DEXTER — Some 2,800 American servicemen were killed during the months-long Battle of Anzio in early 1944, and World War II veteran Guy Ellms of Dexter calls that section of Italy “the worst place we were in.”
Ellms, 92, who drove a supply truck for the U.S. Army’s 433rd Anti-Aircraft Battalion at Anzio and other battle sites in Europe, remembers clearly how the Germans attacked.
“By day, German planes would fly over, drop a bomb and strafe on the way out,” he said. The planes were busy at night as well, he recalled. “They would drop flares, and the heat would hold them up in the air for a half-hour. They would dive right under a flare and drop a bomb.”
“One bomb landed on a field house,” Ellms said, adding that those who died from that attack included Cpl. Tech. Julian P. Clukey from Dexter. The Army Reserve Center just down the street from where Ellms lives is named for Clukey, who was just 22 when he died on March 3, 1944, a day after being wounded.
Remembering Clukey on Friday, Ellms said, “He was an easy-going boy. He was a nice kid.”
Julian was the third son of Thomas and Jennie (Pooler) Clukey, who lived on Dover Road. Both older brothers were in the Army when he died, according to his obituary in the Eastern Gazette. Tech Sgt. Lionel Clukey was serving in California and Staff Sgt. Melvin Clukey in Texas.
Julian, a 1939 graduate of N.H. Fay High School, worked as a clerk in the First National Store before entering the service. He had been overseas for 14 months when he was killed and had written his family just four days before he was wounded.
He is buried at Mount Pleasant Cemetery in Dexter.
Ellms also recalled his own close call with German bombs.
“One time, the Germans rolled four tanks right through our line,” he said. Three of the tanks went back, but one didn’t. Several members of Ellms’ Anti-Aircraft Battalion were sent out with the infantry to find it. They traveled at night under cover of darkness and “the next day we spent all day in a ditch 3 feet deep and 4 feet wide.”
That next night, the convoy Ellms was on stopped amid the chaos of battle. The Germans were dropping what the soldiers called personnel bombs. Two bombs were dropped, one landing behind the convoy and one in front of it, but no one was hit.
“I heard some praying,” Guy said. “I’m telling you, we were all scared.”
When the war in the European Theater ended in May 1945, Guy’s unit was in the middle of Germany.
“We were all cheering — we thought we were going home,” he said. “Then they told us, ‘You are now being assigned to the infantry and headed to the Far East.’” Ellms said he was among the soldiers trained to teach others how to fight with bayonets in anticipation of invading Japan, but the war in the Pacific ended after the dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945.
The troops came home, and Guy was on to the next phase of life, including a marriage of 64 years — to his bride, Nancy. The 85-year-old is herself a World War II veteran, having served with the WAVES in Washington, D.C.
Once one of several World War II couples who took part in Bangor’s parades regularly, the Ellms are now the last married couple from that war who still march. They will lead the World War II contingent in Bangor’s Memorial Day Parade at 10:30 a.m. Monday.
“We are practicing walking up hills,” said Nancy. The active couple live in Dexter, where a hill is more than a bump in the road. They have for many years harvested and split their own wood, and both are grateful that Guy has recuperated well from a woods accident in Sangerville that laid open his left leg last fall.
On Thursday, the Ellms were among several hundred veterans honored in ceremonies at Hampden Academy.
“They put on a wonderful show,” said Nancy, who also praised the spread of salads and other foods made available at the event. She added that she and Guy were touched that students had written letters thanking veterans for the service.
On Monday veterans will follow the Bangor parade route from State and Exchange streets along Harlow and Central streets, then up Main Street to Davenport Park. The Ellms will lead the charge with their World War II walking sticks, which were made by Peavey Manufacturing in Eddington. The canes are two of more than 7,100 walking sticks distributed by Cole Land Transportation Museum to Maine veterans from WWII, Korea, Vietnam and the Global War on Terror.
Guy and Nancy Ellms have been walking hand in hand in Bangor parades since 1997, said Cole Museum founder Galen Cole.
“Never in my life have I known a couple with the joint enthusiasm and the ‘can-do’ attitude of Guy and Nancy Ellms,” Cole said. “Their life’s story is simply remarkable. In this year’s parade, we can expect fewer than 30 World War II veterans. The Ellmses will be marching alone up front, leading the World War II group and will be available to shake hands both before the parade starts and at the Cole Museum at noontime.”
The couple will meet the featured speaker at the museum program, Maj. Gen. John W. Libby, adjutant general of Maine National Guard, Cole said. “World War II is special to the general, as his dad was in that war, and he plans to speak about the Ellmses during his speech.”
Cpl. Tech Julian P. Clukey is buried at Mount Pleasant Cemetery in Dexter.