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Vikki L. Jeanne Cleveland

Late in the afternoon of Sunday, October 3, 1993, attack helicopters dropped about 120 elite American soldiers into a busy neighborhood in the heart of Mogadishu, Somalia. Their mission was to abduct several top lieutenants of Somalian warlord Mohamed Farrah Aidid and return to base. It was supposed to take about an hour.

Instead, two of their high-tech UH-80 Black Hawk attack helicopters were shot down. The men were pinned down through a long and terrible night in a hostile city, fighting for their lives. When they emerged the following morning, eighteen Americans were dead and seventy-three were wounded. One, helicopter pilot Michael Durant, had been carried off by an angry mob... [From "A Defining Battle" by Mark Bowden]

One of the dead was Staff Sergeant (SSG) William David "Bill" Cleveland, Jr., who had been a crew chief in Super Six Four, the helicopter piloted by Durant.

I have not seen the movie Black Hawk Down, nor do I expect to any time soon. Normally, with the exception of The Patriot, I am not inclined to war movies or movies with excessive killing and goriness. However, a query posted recently in Cleveland Family Forum sent me questing for more information on SSG Cleveland.

CFCRSer Vaughn Hickman wrote, "I just saw the movie Black Hawk Down. At the end of the movie among the credits were the names of the Rangers killed during the crash and rescue. One of those killed was [SSG] William Cleveland. Can anyone tell me where he fits into the tree?"

So far, I have not discovered Bill Cleveland's exact branch on our family tree. I am hoping that several queries that remained unanswered at "press time" will bring me more information. However, as the Southerners say, kin's kin, and I spent many hours reading about the incident in Somalia as it pertained to our "Cousin Bill."

Bill Cleveland's story did not receive as much publicity as the stories of others in the conflict. He did not survive long after the crash of his Black Hawk; consequently, he was not a P.O.W. used in Somali propaganda. Nor did he rope down into danger and die protecting his comrades from a Somali mob. No Medals of Honor were awarded to him posthumously. No hunky actor portrayed him in the movie Black Hawk Down. Instead, he was given only a brief mention in credits at the end of the movie.

He was "just" a staff sergeant, a crew chief doing his job to serve his country, another soldier dying in the line of duty.

However, to us family historians who hold dear even the most distant cousin, he was family.

I was not the only one who thought that SSG William D. Cleveland deserved more by way of tribute and recognition. In a 22 Oct 1993 article in The Arizona Republic, E.J. Montini wrote:

The only soldier from Arizona to be killed in Somalia was buried Wednesday. I didn't attend the service.

No one from the newspaper was at the cemetery. No local TV crew. Not one reporter or photographer from Arizona traveled to Fort Campbell, Tenn., where Staff Sgt. William Cleveland Jr., a 1978 graduate of Peoria High School, was laid to rest.

Cleveland was a member of the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment. He died in the Oct. 3 firefight in Mogadishu during which 18 Americans were killed and helicopter pilot Michael Durant was captured.

Durant was released a week ago. He returned to cheering crowds. He was declared a hero by officials of the U.S. military and the State Department. He got a phone call from President Clinton.


I haven't been able to find out exactly when Cleveland returned home or who was there to meet him. But he was buried Wednesday with full military honors, including a 21-gun salute, in front of his wife, his children, his family and friends.

And we ignored it. We didn't attend the service because the sergeant's family did not want us there.

Foolishly, we honored the family's wishes.

Michael Durant's family didn't object to all the media attention he got after his helicopter was shot down and he was made a prisoner. Durant's photograph was on the front pages of most newspapers and the covers of news magazines. His picture was on front pages again when he was released. The photographs showed him giving the thumbs-up sign to a big, flag-waving crowd at the U.S. military base at Landstruhl, Germany, where he was sent after being freed.

Cleveland's family wanted no pictures, however.

They'd had enough of pictures.

According to Cleveland's stepmother, it was the sergeant's body that was shown on TV and in newspapers all over the country (including The Arizona Republic) being dragged through the streets of Mogadishu. The sergeant's wife, I'm told, doesn't believe the corpse was her husband's. I hope she's correct.


The best that can be said of those pictures is that they caused the nation to re-evaluate its role in Somalia. Which is true.

The worst that can be said is that the pictures sold newspapers and boosted television ratings. Which is true.

Given that, it's easy to understand why the family wouldn't want us around for the funeral.

