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Clarence Borley, Too Young to Die


Clarence lay in his life raft and knew he was going to die. He was only 20 years old.

Clarence Borley was born in Williston in 1925. By the time he was 17, the nation was embroiled in the Second World War. By the spring of 1942, Clarence signed up for the Navy Aviation Program, passed all his tests and was sent off for flight training. He earned his wings and was picked to fly the Navy Hellcat Fighter.

By the spring of 1944, Borley was assigned to Fighter Squadron 15, stationed aboard the Navy carrier, USS Essex. On June 19 1944 Clarence saw his first action in the Great Marianas Turkey Shoot. In the swirling chaotic air fight, scores of Japanese planes were shot down. Borley was not able to fire a single shot. In all the excitement, Clarence had forgot to charge his guns!

On October 10, Borley took off at dawn and headed for Okinawa. He was able to get behind a group of five Japanese Zeros and this time his guns worked, and an enemy plane went down in flames.

Two days later, on this date in 1944, Borley took off before dawn near the island of Formosa. As the sun rose, he became embroiled in an air battle. In quick succession, Clarence was able to shoot down four Japanese planes, making him one of the youngest Aces in the Navy Air Force.

Borley didn’t have time to celebrate, for almost immediately his plane was hit by antiaircraft fire. He crashed in the water, the impact breaking the Hellcat in two. A Japanese patrol boat came after him, but was driven away by other Hellcat fighters. One flew low over him and dropped a life raft, and Clarence climbed in.

The second night in his raft, he found himself in the middle of a typhoon and all his supplies were lost. By the fifth day, having no water, Clarence knew he was going to die. Suddenly a large craft surfaced next to him. Unable to see very well through his sun tortured eyes, he thought it was a Japanese submarine.

He pulled his sidearm and prepared to fight it out when a man shouted through a blow horn to drop the weapon. The submarine was the USS Sawfish! Clarence Borley was rescued!

Dakota Datebook written by Scott Nelson

Sources: Book, Save Our Souls-Rescues made by US Submarines During WW2. A Hero is Finally Recognized-Williston Herald, May 21, 2014. Website, Wings of Valor, Honoring Americas Fighter Aces