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U.S. Air Force Helicopter History
Clifton Archie Shipman, Lt. Colonel, USAF (Retired)May 21, 1926 – April 14, 2019
Born in: Mountain View, MissouriResided in: Aurora, Colorado
On April 14, 2019, at the age of 92, Clifton Archie Shipman passed away after he suffered a stroke the previous Sunday while out doing yard work.
On May 21, 1926 he was born on a farm near Mt. View, Missouri to Charlie and Mamie Shipman. He had two sisters named Delora (Dee) and Lorraine, and as a boy he went by the name Archie. Lorraine died in infancy. During the Depression, the Shipman family lost their farm when Clif was three years old and Delora was six. The family moved to live and work on an aunt’s farm near Simla, Colorado. He made friends at that time with a one-legged turkey since Delora was in school and there were no children nearby. Over the years he loved telling that story! After several years the family moved to Denver and moved from one house that they could afford to another. Clif attended four different schools before he finished the first grade.
When he was eight years old, he delivered magazines around the neighborhood and was an avid reader; he read every magazine before he delivered them. At one time he won an award for reading the most books in the entire school library. He always wanted to learn about everything.
His dad borrowed $200 and invested in a Texaco Station when Clif was nine. Clif worked with his dad at the station. He even wore a Texaco uniform. Other station owners would hire him to work for them when they needed help, as well. His mother Mamie, too, worked with a partner in a poultry house. The family were hard workers and were eventually able to buy a car and a little one-bedroom house. Clif had a cot to sleep on in an enclosed porch. The family fished and hunted. Clif and his dad were accurate shooters and always had fresh birds or game to eat.
As a youngster his dad took him in for a physical and the doctors found an irregular heartbeat. They were going to restrict him from all physical activities in school. His dad was furious and told the doctors that “He can run up those mountains.” He later found that he had an athletic heart and is a natural athlete. He participated in many sports and excelled in them all. One summer during high school, he left home and hitchhiked all around the United States. As the years moved on, he enjoyed hiking and skiing in the Colorado mountains, traveling by car across the country, and he played racquetball until his 92nd birthday.
When Clif started high school, Superintendent William Hayes and Principle Iver C. Ranum skipped him from eighth grade to tenth grade, so he had only three years in high school. During those years WWII began and all the young boys wanted to enlist. Clif’s dream was to become a pilot, but found he was too young to enlist. He lied about his age and took a wartime job after school working for the government at Lowry Air Force Base driving vehicles for the motor pool at the age of 15. His days started by milking his cow and slopping his pigs (that he raised to earn money), then he went to school and got out fifteen minutes early to be driven to work. He worked until midnight. Somehow, he did have time to spend with his friends and plan horseback riding trips, roller and ice skating parties, skiing and just having fun. During that time he also worked at Combs Aviation as a line boy propping planes. He learned to fly there, too.
He enlisted and immediately was inducted into the Army Air Corps after high school graduation. When he joined the military, he was asked to use his formal name and became Clifton Archie Shipman. When he was being interviewed by an officer, he was asked if he had experience with boats. He answered, “Some, Sir.” That experience was sailing boats on the lake at Denver City Park. Well, he was assigned to the 1002nd Boat Company in crash boats in Florida. While there he lived in a tent on the beach.
After the war he worked at the Boca Raton Hotel as a fishing guide in the winters and got a job as a captain on the ship The Democracy, leading a fishing fleet to Alaska for Libby MacNeal and Libby out of Washington State during the summer. One time as he was traveling from Florida to Washington, he stopped in Colorado to visit his family and friends. A cousin told him that she had a friend that she thought Clif might like. When he met that beautiful young woman, he was “totally smitten with her,” and a month later that lovely young lady, Dorothy (Dottie) Paige, became his wife. She joined him in Washington. Shortly after that he quit his jobs in Florida and Washington and decided to try his hand at working as a lumberjack in the forests of Washington. He found it was very hard work and during the winter you often couldn’t work due to the weather.
One day Clif saw a sign saying the Air Corps was taking married men and training them as pilots to be in the military. At that time Dottie was pregnant with their first child and was eager to get back to Denver. Clif took the tests to see if he would qualify to become an Aviation Cadet and he passed them. He and Dottie then immediately packed up and drove back to Denver in a snow storm. He picked up odd jobs and the two of them lived with their families until Clif left to start pilot training.
Their son, Gregory Allen Shipman was born in Denver, Colorado on May 6, 1949 and their daughter, Cynthia Ann Shipman was born fourteen months later in August of 1950. Dottie pinned Clif’s pilot wings on them when he graduated at Vance Air Force Base, Oklahoma.Clif was assigned to Hawaii, but when he arrived there the Korean War had started and he volunteered to go to war. He, Dottie, and the babies were sent to Guam where he would fly missions to Korea. Later they moved to Tokyo and he continued flying into Korea. The family adapted to living in a foreign country and “appreciated the difference in cultures.” Clif flew troops and cargo in and out of Korea.
