Van Cleef, Clarence Leroy, Jr., SoM1c

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Last Rank
Petty Officer First Class
Last Primary NEC
Last Rating/NEC Group
Primary Unit
1944-1946, SO-0000, USS Incredible (AM-249)
Service Years
1942 - 1946
Official/Unofficial US Navy Certificates
Plank Owner
One Hash Mark

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Home State
New Jersey
New Jersey
Year of Birth
This Military Service Page was created/owned by Tom Bateman (Batman), GMM1 to remember Van Cleef, Clarence Leroy, Jr., PO1.

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Contact Info
Home Town
Somerville, NJ
Last Address
Oxnard, CA

Date of Passing
Dec 16, 1989
Location of Interment
Forest Lawn Cemetery - Hollywood Hills, California
Wall/Plot Coordinates
Courts of Remembrance. Serenity Section, Lot 156

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 Enlisted/Officer Basic Training
  1942, Recruit Training (Newport, RI), 344
 Unit Assignments/ Advancement Schools
(ST) Fleet Sonar A School Submarine Chasers (SC)Naval Education and Training Command (NETC) (Faculty Staff)US Navy
  1942-1943, SO-0000, (ST) Fleet Sonar A School
  1943-1944, SO-0000, Submarine Chaser (SC-681)
  1944-1944, SO-0000, Key West Fl (Faculty Staff)
  1944-1946, SO-0000, USS Incredible (AM-249)
 Combat and Non-Combat Operations
  1941-1945 World War II
  1941-1945 World War II/Asiatic-Pacific Theater
  1942-1945 World War II/European-African-Middle Eastern Theater/Antisubmarine Operations 15 June 1942 to 2 September 1945
 Other News, Events and Photographs
  Oct 16, 1942, Service entry date
  Mar 15, 1943, Received on USS SC-681
  Oct 10, 1943, Promoted to 2nd Class Petty Officer (SoM2c)
  Jan 16, 1944, Transfer to Key West, FL for more Training
  Apr 17, 1944, Received on USS Incredible (AM-249) Commissioning
  May 31, 1945, Promoted to 1st Class Petty Officer
  Feb 20, 1946, Transfer for Discharge to Terminal Island, CA
  Feb 22, 2013, General Photos34
 Additional Information
Last Known Activity

One of the great movie villains, Clarence Leroy Van Cleef, Jr better know as Lee Van Cleef. was born in Somerville, New Jersey, to Marion Lavinia (Van Fleet) and Clarence Leroy Van Cleef, Sr. His parents were both of Dutch ancestry. 

Naval Service 

Van Cleef’s first love was the sea; he volunteered as both an air warden and plane spotter in high school and enlisted in the U.S. Navy after graduating at age 17 in compressed high school course in 1942.

He enter service on Oct 16, 1942 and went to Sonorman School and graduated as a third class petty office Sonorman. His reported to his first vessel a subchaser with no name called USS SC-681 from March 15, 1943 to January 16,1944. During his time on board he was promoted to 2nd Class Petty Officer Sonorman. This SC-681 patrolled the Caribbean in search of German U-Boats.

He went for more training at Fleet Sound School, Key West, FL, for a few weeks. He was was transferred to Savannah, GA to be part of the pre-commissioning crew of  a new ship.

He officially listed on the Commissioning Muster Report of the USS Incredible (AM-249) on April 17, 1944. USS Incredible, a 530-ton Admirable class minesweeper built at Savannah, Georgia, was commissioned in April 1944. She went to the Mediterranean Sea a few months later, where she participated in the Southern France invasion and subsequent operations. On 10 September 1944, she helped defeat an attack on Allied warships by German human torpedoes. Incredible carried out mine sweeping duties in the Black Sea during the first two months of 1945. Returning to the U.S. in May, she transferred to the Pacific the following July and swept mines in the East China Sea and Ryukyus during the months following Japan's surrender. Lee was promoted to Petty Officer First Class Sonarman while on board. He was muster out in February 20, 1946 as draw down of forces after of the war.

Acting Career

After serving in the Armed Services in World War II he was talked into trying out for an acting career. His first acting assignment in 1950 was in the traveling stage show “Mister Roberts”. He performed in many cities, and following the tour tried out for film parts. He became successful with his first role in “High Noon” in 1952.

Following his first film performance he had roles in several films each year during the 1950’s. His sharp features and piercing eyes enabled him to become the ideal villain in numerous productions. During his entire career, which lasted until 1989, the year of his death, he had roles in nearly 100 films, TV Series and other productions.

Some of the titles of the productions he was in are: “High Noon” in 1952, “Vice-Squad” in 1953, “Dawn to Socorro” in 1954, “The Vanishing American” in 1955, “Gunfight in the OK Corral” in 1957, “Bonanza” in 1960, A role in one of the Andy Griffith Show performances in 1965, “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” in 1966, “Commandos” in 1968, “Bad Man’s River” in 1972, “Escape from Death Row” in 1975, “The Rip-Off” in 1978, “The Octagon” in 1980, “Jungle Raiders” in 1985, and “Thief of Fortune” in 1989, the year of his death.

The type of roles played by Van Cleef did not produce many awards. He did, however, win one award in 1983. It was the Golden Boot Award, probably given out to performers in Westerns.

Lee Van Cleef was born in Somerville, New Jersey, on January 9, 1925. His parents were Clarence L. Van Cleef and Marion L. Van Fleet Van Cleef. He was married three times. He was married to Patsie Ruth from 1943 to 1960, to Joan Drane from 1960 to 1974, and to Barbara Havelone from 1976 until 1989, the year of his death. He had three children named Alan, Deborah and David.

Van Cleef passed away in Oxnard, California on December 16, 1989, at age 64. Cause of his death was a heart attack. He was interred in Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery in Hollywood Hills, California.

Other Comments:
December 7, 1944

“How he dived 30 feet from the bridge of the mine-sweeper into the Mediterranean with the pipe he was smoking still tight in his teeth, and won himself a four-legged pal at the same time, is the story told in a letter home from Soundman 2c C. Leroy Van Cleef Jr. 20, U.S. Navy of 198 North Bridge St. H wrote his parents.
“We were along the coast and had our new mascot aboard. It was a fairly heavy sea (and cold water, I might add). Our mascot happens to be a spaniel of some sort. We call the water-loving hound 'Rusty'.
“Well, Rusty was out on the fantail this day and a wave came along, washing her overboard. We had to get permission to break formation and go back for her. That took us about 15 minutes until we finally found her. I was up on the bridge at the time, smoking my pipe. Well, I shed the knife I had on and my shoes, and yelled up for permission to go after her. 'Permission granted.'
“So I dove off the bridge. When I hit the water, I heard something snap in my mouth. That happened to be my pipe while diving about 30 feet. I don't know how my teeth escaped breaking. Luck, I call it. However, I got Rusty all right. She was swimming to beat everything. Quite a current too. They threw us a life ring and pulled us aboard.
“Yesterday I was out on the fantail and the sea was rushing up on the deck. Rusty came up and snuggled around my legs. I guess that swim was worth my favorite pipe.”
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