Chief Petty Officer Gordon B. (Sleepy) Clevinger

Port Lyautey, Kenitra, Morocco

,,,...............................................................................,A personal recollection ............................Port Lyautey website editor

.....Chief Petty Officer Gordon B. "Sleepy" Clevinger, was my division Chief at Port Lyautey and to this day, I still smile when I think of him. Sleepy was one of the old fashion types of Navy Chief Petty Officers, a by the book Navy type but a fair and caring human being. My remembrance of him him was a that he was great guy and got me out of a couple of "mis-deeds" though there was some punishment duty required (better than a court martial).

.....During World War 2, Sleepy was interred by the Japanese as a Prisoner of War after his submarine, the USS PERCH was scuttled by her crew due to structural damage suffered while engaging two enemy Japanese Destroyers on March 3, 1942. According to his son, Dr. Sidney Clevinger, Sleepy (a Seaman First Class at the time) was among the crewman who were taken to the illegal questioning camp at Ofuna, Japan, and then to the Aso mines at the Makassar Celebes POW Camp. Celebes, now called Sulawesi, is in Indonesia just south of the Equator.

.....Fifty-three of the USS Perch crewmembers were handed over to the United States at the end of the war, six crewman died while in captivity. The PERCH was credited with sinking a 5,000-ton enemy freighter on her first patrol, conducted west of the Philippines. More on the USS Perch (including photographs) can be obtained from the two following websites. Both list the American USS Perch crewmen who died in captivity and those who survived including Gordon "Sleepy" Clevinger.

http://www.oneternalpatrol.com/uss-perch-176.htm

http://www.csp.navy.mil/ww2boats/perch.htm


 

 

......In the photograph above, Sleepy is seen preparing some ribs outside his quarters on the Port Lyautey base in 1958. I don't know how and where he received the name Sleepy but it was given to him because his eyes always appeared to be half closed. To Sleepy's left and sleeping under the chair is the Clevinger dog "Lady". She would live another 18 years.

Photograph courtesy of Bob Steele, USAF Ret.

.....After being released from internment, Sleepy remained in the Navy under his Motor Machinist rating and in 1951 became a Seabee when that rating was changed to Construction Driver, a Seabee rating. The Seabees, who had been disbanded after WW2, were re-established in 1951 under the Naval Construction Forces branch. Sleepy saw many duty stations in the time period following and served in Operation Deepfreeze in Antarctica.

.....Sleepy and his family arrived in Port Lyautey in 1956, where they were assigned base housing and he began duties as the Division Chief of Seabees attached to base Public Works.

.....I arrived in Morocco in 1957 and was immediately assigned to the motor pool. A few months after I arrived, I was assigned the duty of delivering oil to the various family housing units on base. It was reported to Sleepy that I had, on a few occasions, spent an inordinate amount of time inside the quarters of certain officer housing. Sleepy, not buying my story that I had been invited inside for a cup of coffee or two, assigned me to be the base commander's driver (Captain John L. Counihan), a post that required me to wear a dress uniform while on that duty assignment.

.....To make a long story short, the Captain took a liking to me, and had me drive him over the course of the next few months to Tangier, Casablanca, Fez, Marrachesh and Rabat all on "official duty". And when he went to Athens for a meeting, I was his "official" interpreter in the market district of Athens called "Plaka". After the Athens trip, Sleepy decided that the punishment duty was just not cutting it and he transferred me back to the Motor Pool and other duties.

About 6 months later, another Seabee, Jim Killebrew CD2 and I hit upon a scheme to see Morocco for the donut hole. As Jim and I worked alternate weekends as duty drivers at the Motor Pool, once a month, the one who was off duty would call the Officer of the Day (OOD) in the Administration Building, state that they were Lieutenant so and so or Commander so and so, and request a driver and vehicle to take them to some destination in Morocco. To the left is Jim Killebrew. We had just arrived in Casablanca three hours after I made a telephone call to the OOD. We were in Casablanca, using a Navy vehicle to drive there from Port Lyautey, with an off-base pass, while Jim was still on duty.