The Shipman family made many moves over their years in the Air Force and lived on different bases in the United States, Far East and Europe. Clif and Dottie were happy when Clif got an assignment to Lowry Air Force Base in Denver, since their families lived nearby. He was selected to be with the initial cadre when the Air Force Academy was formed. He was in the 7625th Squadron. Clif’s job was to keep the other officers current in the planes, and he was also able to take the cadets on cultural trips. Clif was a loyal Air Force football fan and went to all the home games – rain, snow, or shine. For many years after he retired, the pilots of the 7625th Squadron and their wives met every two years for a reunion.
After several years, the Air Force Academy moved into their new home near Colorado Springs. The 7625th Squadron was disbanded, and the men moved to other bases. Clif, fortunately, was asked to be the Aide to Lowry’s Commanding General Anderson so he and his family stayed right where they were. Greg and Cindy were able to spend a lot of time with their grandparents and Aunt Dee and Uncle Norm. Clif got to fly the General’s shiny airplane that had white sidewall tires, all over the United States. The family enjoyed their stay in Denver, but soon it was time to move on. Clif wanted to take the family to Germany, and he became the chief pilot for a new Air Evac Squadron in Germany. Greg and Cindy were teenagers at that time and Clif was able to fly the family to other countries on his airplane.
When the family came back to the States, Clif was assigned to a base in California. They bought a boat and water skied, went swimming, and took advantage of all the activities that California had to offer. It was during this time that the Vietnam War started. Clif was a high time flying pilot then. He had spent all his time in fixed wing aircraft and wanted to finish his career by flying in Vietnam. A very good friend of his told him that he was going to the war as a helicopter rescue pilot and that perhaps Clif could get over there in helicopters, too. Clif applied and soon was learning to fly the HH-53 chopper at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida.
After training he was sent overseas and began flying with the Jolly Green Rescue Squadron rescuing pilots who had been shot down. The Jolly Greens’ motto is “That Others Might Live”. Clif flew many dangerous missions and saved men, but the Boxer 22 Mission was the largest successful search and rescue mission by the U.S. Air Force in the Vietnam War. Clif was the pilot of the HH-53 that picked up Lt. Woodrow Bergeron after hundreds of men flew on this mission. Clif was awarded a Silver Star to add to his many other medals. After 26 years of military life, Clif retired when he left Vietnam in 1970. Dottie and Cindy had stayed in California during this time and when Clif retired, the family bought a home and moved back to Aurora, Colorado.
Not knowing where life might take him, Clif took several months off and after a lot of soul searching went to real estate school, became a realtor, and went to work for Woodmoor Corporation near Colorado Springs and later Roxborough. After a while he and several other men started a corporation of their own. The corporation was Lancewood and the properties being sold were in Soldier Canyon near Ft. Collins. During this time Cindy married and moved to Pennsylvania and blessed the family with a darling baby girl, Laura. As Greg had enlisted in the Air Force, he was stationed in Greece, married Jean there, and added a new grandchild, Billy, to the Shipman family. Several years later Billy was joined by a little brother Bobby. Clif and Dottie divorced in 1972.
Clif then took a job with Aspen Airlines and moved back to California. He spent some time in that job but felt that he had left his family and friends in Denver and really wasn’t happy with the position. He was asked to be a broker for Woodmoor Condominiums in Breckenridge and moved there and became a ski bum. He later worked for the conglomerate L.T.V. selling time-share condos in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, but after a year or so the company got out of the time-share business. Clif again started selling time-share condos in Breckenridge and Dillon. He bought a time-share condo in Dillon and spent many fun times there with family and friends over the years.
A new era in Clif’s life began in 1978 when he married Wanda Harris. Clif’s two children were grown and married, but Wanda’s children, Kathy and Larry, were 15 and 13 years old. Clif became a new dad for them and a loving husband for Wanda. After Kathy married Ken Smith, they had two daughters, Erin and Kristen. Larry later married Lisa (Schellpfeffer) and had a son Blake and daughter Danielle. The combined families included Clif and Wanda’s four children, their spouses, seven grandchildren and their spouses, and 10 great grandchildren. Clif’s granddaughter Laura (Slovik) with husband Joel Cantalamessa have four children, his great grandchildren: Campbell, Carley, Catelyn, and Conley. His grandson Bill Shipman and wife Kristi (Kwast) also have four children: Macey, Leah, Avery, and AJ. His grandson Bob has two children: Bobby, Jr. and Jakob.
Clif and Wanda celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary last July with their family. Through the years Clif lived a very adventuresome life with his family and friends and always said that he had a most incredible journey.
Clif is preceded in death by his son Gregory Allen. He is survived by his wife of 40 years, Wanda; daughter, Cindy Slovik; daughter, Kathy (Ken) Smith; son, Larry (Lisa) Harris; 7 grandchildren: Laura (Joel), Bill (Kristi), Bob, Erin, Kristen, Blake, and Danielle; and 10 great grandchildren: Campbell, Carley, Catelyn, Conley, Macey, Leah, Avery, AJ, Bobby, and Jakob.
