Thursday, March 11, 2021

Clif Berry 1931 - 2020


The virus not only disrupted things we had scheduled; it caused the unexpected not to receive its due. Today I’ll try to make amends for one of these.


I was beyond fortunate to have Clif Berry as my friend. Clif missed being part of what Tom Brokaw named The Greatest Generation, but they would have been proud to have him. Born 11 May 1931, Clif joined the fledgling Air Force in 1948 and served as an air controller for the Berlin Airlift through 1949. He later attended the U.S. Military Academy, but withdrew in his third year. After a brief stint in civilian life, he enlisted in the Army and served in the 82nd Airborne Division, receiving recognition as the Army’s Paratrooper of the Year in 1955 before accepted a direct commission.


Clif went on to command airborne and infantry units in Korea and saw combat in Vietnam, winning a Bronze Star for helping to evacuate wounded under fire. He later held staff positions in the Far East, Central America, and the Pentagon while earning a BA in Mathematics from George Washington University and an MA in Communications from Stanford.


After retiring as a lieutenant colonel in 1975, Clif became co-editor of Armed Forces Journal. In 1980 he became editor-in-chief at Air Force Magazine before going on to editing positions at Interavia, Air Power History magazine, and National Defense. He authored or co-author eleven books and edited fourteen others; five of his books were in the Bantam Illustrated History of the Vietnam War. He also wrote “Milestones of the First Century of Flight.” My signed copy has been a cherished possession since he handed it to me.


Clif then started a public relations/media company, FCB Associates, and in later life worked in media outreach for the American Battle Monuments Commission. In his free time he earned land and seaplane ratings as a private pilot. Clif died 13 March 2020 and rests in Arlington National Cemetery.


The Clif Berry I knew was the consummate gentleman in the best sense of what too often seems an archaic term. I never heard him speak a cross word nor disparaging comment; his good humor was infectious. We met as members of a writing group where his comments were always on point and gently phrased. He was a master of stories fewer than one hundred words.


I’m sorry I didn’t find ways to spend more time with Clif even after my attendance at the group became a rarity. It will be an eternal disappointment never to have followed up on the idea of accompanying him on a tour of the Air and Space Museum near Dulles Airport. It’s a shame he and the The Sole Son-in-Law never got together. They would have gotten along famously.


I never told Clif how much his friendship meant to me. This inadequate message will have to do, and I have only myself to blame. Clif lived as if he always had favoring winds, and anyone close to him shared the benefit.


(I extracted the details of Clif’s life beyond my acquaintance from an article in Air Force Magazine.)




Kalyani Kurup said...

Beautifully written.

Kalyani Kurup

Unknown said...

So sorry to hear of his passing. I haven't seen him in years, but Clif was the very definition of the word "gentleman." I always remember how tender and attentive he was with our older members at the Monday night Chantilly Writers' Group. He was also very interested in hearing stories about my Dad who is a Korean War veteran. I agree with every thing Dana wrote.

Unknown said...

Oops - not anonymous! From Brenda Kuhlman