We should have attended anyway.

The families of the dead soldiers weren't consulted before pictures of a body being dragged through Mogadishu were broadcast and published. No one approached the families and asked if they would mind seeing those images in print and on TV.

We just used them.

We should have covered Cleveland's funeral the same way. There should have been front-page coverage and lots of television footage. Not to further irritate or sell more papers, but only to honor the dead.

He deserved it.

They all deserved it.


Perhaps the Cleveland family has gotten a letter from President Clinton. I don't know. Either way, I thought I'd pass along a note sent by President Abraham Lincoln to a woman named Lily Bixby, who'd lost two sons in the Civil War. The sentiments still apply, I believe.

I hope so, anyway.

Lincoln wrote, "I feel how weak and fruitless must be any words of mine which should attempt to beguile you from the grief of a loss so overwhelming. But I cannot refrain from tendering to you the consolation that may be found in the thanks of the Republic.

"I pray that our Heavenly Father may assuage the anguish of your bereavement, and leave you only the cherished memory of the loved and lost, and the solemn pride that must be yours, to have laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of freedom (Montini)."

Genealogically speaking, I know only that William David Cleveland, Jr., was born 27 Jan 1959 in Phoenix, AZ, and he died 3 (or 4) Oct 1993 in Mogadishu, Somalia. His funeral service was held 20 Oct 1993 ("SSG William Cleveland").

The son of William David and Nada Irene Barr Cleveland (now Morford), he was one of five children in the family. Besides a sister who died in infancy, he had two younger brothers and a younger sister (Kuehl).

The Cleveland family moved to Peoria, AZ, after World War II. The men in the family had a long history of military service that dated back to the Civil War (Peters). His father, a chief petty officer and flight engineer, was retired from the Navy, where the senior William Cleveland served in many locales, including six months in Vietnam in 1965. To avoid family confusion over the names, members of his family called the younger William Cleveland "David," his middle name. His mother also uses her middle name, Irene (Kuehl).

In high school, he led an active life as he worked nights at Smitty's, participated in ROTC, played tennis, and ran. He loved to run.

"Even as a kid," his mother said, "he would get up in the mornings and run for miles."

Later, while he was stationed in Germany for two tours of duty, he entered races and won several medals.

William David Cleveland, Jr., graduated from Peoria (AZ) High School in 1978 and went right into the service. He had always dreamed of serving his country.

"I can't remember him not wanting to be in the service," his mother said. "That was his mission in life. He loved doing this."

When his eyesight prevented his fulfilling his ambition to fly airplanes, he trained through Special Forces and became a crew chief on helicopters (Peters).

Seventeen years after his graduation from high school, Peoria High School presented his mother a special photo enlargement of the school as it looked when her son attended it. The frame of the photograph was plated with a special inscription: "Honored Graduate."

He was also inducted into the Peoria High School "Halls of Honor" 11 May 1995 (Kuehl). The plaque there in his memory reads:

"Education is important in setting and striving to reach your goals. Peoria High School helped William David Cleveland, Jr., obtain his goals and the aspirations he had dreamed for himself. Permitting him to literally spread his wings and fly. He chose the Army as his career. He continued his education and realized his dream. Bill was a Staff Sergeant in the Elite Special Forces 'Night Stalkers.' Flying as a crew chief on his beloved helicopters. His Black Hawk Super 64 on October 3, 1993, was shot down, he was killed in action. We must never forget the most important message is education. We all have choices to make in life and those choices will have consequence on not just our lives, but the lives of those we love. In memory of a beloved son and dedicated father. Spread your wings and fly (Montoya-Moore)."

The Peoria VFW post also has a memorial for "David" next to their POW memorial.

He had five children: two sons, William David Cleveland III and Edward Raymond Cleveland by his first wife, Linda Amy Shaw; and Martin Cleveland, Jon Cleveland, and Chrystal Cleveland by his second wife, Christine Werner. He was also close to his aunts, uncles, and cousins (Kuehl).

Clearly Bill Cleveland was a man who was respected and remembered fondly by all who knew him.

Judy Terry Bloom also knew him as "David" in high school when he was a freshmen and she was a senior. As he walked her to school every day, they talked about anything and everything.

"He had such an enthusiasm, curiosity, and excitement," she remembered.

She did not see him again after high school, but she heard about him.