.....Needless to say, it was my penchant for doing this too often that was my downfall. Sleepy called me into his office and told me that he suspected I was involved in a ruse and demanded to know if anyone else was involved. He was not sure which of the off-base trips were legitimate but he was certain a few of mine were not. I told him no one else was involved but to this day, I don't think he believed me. He told me that what I had been doing was a court-martial offense, but rather bring me to Captain's Mast or court-martial, he said to me "every dirt job that comes up while you are in Morocco has your name on it".

.....True to his word, the very next assignment that came up was driving for some entertainers in a USO show. Sleepy immediately assigned me to the driving detail (dress uniform again) requested by the base Commander, Captain Counihan. When the Captain saw that I was part of the detail, he pulled me out and told me that I would be driving for him. And as part of my duties, I drove for him and two of the entertainers (Bob Hope and Jerry Collona). When that four day detail ended, Bob Hope pulled me aside and asked me if I knew any Seabees who liked to drink, I told him that I believed I could find a few and upon that he gave me a couple of cases of Canadian Club and Scotch before his aircraft departed.

 

.....When I returned to the Motor Pool, Sleepy, already aware of my obtaining the liquid refreshment, greeted me by saying "you always manage to come up smelling like a rose". I then offered him a selection of fine liquors from the table of Bob Hope. He accepted and from then on I never did anything to embarrass him or the Navy. Sleepy could have had me on the carpet for a lot of things but he never did. He treated all those serving under him with respect. A disciplinarian yes, but he meted out his own brand of discipline. The end result was that his men, yours truly included, respected him, obeyed him and now look back with affection when they remember Sleepy Clevinger.

To the right, Bob Steele*, USAF and Sleepy on KP duty after a cookout at Sleepy's Quarters..

Again, according to his son, Sleepy returned to the USA after his Port Lyautey duty and went on recruiting duty in Carlinville, IL. He and his family then moved to Ocala, FL for shore duty and he retired from the Navy in 1963. The Clevinger family remained in Ocala with Sleepy joining the Post Office and working there for 26 years.

He passed away in 1998 from congestive heart failure due to Beriberi Cardiomypathy from nutritional defects suffered while a "guest" of the Japanese Empire........God grant him eternal rest!

 

* Footnote!

Bob Steele, a good friend of Sleepy Clevinger and the contributor of the two Clevinger photographs above, enlisted in the Army Air Corps July 1941 and went to the Sparten School of Aeronautics in Tulsa Oklahoma. As December 7 turned out to be a busy day, his unit was then assigned to Muroc Dry Lake, California, (Now Edwards AFB). At Muroc, his unit took over a group of LB30's loaded and painted for England. He didn't go with the the LB30's to England but was sent first to Sacramento and then to the Alameida Naval Station as a flight crew member flying sub patrol along the California coast. His unit then moved to Topeka Kansas to modify B-24's fresh out of the factory. That duty included assembling the crews from different flight schools, providing training and then watching them depart, some to the European Theater of Operations and some to the Pacific. A year later, Bob went to England by ship in the cold, (he notes, "I slept every night on the open deck and I wasn't alone on the open deck")

Arriving in England, he was sent to Crew Chiefs school in Manchester England for three weeks. He was sent to a B-26 squadron and formed a unit whose duties were to go out to aircraft forced to land elsewhere, repair them and return them to the base and flying status. A few times these airplanes were too close to the lines. He was at Omaha Beach on D day plus 10 and recalls running all over the place never knowing where you were. He finally ended up in Stutguard, Germany, at the close of the war, and went home through the Mediterranean Sea to New York. He was discharged November 2, 1945, but kept his rank in the reserves, -- M/Sgt. (Master sergeant 1943). When the Korean War began, he was called back to active duty. He was sent to Kwajalein on a test setup (In the Navy again). After that Panama, California, Morocco, Alaska and Florida. He retired July 1966, M/Sgt. USAF.

Bob and his family met the Clevingers on the MSTS ship that brought both of them to Morocco, Bob to Sidi Slimane and Sleepy to Port Lyautey. They remained good friends during and after their military service.