Brigadier General, United States Army
By Mark Hare
16 November 2004
Brigadier General Donald Clayman died in 1987 and is buried in Arlington National Cemetery. He was born at Rochester Junction in the town of Mendon, New York, in 1912.
He fought across Europe during World War II and served also in Korea. He was wounded 11 times in World War II, eight times by small arms fire, three times by artillery fire. At one point he commanded the 346th Regiment of the 87th "Golden Acorn" Infantry Division.
Now some local veterans of the 87th and Battle of the Bulge would like to honor Clayman — a man they served with but never knew. They want to remind us all of the price veterans paid for our freedom.
They hope to hang a plaque in Clayman's memory at Mendon Town Hall. One of the vets, Mitch Kaidy of Brighton, says the vets and town officials hope to locate at least one of Clayman's two daughters, or another family member, before going ahead with plans for the memorial.
Clayman was awarded 11 Purple Hearts, the Distinguished Service Cross, Bronze and Silver Stars, the French Croix de Guerre and Legion of Honor.
In 1944, while still with the 9th Infantry Division, he led his battalion across the Cherbourg peninsula, according to a 1975 story in the Golden Acorn News (a newsletter of the 87th Infantry), "cutting off great numbers of Germans who were later forced to surrender." He is quoted in several Democrat and Chronicle and Times-Union news stories from the war years, and typically credits others with the real acts of heroism. A July 1944 story reported that Clayman had been awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for gallantry. "I assure you it was nothing I did," he wrote in a letter home. "The men of the battalion have been marvelous. Many times I have given them orders that seemed sure to entail certain death, but never once did one man hesitate."
When Clayman took command of the 346th in late January 1945, the company command post was in St. Vith, Belgium, "The Germans were drawn up along a strong defensive line immediately east of the town," according to the Golden Acorn News. "With enemy artillery bursting through St. Vith, Colonel Clayman completed plans for an end run play" that required a 25-mile truck march in subzero weather to attack a pair of well-defended supply towns on the Our River.
Clayman accompanied the 1st Battalion during an attack on the town of Schonberg.
"While advancing from house to house with the leading elements of the battalion an enemy machine gunner, wounded him in the left hand and hip," said the Golden Acorn News. "He continued to direct the attack for several hours before he would allow himself to be evacuated for medical attention."
After the Korean War, Clayman worked for a period at the Pentagon and then became a professor of military science at Manlius Academy, near Syracuse.
Despite his heroism, Clayman is not well-known in Mendon or the greater Rochester area. Mendon Town Historian Diane Ham says Rochester Junction, once a hamlet, is at the base of the Plains Road hill in an area where the Lehigh Valley Railroad once passed through. Clayman's father, George Clayman, was the postmaster and Lehigh Valley Railroad station agent at Rochester Junction from 1904 to 1950.
Kaidy believes that Clayman's daughters both lived in Virginia Beach, Va., at one time. He hopes this column will find its way to them or to other Clayman relatives who can then contact him and help plan the memorial.
If you have information about the Clayman family,
you can call Kaidy at (585) 424-4746, or Jack Foy at (585) 663-6913.