"The man he became was all his teenage years had promised," she said. "Strong, courageous, loving, a husband, father, friend, and a brother to those he served with ("Night Stalkers Memorial")."

The responses from members of Cleveland's Class of 1978, Peoria High School, were tributes in themselves. Even those classmates who did not know Cleveland well expressed a willingness to help create a written memorial.

"I do remember William as someone who always held his head high," said Matthew Lit, "but I could not say that I knew him that well."

Bill Van Gotum remembered Cleveland as a "very quiet" young man, an ROTC cadet who was "nice when spoken to."

Another classmate, Rey Alcantar, had an earlier history of Cleveland: they were in Cub Scouts together. "Mr. Casteneda was our Scout Master," he said. "One of many things I remember of Bill was the time the National Rifle Association was participating with our troop. I think we were Troop 462. Bill was very excited about the merit badges we would earn by learning proper fire arm safety.

"This period goes back to when Bill and I were in the fifth grade. At that time, fifth grade classes were on the top floor of the old high school, good ol' PHS."

In a later memory, this classmate remembered Cleveland wearing a ROTC uniform and driving around the school in "that white convertible he had."

Another ROTC friend, Robin Gamblin, said, "I remember David well. I was classmates with him throughout high school. We were in ROTC together. David was an exceptional young man. He was always kind and considerate and usually was the laugh of the party. He will be missed."

Mark Ashley was one of Cleveland's closest friends. Three and a half years after Cleveland was killed in Somalia, Ashley wrote a deeply emotional poetic tribute to his friend (used here with the author's permission):

In Memory of William David Cleveland
By Mark N. Ashley
18 March 1997

I'll read to you now from the Book of the Dead,
Along whose footpath we'll all too soon tread;
I'll speak to you now of young David Cleveland,
A good soldier for whom I can't stop a griev'n.
He died don't you know long ago and far away,
Now only a weeping mother and faded clippings mark his way.
No time to write home ere in his chopper he fell,
Through time and the rest of his short life--till the last stroke of the bell.
He was my friend and later, in arms, my accidental neighbor,
Yet Officers and Men must each to his own jointly labor.
So I saw him but briefly after we each took the oath,
Then back to life stumbled I--whilst Death did he betroth.
Yeah, do I sing to you of forever young David Cleveland,
Whose bargain with honor left him far short of even;
Speak to you all and myself as our crowns become gray,
Lest we come to forget David's final day;
And, how it was to he, years dead that we all owe countless debts--
For David's last flight bought us all time for regret...

Another close friend, Mark McMillin, remembered Cleveland as a man who, like other Rangers, was an ordinary person who gave of himself in extraordinary ways.

"Bill was one of those people who gave his all," McMillin said. "Bill was one to help others whenever asked. If someone couldn't make a flight, Bill was there. If someone had a conflict with a trip, Bill was there."

Cleveland was also one who welcomed new challenges.

"One fall weekend Bill and his son Martin came over to my house to help me cut down some trees and clear some brush," McMillin continued. "Bill took a look at the trees to determine which way they would need to fall without damaging the house. Bill then began to cut a tree down. Martin and I walked back to a safe distance to watch. Martin told me how excited his dad was. I asked why; Martin replied this is the first big tree that his dad had cut down. Bill felled the tree just like a veteran lumberjack. Bill went on the rest of the afternoon cutting down trees without a problem. Bill was like that: given a task, maybe never having done it before, he would attack it with the confidence and conviction as if he had done it a hundred times before ("SSG William Cleveland")."

With the Rangers, Cleveland was a section sergeant for D Company of the 160th Squadron--the "Hooter Brothers," as they called themselves. Before Somalia, he had served on numerous deployments as NCOIC (noncommissioned officer in charge). His primary duty was that of an operator, a crew chief/door gunner on a highly modified Black Hawk helicopter. This particular job requires a dedicated, highly focused, and multi-talented individual, and Cleveland served well in this role for almost six years ("SSG William Cleveland").

With the Hooter Brothers, he served on Operation Prime Chance, a two-year mission (1987-1989) initiated to protect ships passing through the Persian Gulf. The Night Stalkers participated through sustained nighttime operations as they supported a joint military task force through difficult and hazardous conditions. Using night-vision goggles, aircrews of the 160th operated thirty feet above water at night. This engagement marked the first time that air troops using aviator night-vision goggles and forward-looking infrared devices were able to neutralize an enemy threat. The Night Stalker presence discouraged numerous attacks on international shipping and slowed enemy mine-laying operations. Even then, the 160th was a decisive weapon with international implications ("Operation Prime Chance").

