engineers at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas; then to the engineer’s school in Washington; then in 1912 to the Philippines, where he helped fortify Corregidor; then back to Washington as captain, serving in the office of the chief of engineers, then to the general staff school at Fort Leavenworth, where he was a classmate of Generals Eisenhower and Stillwell; then to the army war college. 

He then followed various assignments to districts in the country, where he was in charge of river and harbor improvements. 

During the First World War he was with the Eighth Division at Camp Fremont, Calif., but was pulled out of that organization upon its departure for European Service.  He was then assigned to training a regiment of engineers and that regiment was not yet ready for service when the war ended. 

Upon his return from his second service in the Philippines, General Sturdevant was made division engineer at Kansas City, Mo., with river and harbor improvements in his charge all along the Missouri up into Montana.  

He was made assistant chief of engineers in 1940, as this country was preparing for war.  He was in charge of the military division, his work being mainly the organization and training of troops for the war.  It was in that capacity that he had charge of the Alcan Highway.  He entered upon this project with the urgent briefing that it might become the only link between Alaska and the continental United States.  At that time the navy was hard pressed, and there was danger that, in the extremity, the navy might not be able to protect the service of supply to Alaska.  It was necessary, Gen. Sturdevant was told, to open a passage through the wilds in a single season. 

To accomplish this task, Gen. Sturdevant used 10 regiments of engineers.  They were divided into four contingents, one working south from Fairbanks, Alaska, one working north from White Horse in the Yukon; one working south from White Horse; the fourth working north from the end of the railroad about 150 miles north of Edmonton. 

The Alcan Highway was roughed out and made passage in the single season, according to orders.  It transpired that the extreme emergency did not arise.  The improvement of the route was turned over to contractors, and the route itself is now in the hands of the Canada and the Alaska road commission.  



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