Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — NEWFANE — Clifford Kumm, 90, is one of nine children born to Henry and Persis Henrietta. He and three of his older brothers served in World War II and his younger brother was in the infantry during the Korean War.
Kumm would rather speak of Richard, Leon, Clayton and Lloyd— not of himself.
Kumm, who lives on Hatter Road, will attend Veterans Day bell ringing ceremonies today at Newfane Post 8438 of the Veterans of Foreign Wars. The heroes are the servicemen who are underground, he said. Although he served in England and France, Kumm feels he didn’t do anything special during World War II.
“Those guys who saw the worst of it, don’t talk about it,” Kumm said. “There was nothing frightening about my service.”
He has an “Airborne/Trooper Carrier” shoulder patch but never jumped from a plane. He was a radio man on planes that carried paratoopers, towed gliders and recovered wounded.
Kumm would rather speak of growing up in Minnesota and moving to New York in a Model T truck that had 50 flat tires along the way. He talked about the one-room school house he attended in Williamsville, which has been relocated to the Amherst Museum, and working special duty at Curtis Aviation.
Drafted into the Army Air Corps, he was in communications and a high-speed operator in Morse Code. Towards the end of the war, he received what appeared to be a routine friendly message, but sensed it came from the Germans who were seeking information. Kumm was correct.
How did he know?
”Right off the bat I was suspicious,” said Kumm. “I could sense the way our operators would send. These German operators were too perfect. They threw too many cue signals and they were too expert. That clued me right then because our operators had never done that.”
Kumm only gave minimum information before turning off the transmitter.
”If you call back to them, they could have direction finders and zero right in on you,” he said. “I gave them a K and wouldn’t give them any more.”
As a radio man on a C-47 Skytrain, he served on missions to Germany to bring wounded GI’s home. Every plane had to have a radio operator and Gooney Birds — the nickname given to the Douglas troop transport planes — could land almost anywhere and could take a lot of flack. The C-47 was called “The plane that won the war.”
Kumm served from 1942 to Sept. 1945. After schooling, he was assigned to First Troop Carrier Command Headquarters at Stout AFB. While stateside, he would copy the press messages and those reports were sent to the general.
Kumm asked for overseas duty and was sent to England on the Queen Mary. “They swerved all the way across because the Queen Mary never travelled in convoy. The convoys were too slow and a submarine could be there anytime.”
The converted luxury liner arrived at Glasgow, Scotland and Kumm went to England by train. He was sent to “Aldermaston” in south eastern England where he worked alongside of intelligence.
Because he took typing in high school, he was faster than most Morse Code operators.
After D-Day, Kumm was stationed in Riem, France, 20 miles from Paris. Planes were supplying troops and supplies to General Patton. “We picked up wounded where we could find some place to land,” he said.
On one particular return trip from Germany, the C-47 had to fly at tree-top altitude because a wounded GI was bleeding so heavily.
Back home, Kumm married Iola and the couple had four children: Gerald, Bonnie, Sheila and Steve.
He worked at Durez in North Tonawanda for 37 years as a journeyman steam fitter and pipe fitter. His brothers, who all survived the war, are dead and his only living sibling is a sister.
Leon was a medic with Gen. Patton’s army. Clayton was an aircraft plotter in the Army Air Corps. Richard was in the infantry and went to Hawaii after Pearl Harbor. Lloyd served in the infantry in Korea War.
“I did my duty and did it well, but can’t say I did anything special,” Kumm said. “I was just another GI.”