Families unite through WWII bayonet
By Staff Sgt. Nathanael Callon, 52nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs
/ Published October 24, 2012
SPANGDAHLEM AIR BASE, Germany (AFNS) --
Clyde Sparks never spoke much about his time in the U.S. Army. He fought in the Battle of the Bulge, where he earned a Purple Heart Medal for wounds suffered in Luxembourg. It was his silence that always marked him as a veteran of the Second World War.
It wasn't until Staff Sgt. Scott Martin, who is a radio frequencies transmissions systems operator for the 606th Air Control Squadron, met him for the first time that he began to talk about his experiences.
"He completely opened up to me," said Martin, who is married to Sparks' granddaughter, Jessica Martin. "He found out that I was also in the military, and that was all it took.
"My fondest memory of him is just sitting and talking with him," he continued. "Whenever I would come over, he would clear a space right next to him and tell me to sit down. He couldn't walk a lot, but he could talk. We would talk for hours and hours."
Sparks would tell Martin stories about how cold it was where he served. While most of his memories had faded over time and old age, one memory remained vivid.
"He always talked about losing his bayonet in the war, and you could tell he wasn't happy about it," said Martin, who is originally from Chico, Calif.
But now, the Sparks family has a new story to tell, because a Luxembourg man tracked down the owner of the bayonet from 68 years ago.
It was December 1944 when Pfc. Clyde Benson Sparks made his way into Boulaide, Luxembourg, where his unit liberated the small town from the German occupation. They had strict orders to keep the nearby roads clear so Gen. George Patton and his men could press north to Bastogne, Belgium.
It was there that Sparks lost his precious bayonet.
The bayonet, which was mounted on the end of a M1 Garand rifle, went missing during his time in the village of Boulaide, and Sparks never saw it again. He died in 2008 never knowing what happened to his standard-issued weapon.
Nine-year-old Alphonse Haas found the bayonet shortly after U.S. troops pushed forward and left the small village. The Americans used the Haas home as an aid station, and that was where he found the bayonet.
Haas kept the weapon as a reminder of his country's liberation until the day he died. His son, Marco Haas, developed a keen interest for Boulaide's involvement in the war in 1944. The bayonet was among other items that his father had from that period and Marco found initials and a series of numbers engraved in the sheath.
Haas began searching in 2001 for the owner of the bayonet, submitting search queries for what turned out to be Sparks' Army serial number and initials. He tried the National Archives, U.S. embassies, and veteran's organizations with no luck. He began to lose hope in finding the rightful owner of the bayonet.
The national archives finally came back with a positive match on the serial number. It was Sparks' serial number.
Thrilled, Haas now searched for Sparks and his whereabouts. He wondered if it was possible that he died in the war or if he made it home.
Haas found his answer on Sept. 9, 2011, when he found Sparks' death notice on a Web site.
"I was very sorry when I read (Clyde's) death notice," said Haas. "I was too late."
Still, he knew that the family would appreciate their loved one's belongings.
"I imagine myself getting something back from my dad or grandfather that they forgot 68 years ago in such conditions," he said. "He was not on holiday here, he was at war. Some of his friends gave their lives to free our country, to free Europe."
Martin received a call one day from his wife's aunt saying that a man found a bayonet belonging to Clyde in Luxembourg and he wanted to give it to the family.
"I was wary at first, because it seemed unreal," he said. "It was unexpected."
Haas presented the bayonet to Martin during a ceremony at the 606th, in front of an eager and curious room of peers. Martin accepted the bayonet on behalf of his wife's family, who were unable to make it to the presentation.
"I'm in complete shock that he was able to find this and actually bring it to fruition; that's quite amazing," said Martin, who seemed to still be taking in the whole situation.
Martin thanked Haas for the kind gesture and expressed the importance for his extended family.
The bayonet is a reminder of the Sparks family legacy and a reminder that freedom does not come without sacrifice.
"I think it belongs back home. It was here for 68 years, and I think it's time for it to go back," Haas said to Martin. "I hope this will make a lasting friendship between our families for a long time to come."