In December 1989, the 160th, including SSG William D. Cleveland, was called to spearhead Operation Just Cause, a mission to liberate Panama from a hostile dictator and to safeguard American lives. The Rangers' numerous air assaults also provided support needed for special operations forces to secure outlying areas and recover weapons stashes. Just Cause highlighted the 160th's ability to conduct complicated and sustained nighttime combat operations against a stubborn enemy ("Night Stalkers' Early History").

In 1993 the Night Stalkers were deployed to Somalia.

Since Vietnam, the American public often receives a sanitized version of battle because the Pentagon does not allow reporters to accompany soldiers directly into combat. Consequently, what we see is only what military officials want us to see or what cameras can capture from a distance. People with no combat experience cannot fully understand what frightened young soldiers must face or what heroic, sometimes brutal measures they use to save themselves and their comrades.

Although Americans were horrified by images of soldiers' corpses being dragged by Somalis through the streets of Mogadishu, they had no knowledge of the intense fifteen-hour battle that resulted in these deaths. There was never a detailed public accounting, and most of the Pentagon's records remain classified. Since most of the soldiers who fought in Somalia are in Special Forces, reporters have limited access to them.

Nevertheless, Mark Bowden tells the story with accuracy and credibility in his book Black Hawk Down: A History of Modern War. Buoyed by the resources and influence of the Philadelphia Inquirer, Bowden was able to study more than a thousand pages of official documents and review hours of video and audio tapes and photographs of the fight recorded by sophisticated satellite cameras, a P-3 Orion spy plane, and UH-58 surveillance helicopters hovering directly over the action. Bowden also interviewed fifty of the American soldiers who fought and dozens of Somalis who fought the Americans or were caught in the crossfire (Bowden "A Defining Battle").

Many of the soldiers were unaware of details that did not directly involve them. However, few, if any of them, expected what awaited them in Mogadishu. American soldiers were so confident of a quick victory that they neglected to take night-vision devices and water, both of which were needed later. None of them expected that the Somalis would be able to inflict the kind of carnage that resulted from the firefight even though the assault was launched in the most dangerous part of Mogadishu in daylight and the Ranger and Delta forces were trained to fight in darkness (Bowden "A Defining Battle").

Somali warriors and even civilians were also operating with enhanced bravado and aggression generated by a narcotic, khat, that Aidid supplied plentifully to them (History Channel).

America had come to Mogadishu in the first place to remove warlord Aidid from influence. The United Nations, who was trying to form a coalition government from Somalia's warring clans, had encountered stiff and bloody resistance from Aidid. Consequently, Jonathan Howe, manager of the UN effort, requested intervention of special United States forces for the purpose of arresting Aidid and other top leaders of his clan.

In 1993, from late August to October 3, the mission for SSG William D. Cleveland and the rest of the task force was to raid locations where Aidid and his lieutenants were meeting (Bowden "A Defining Battle"). As the men in Super Six Four approached their target area, at 4:26, Sunday afternoon, October 3, surely Cleveland and his comrades were confident of quick success ("The True Story...").

In the Black Hawk were Chief Warrant Officer Mike Durant and his co-pilot Ray Frank. In the back were the two crew chiefs, Cleveland and Sergeant Tommie Field (Bowden Black Hawk Down 87).

With Cleveland and Field was a platoon of fifteen men under the supervision of Lieutenant Larry Perino.

The operation plan was to have four blocking positions, called "chalks," surrounding a building that reportedly contained men from Aidid's "tier-one personalities" list. These chalks would be set up and manned by Rangers, whose job was to stop anyone coming into or leaving the area while the super-secret Delta Force cleared the target building and took prisoners (DeLong 8-9).

One of the men in Perino's platoon was Sergeant (now Master Sergeant) Charles "Chuck" Elliott, who was one of those eventually involved in the ground fighting in the Mogadishu streets. SSG Cleveland was the crew chief/door gunner on Elliott's side of the Super Six Four.

"I really can't recall too much due to the time lapse," Elliott said in a recent letter, "but I do remember him [SSG Cleveland] always having a good attitude and smiling all the time (Elliott)."