A service of thanksgiving and praise for Clif’s life will be held at 11:00am, on Wednesday, April 24th, at Mount Olive Lutheran Church, 11453 E. Wesley Ave., Aurora, CO 80014. A viewing will be at the Church from 10-11am. Following the service, a luncheon will be provided.
A graveside service with Air Force Honors will then be held at 3:00pm, on Wednesday, April 24th, at Fort Logan National Cemetery, 3698 S. Sheridan Blvd. Please gather in staging area ‘A’ by 2:50pm.
Memorial Donations may be made to:Rocky Mountain Honor Flightc/o Mary Haddon, President1201 Williams St # 18Denver C0 80218
Military Career of Lt Col (Ret) Clifton A. Shipman, 1944 – 1970
WORLD WAR II: June of 1944 Clif went through the gates of Fort Logan as a volunteer soldier. His desire was to be an Army pilot. He had already learned to fly while working for Harry Combs as a line boy and going to school at Union High in Westminster. Combs Field was at Colorado Blvd. and Smith Road. Mr. Combs had a military contract to provide ten hours of flight training to the College Training Detachment Cadets in training at Denver University. Clif’s job was starting the aircraft, fueling, storing, and assisting in any way.
On departing Fort Logan processing by troop train, Clif arrived at Randolph Army Air Base for further testing and selection as an aviation student. He was elated and excited to have been selected as a potential Army pilot. At about this time the Army determined they had too many candidates in the pipe line awaiting pilot training and began offering each candidate a mission while in the pipe line. Clif had heard about the Army Air Corps crash boats, thought that exciting, volunteered, and was accepted. This allowed him to remain in the pipe line.
He was sent to the 1002nd Boat Company in Boca Raton, Florida. The military had taken over the Boca Raton Hotel and its marina. Clif, along with a group of about thirty-five soldiers living in tents along-side the Inland Waterway, and docking their patrol boats in the marina slips, patrolled the Atlantic coast of Florida. History shows that more than 200 U.S. ships were sunk by German U – Boats in that slot between the Bahamas and East Coast during the war.
For those awaiting appointments to flight training, including Clif, this was good duty, but disappointing, because the war was coming to an end in 1945, and they would not be selected to fly. Clif obtained a Master’s Military Occupation Specialty (MOS) and further extended that training through the Coast Guard.
After the war, Clif ran boats for a few years up to and around Alaska in the summer and in Florida as a deep-sea fishing guide.
KOREAN WAR: June 1950 the Korean War started. Clif had just completed pilot training. His first assignment was to Hickam A. F. B., Honolulu, Hawaii. When he arrived at the base he asked for duty in the Far East. He was immediately sent to Haneda A. F. B. near Tokyo and started flying missions into South Korea. Pusan was in desperate shape, and pilots were flying as many as 150 hours per month trying to supply them and help them hang on.
When U.S. forces began the Inchon Invasion, all the enemy troops fled northward. This took the pressure off Pusan, and the U.S. started building bases and advanced toward the North. During the Inchon Invasion Clif was assigned to fly into Kimpo Air Base on a classified project with two Navy fighters as escort. On arrival the runway had been bombed out, the hangers were burning, the Russian yaks were on fire, and a Marine with radio in a military Jeep directed them to land on the grass. On final approach, one of the escort aircraft lost an engine and went past Clif, then diving to the ground. In the escort’s final turn he caught a wing tip, lost that wing, then his right wing and the tail and prop with engine broke off. The controller in the Jeep advised Clif to land left of the debris. As he flashed past, the pilot stepped out of his cockpit and waved that he was O. K. In 1951 Clif also flew Marines off the Chosin Reservoir. The mobile troops got into waiting aircraft and the wounded were taken to nearby ships.
The Korean War started in June 1950 and lasted until August 1953. Clif flew into Korea those three years, except in 1951 he flew with the U. S. Navy. His unit was VR-8 flying R5D’S and R6D’s. When the war ended, he returned to the States and flew all the Arctic bases, Canada, Greenland, Iceland, to Europe and North Africa on a routine basis.
In 1957 he flew to Lowry Air Force Base and obtained an assignment with the newly forming Air Force Academy. When the Academy transferred their aircraft, Clif became the Aide to General Anderson at Lowry and was Chief of Protocol until taking his family to Germany as Chief Pilot of the 55th Air Evac Squadron.
VIETNAM WAR: After Clif’s tour in Europe with his family, he transferred to Travis A. F. B., California. Clif was the Commander of the Area Command Post. It was there that he decided to volunteer to fly helicopters as a combat rescue pilot in Vietnam. On arrival in Vietnam, Clif was assigned as Executive Officer with headquarters in Saigon – 3rd Group. This gave him the big picture of rescue in all three countries. His mission was flying Jolly Green rescue choppers and he was the Operations Officer in the 40th Rescue Squadron with a detachment at NKP. Clif retired from the United States Air Force after leaving Vietnam in 1970.Clif’s military career was “a great rewarding ride!”
Service of Thanksgiving and Praise for the Gift of Life: April 24, 2019 11:00 am – 12:00 pmMt. Olive Lutheran Church11453 E. Wesley Ave.Aurora, CO 80014
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