EDITOR’S NOTE: This is an interview with one of the few remaining World War II veterans in our coverage area.
McALESTER, Okla. — Claude Stokes stood outside a house in Obernoffen, Germany, between enemy mortar shelling during World War II when he received a telephone call from his commander saying he and his brother were going home to Oklahoma.
The McAlester native returned to a basement where his twin, Clyde, and other soldiers were taking shelter, to tell his brother the news. After Claude shared the news and left the shelter, a mortar shell landed near Claude and a piece of shrapnel pierced through his heavy jacket and a coat.
However, an object stopped the shrapnel from severely injuring Claude — the ink pen with which he wrote letters to his wife, Madlyn, while he was at war.
“The pen saved his life,” Madlyn said.
The life-saving pen is now framed along with a photo from the German village and hangs in Claude’s bedroom at the Van Buren House in McAlester. Next to the framed items hang pictures of him during his service, combat medals and ribbons he received, and a photo of him, Clyde and their brother Carl.
Although the Stokes twins were not present on Normandy Beach 75 years ago, their contributions and sacrifices in World War II helped the Allied Forces overcome Nazi forces on the Western Front.
Madlyn said her husband and his brother were “just farm boys” when they enlisted in the Army and found themselves fighting together in Company C with the 636th Tank Destroyer Battalion in North Africa, then Italy, France, and Germany.
Claude was the commander and Clyde was the gunner in the same tank, Madlyn said. The pair, along with the rest of the crew, received a Silver Star – the third highest personal decoration for valor in combat – after capturing more than 180 enemy soldiers on Sept. 13, 1943, in Salerno, Italy.
Both men were also honored with Purple Hearts and Bronze Stars for their service.
In 2017, both Claude and Clyde were honored during a ceremony at the First Baptist Church in McAlester, where they were honored by the French Republic for their role in liberating France from Nazi control.
Honorary French Consulate Grant Moak presented the brothers with the medal of Chevalier in the National Order of the Legion of Order.
In January 2018, Clyde Stokes died at the age of 94 and was buried with military honors by the U.S. Army Military Honors Team at Memorial Gardens Memorial Park Cemetery.
Claude Stokes turns 96 in November. He and his wife have been married for 72 years.
She wrote a book titled ‘The Stokes Twins Ride the Oklahoma Wildcat’ in 2003 that tells the twins’ story of fighting in the war.
Madlyn said she enjoyed the time she’s had with Claude.
“We’ve had a wonderful life together,” she said with a smile.
If you know of any World War II veterans in the McAlester area, contact firstname.lastname@example.org