Wearing their helmet radio gear, Cleveland and Field were tied in at the open side doors of the Super Six Four. When they heard the code word "Lucy" that ordered their phase of the attack to begin, they raised their thumbs to the other Rangers. Perino and his men fast-roped to the ground (DeLong 10).

Cleveland, Durant, Frank, and Field were now alone in the Super Six Four. Their immediate mission was to provide cover for the ground operation in progress. Just six minutes before, another Black Hawk, the Super Six One, had crashed following a direct hit from a grenade launcher.

At 4:40 Super Six Four was also hit by a rocket-launched grenade ("The True Story") that blew off a chunk of the tail rotor. Initially both the helicopter and the men in it seemed fine. Though the Black Hawk had lost oil, it was built to run without oil for a time if necessary. Suddenly, however, the entire tail rotor, including the gearbox and two or three feet of vertical fin assembly, disintegrated. Super Six Four spun and crashed to earth hard, but flat--a landing that meant the men in the helicopter had a chance to survive (Bowden Black Hawk Down 107-108).

Black Hawks are built with shock absorbers that can withstand destructively hard impacts so long as the landing is in an upright position (147). However, since there are no shock absorbers in the back of the helicopter, Cleveland and Field had taken the brunt of the impact.

After the crash, Durant could hear Cleveland trying to talk. However, Durant could also tell that Cleveland was severely injured (DeLong 55). When rescue operators were finally able to lift Cleveland out of the fuselage, his pants were soaked with blood, and, though he was still talking, he was making no sense (Bowden Black Hawk Down 189-190).

The situation was critical for the crew of the Super Six Four. There would be a dangerous wait for ground rescue since no one had anticipated the possibility of two Black Hawks crashing and needing emergency attention at the same time (147). As Somalis rushed to this second crash site, a second emergency vehicle convoy was dispatched from base to assist in the rescue. From the air, two Little Birds and another Black Hawk attempted to defend the Super Six Four.

At 4:55, snipers Randy Shughart and Gary Gordon roped down to the second helicopter crash site to defend the crew against the Somali mob ("The True Story..."). By the time the rescue snipers managed to pull Durant out of the Black Hawk, Cleveland was face down next to a tree about ten feet away (DeLong 55).

Half an hour later, because of massive opposition resistance, two rescue convoys joined forces and returned to base without reaching the trapped soldiers at either helicopter crash site. Rangers and Deltas on the ground were instructed to consolidate around the first crash site, that of the Super Six One.

At 5:40, the Somalis overtook the crash site of the Super Six Four and killed Cleveland, Field, Frank, Shughart, and Gordon. Through the intervention of Somali Hassan Yassin Abokoi, Durant was spared so that he could later be used for propaganda purposes. He was, however, brutally beaten by the mob.

Finally, at 1:55 in the morning of October 4, a small portion of a giant rescue convoy arrived at the Super Six Four crash site. However, they found no trace of the crew or the defending snipers.

By mid-morning, the angry Somali mob had defiled the corpses of Cleveland, Field, and Shughart. Lawyer Bashir Haji Yusuf snapped photographs of his fellow Somalis as they jeered and dragged the bodies through the streets of Mogadishu ("The True Story..."). Among the photos widely circulated in the American media were ghastly images of Cleveland's white, nearly naked corpse being kicked and stomped along the way (Church). Other reports indicated that the bodies of Shughart and Field were those actually dragged through the streets while Cleveland's corpse was paraded in a handcart--"tied up and trundled through the streets on a wheelbarrow by about 200 cheering Somalis," according to an article in The Washington Post (Richburg). For whatever reasons, producers of the movie Black Hawk Down chose not to reconstruct this particular scene ("Black Hawk Down: The Movie").

Subsequent autopsies performed on the bodies of all five Americans killed near the Super Six Four may have brought some small measure of comfort to their families: according to Army officials, the autopsies indicated that the men had been shot dead before their corpses were desecrated ("Army...").

Later that evening, a battered Durant was forced to make a videotape to be released to the press. He was held captive for ten days and then released to the International Red Cross October 14.

Cleveland was the last of the eighteen American soldiers identified as killed in the Somali firefight (Associated Press "Arizona-Born..."). The Pentagon did not officially announce that Cleveland was killed until 15 Oct 1993. Previously he was classified as "missing and unaccounted for" in the October 3-4 battle (Associated Press "Arizona Soldier...").

