Hal Clement, 1965.

   Hal Clement, 1965.

When I first began reading Hal Clement stories in Astounding, I was struck by this new writer’s affection for cloud types and air masses. Had to be a weatherman, I assured myself. Nobody else could, or would bother to, get all that meteorological talk down so well.

When I learned that Clement had been with a B-24 group, I was yearning for more, for so was I; and when it turned out that his bomb group was the 457th, I was fascinated. Mine was the 456th. Near us in the Stornara, Italy, neighborhood were the 458th and 459th; since the Air Force customarily packaged its bomb groups into bomb wings of four groups each, I had always wondered what they had done with our 457th.

Now I know that it was in England, flying right across the Channel to drop its bombs instead of chugging north through most of Europe before they got to a target, as our Mediterranean Theater of Operations bombers did. But why?

Ah, there is no “why” when you talk about the doings of the military.

Even after I met Hal Clement — aka Major Harry Stubbs, not a weatherman but a pilot, he explained; “but of course we had lots of courses in weather” — he didn’t know what had happened to detach his group from its siblings either. All he could tell me was that one day around 1942 or so they’d got orders to draw desert-type clothing and hot-weather instruments, along with the other nearby groups; then the 457th’s orders were reversed, while other groups began flying to Italy, and ultimately they were ordered to England.

And what did I mean, “Why?” Whoever knew “why” anything happened in the Air Force?

Nevertheless we became good friends, and ultimately I became his agent.

More to come.

Related post:
Hal Clement, Part 2


  1. Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey says:

    Unsolved Mysteries of World War II! This could become a documentary!

  2. Craig says:

    Mr. Clement was the absolute nicest pro writer I have ever met. Although I’ve never met a pro that was mean (even Ellison giving me the full effect wasn’t mean about it). Of course, I’ve never had the chance to meet you Mr. Pohl.

  3. Stefan Jones says:

    Ah, someone I’ve actually met!

    “Hal Clement” went to a lot of east coast conventions back when I went to east coast conventions.

    I recall have a conversation with him about DIY animation on early IBM PCs. He wanted to animate pictures of orbital paths.

  4. Craig says:

    I just reread what I wrote and it could be taken as implying Fred is/was/could be mean. That was not my intention at all. I was trying to leave open the possibility that our esteemed host could potentially be even nicer than Mr. Clement.

  5. Narmitaj says:

    I didn’t know until now Hal Clement had been a B-24 pilot. My father was too, with the RAF’s Coastal Command in the last 6 months of the war. He never wrote any books but he had a lifelong interest in what the weather was up to.

    With 19,000 of the aircraft built, I suppose something like 40-50,000 people must have been trained to pilot them.

  6. Narmitaj says:

    Following up my previous post I came across a site that listed famous B-24 crew, such as Robert Altman, Jimmy Stewart, George McGovern and Sabu – http://www.b24bestweb.com/b24bestweb-Famous.htm. So I suggested to them that they add Hal Clement.

    But they wrote back to say that the 457th was in fact a B-17 group: http://www.457thbombgroup.org/

  7. Narmitaj says:

    The B-24 Website I mentioned has now added Harry Stubbs/ Hal Clement to their “Famous B-24 Crew” page: http://www.b24bestweb.com/b24bestweb-Famous.htm .

    There seems to be an international network of enthusiasts and/or relatives of WW2 veterans of the aircraft who between them found some documentary records of his career, which they summed up as: “flew 35 combat missions as Co-Pilot and Pilot. Served with the 8th AF / 458th BG then transferred to the 44th BG / 68th BS. Piloted PURITANICAL BITCH (Renamed to PURITANICAL WITCH)”

    As you can see, they reckon he was in the 458th, which was in England, not Italy, and not the 457th (which was a B-17 group), and then was transferred to the 44th Bomb Group. One of the email correspondents said this:

    “458th BG flying B-24s was also in England. It was based at Horsham St. Faith, a former RAF fighter airfield and which is now Norwich International Airport”

    and also, in relation to the makeup of Fred Pohl’s wing including his bomb group, the 456th, said this:

    “According to my records, the Bomb Groups which, together with 456th, comprised 304th Combat Bomb Wing were 454th and 455th at San Giovanni and 459th at Giulia”

  8. the blog team says:

    And why not Sgt. Frederik Pohl with the 456th?

  9. Narmitaj says:

    It seems to be aircrew only on the B-24 celeblist, and as I understand it our host was an earth-based weatherman.