He was not even supposed to be on the mission. A "short-timer," he had served over fourteen years in the service and fulfilled all his overtime duty. At the last minute, however, a crew chief was needed, and Cleveland volunteered.

Cleveland's mother did not know her son was on a mission in Somalia, nor does she know when he actually died. His death certificate indicates that his death occurred on either October 3 or 4. The Army did not officially notify Nada Irene Morford of her son's death until their general announcement on October 15.

"This is a very sore spot," she said. "They don't know when he died. I don't know if he was alive when he was a POW--when he was being held by them. They didn't (release) his body until they released Durante (Peters)."

The eighteen casualties were the worst suffered in a single day by the U.S. military in Somalia (Cushman A2). They were also the most casualties inflicted on the U.S. in such a short period since the Persian Gulf War (Schafer A1).

These losses came just as Congress and the Clinton administration were considering a reduction in the U.S. presence in Somalia after a 25 Sep 1993 grenade attack on a Black Hawk had killed three Americans.

Although President Bill Clinton expressed sympathy for the families of those who were killed and wounded, he defended the action in Somalia: "The international effort in Somalia has succeeded in bringing order to most of the country. These positive developments must not be lost because of the unwillingness of a few who reject the peaceful political process and seek to achieve power by force (Cushman A2)."

However, Senator John McCain, a Republican from Cleveland's home state, Arizona, told the Senate to bring the troops home from Somalia and stop the killing. He claimed the mission had failed because its humanitarian objective had been changed "into some kind of warlord-hunting, nation-building, law-and-order endeavor, which has no beginning, no end, no clear-cut policy, no military objective."

The Democratic rebuttal to McCain came from Indiana Representative Lee Hamilton, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. "If you pack up and come home today," he said, "you let Aidid thumb his nose at the United Nations and come out a winner (Schafer A2)."

Many of those active participants who survived the action in Somalia agreed with Hamilton. They came away with a sense of a job unfinished. However, their orders prevented their returning to level Mogadishu to the ground (History Channel).

In 1994, when Senate hearings were conducted, blame for the events in Mogadishu was placed squarely on the shoulders of Secretary of Defense Les Aspin, who had refused a request for Ranger teams in Somalia to use armored tanks, rather than Humvees, to move through Mogadishu. Surely more soldiers would have been able to escape within armored vehicles. Aspin resigned shortly after the Senate decision ("The True Story...").

The American perception of the Mogadishu incident is that the mission was a disaster. Military men, however, view it as a victory, not a defeat.

Retired Staff Sergeant Matt Eversmann, one of the first Rangers to drop into Mogadishu, said, "The reality of war is that good men who are well trained are going to die at the hands of an inferior enemy. That's been true from the time of Hannibal to Gettysburg to Normandy and Mogadishu. But I'll tell you until my dying breath that was our finest hour and something I am fiercely proud of. I get really bent, as a lot of the guys do, when I hear people refer to the action on October 3rd and 4th as a failure. That is wrong. That is untrue (Snead)."

Major General William F. Garrison, commander of Task Force Ranger, believed that Aidid had been struck a mortal blow because of the October 1993 battle. According to intelligence reports, some of Aidid?s supporters, with depleted supplies of rocket-propelled grenades, fled Mogadishu; other supporters made peace overtures and promised to desert Aidid (Bowden Black Hawk Down 311), who was eventually killed by factional fighting in 1996 (333).

PFC Clay Othic, a turret gunner who had been shot in the right arm, added a final entry to the diary he kept during the Mogadishu mission. His words echoed the sentiments of most military men: "Sometimes you get the bear. Sometimes the bear gets you (324)!"

Cleveland's mother, however, does not want to reflect on how or why her son died, but rather on how he lived.

"[The Rangers] were doing what they wanted to do," she said. "They wanted to make a difference in the world--what was best for our country. I'm very proud of him (Peters)."

For his service and sacrifice, SSG William D. Cleveland was posthumously awarded the Silver Star, the Bronze Star, and the Air Medal of Valor Device ("Last Name Somalia"). His body was returned to the United States for burial.

Judy Terry Bloom spoke for all who knew him when she said, "I thank those...brothers that surrounded him in his last moments. I thank you for bringing him home ("Night Stalkers Memorial")."

"I really thought he would come home," his mother said. "The movie (Black Hawk Down) helps me, but the helping is painful (Peters)."

Works Cited

Alcantar, Rey. Letter to author. 7 May 2002.

"Army Airborne Ranger History." [Online] Available, 16 Apr. 2002.

Ashley, Mark N. Letter to author. 7 May 2002.

Associated Press. "Arizona-Born Soldier Killed in Somalia Buried." The Phoenix Gazette 20 Oct. 1993: A5.

---. "Arizona Soldier Among Dead in Mogadishu Battle." The Arizona Republic 16 Oct. 1993: A1.

"Black Hawk Down: The Movie." [Online] Available 1,1419,L-LATimes-Search-X!ArticleDetail-46243,00.html, 25 Mar. 2002.

Bowden, Mark. Black Hawk Down: A History of Modern War. New York: Atlantic Monthly Press, 1999.

---. "A Defining Battle." [Online] Available Packages/Somalia/nov16/rang16.asp, 3 Mar. 2002.

Church, George J. "Anatomy of a Disaster." Time 18 Oct. 1993: 40-46.

Cushman, John H., Jr. "At Least 5 GIs Die in Somalia Attacks." The Arizona Republic 4 Oct. 1993: A1-A2.

DeLong, Kent, and Steven Tuckey. Mogadishu! Heroism and Tragedy. Westport, CT: Praeger Publishers, 1994.

Elliott, (Master Sergeant) Charles. Letter to author. 21 Apr. 2002.

Gamblin, Robin. Letter to author. 18 May 2002.

The History Channel. "The True Story of Black Hawk Down." A&E documentary, 7 Jun. 2002.

Kuehl, Steve. "Letter from Irene Cleveland" (information obtained from website with permission from Steve Kuehl). 1 May 2002.

"Last Name Somalia." [Online] Available Somalia.html, 2 Apr. 2002.

Lit, Matthew. Letter to author. 6 May 2002.

Montini, E.J. "Arizona's War Dead Deserve More." The Arizona Republic 22 Oct. 1993: B1.

Montoya-Moore, Kathy. Letter to author. 6 Jun. 2002.

"Night Stalkers' Early History." [Online] Available history/early.html, 31 Mar. 2002.

"Night Stalkers Memorial." [Online] Available memorial/Cleveland/message.html, 25 Mar. 2002.

"Operation Prime Chance." [Online] Available prime_chance/default.html, 31 Mar. 2002.

Peters, Hope D. "Black Hawk Down Brings Soldier's Death Home to Peoria Family." Peoria Times 1 Feb. 2002: A1/A15.

Richburg, Keith B. "Somalia Battle Killed 12 Americans, Wounded 78." The Washington Post 5 Oct. 1993: A01.

Schafer, Susanne M. "Pentagon Sending More GIs, Armor." The Arizona Republic 5 Oct. 1993: A1-A2.

Snead, Elizabeth. "The Special Operation of Black Hawk Down." The Washington Post 13 Jan. 2002: G01.

"SSG William Cleveland." [Online] Available memorial/Cleveland/default.html, 25 Mar. 2002.

"The True Story of Black Hawk Down." [Online] blackhawkdown/timeline.html, 25 Mar. 2002.

Van Gotum, Bill. Letter to author. 7 May 2002.

Vikki's Note: My special thanks to Darlene Cobb and Steve Kuehl for their help with research for this article.

c2002/2003 by Vikki L. Jeanne Cleveland and Cleveland Family Chronicles
All Rights Reserved

Addendum: Memorial Weekend, 2003

[Vikki's Note: I was honored to be contacted by the mother of SSG William David Cleveland, Jr., last week. Initially she wanted to make some corrections in my original story. However, she also wanted everyone to know more about her son than just the military side of him and the awful events in Mogadishu. Subsequently, she sent me a memory essay about her son. I am honored to share this essay with you here at this special time of memories for those who sacrificed so much for us, and I thank Irene Morford for sharing her son and her thoughts.]

The Memories of a Fallen Soldier's Mother
Irene Cleveland Morford

In loving memory of a beloved son who completed his journey, though brief it was on earth to return home to his Father in Heaven. Well done, my precious son. Love, Mother.

My son William David Cleveland Jr. was born in Good Samaritan Hospital on January 27, 1959, in Phoenix, Arizona. His Father "Bill" was serving aboard the Admiral's Ship "USS DUXBURY BAY" in the Suez Canal when he was born.

David was 4 months old before his father's ship returned to the States. From the very first, they formed a mutual admiration society for each other. Two weeks later David went on his first automobile trip across the United States. Leaving his loving grandparents, Emery John Barr and Mildred Irene Oswalt and his Aunt Shirley Ann Barr behind.

David loved to travel. I think it was the constant moving part he liked best. We moved from Phoenix, Arizona, to his second home in Lexington Park, Maryland. His father had been transferred to Patuxent River Naval Air Station to attend Flight Engineer school.

David did not learn to walk; he started his life running at 11 months. David's father was attached to the Air Born Early Warning Sqd. This is where David got his love for flying. When his Father returned from a mission, we would meet his plane at the end of the flight line. He would hold David on his lap as he taxied the aircraft to the hanger.

David was his father's shadow. He learned at a very early age to fish. Way before he could bait his own hook, his father took him fishing. David loved the ocean and all seafood.

I would say growing up, his two big loves of life were flying and the military along with the love of his family. He was almost 2 years old when his brother Tracy Craig Cleveland was born. He was very proud of his brother.

We moved to Milton, Florida, in 1961. David rode his trike everywhere. He called it his car.

In 1963 his sister Nancy Anne Cleveland was born. David questioned everything; it was like he could not learn things fast enough. When I was expecting his sister, he would feel the baby kick, and after each appointment wanted to know what his baby brother or sister looked like. I got a book from the doctor on the development of the baby and would show David each month what the baby looked like. The problem with that was when my girl friends started calling and told me David had shared his book with everyone and the mothers were up in arms.

In 1964 we moved to TN so his Father could attend school. Then we moved to Barbers Point Hawaii. This was David's first ride in an airplane, and he was full of questions. All about the aircraft how could it stay in the air.

Oh yes, and one of his questions when we taught him his prayers was where is God. I always told him in Heaven. Little did I know in his mind that interpreted to the sky. So once we were airborne, my son in a plane full of service men and families, some terrified of flying, namely me. He asked his father, "Are we in the heavens?" Of course "Bill" said yes. Then in a very loud voice, David proclaimed, "If this is Heaven where is God? I want to see him." Needless to say, no one else on the plane wanted the same thing he did. In fact the other passengers got quiet nervous about the whole thing. It did take a lot to distract him. Everyone was very happy when the plane landed safely.

Hawaii is where David started his formal education. He loved school; like I said earlier, he loved to learn. He was the only American in his school, and with his southern accent he had at that time, they could not understand what he was saying. He also talked too fast. We had to teach him to talk slower, and David did not do anything slow.

He loved Hawaii and developed a tasted for dried squid. He ate it like candy and I could not get past the smell.

When we moved into base housing at Pearl Harbor, the houses were single wall construction. One of the front bedrooms had a lever you pushed and a large panel of the wall fell out so in case of fire, you could escape the burning house. The boys found out how to release it and thought it was great fun doing it.

In January 1965 his father "Bill" was sent to Viet Nam for 6 months, and we flew back to Arizona to visit my parents. His father returned from Viet Nam a day before his little brother Raymond Walter Cleveland was born. The family flew back to Hawaii when Ray was 1 week old.

David learned from his father to respect and how to handle weapons. David belonged to the NRA and was an expert marksman. He was in the scouting program until he joined the Army. He finished his Eagle Project; all he needed was to turn in his paper work.

David joined the ROTC as a freshman at Peoria High School, and he belonged to it all through high school. He played tennis and loved Auto Shop; he loved Chess. In his junior year he started doing a program called ride along with the Peoria Police Department. He did his ride along on the weekend when most kids would be doing other things. David always had a great respect of self, family, God, and country.

David also loved to cook. Holidays are a real big thing in our family. My mother was the pie baker in the family. I could not bake pies, so mother taught David to make pie crust and he made a pie crust that would melt in your mouth. David tried to make chicken and dumplings when I was in the hospital and the other kids could not wait to tell me about the big dumpling he made. He cooked it in a crock pot. Needless to say, it all ran together making one large dumpling. David did learn to cook and was a wonderful cook. All 3 of my boys are excellent cooks. Nancy my daughter wanted no part of cooking and did not learn how until after she got married. She is now a good cook.

David had a ten speed bike in high school and rode it everywhere. His senior year he worked after school part time and loved it.

David's journey was from Phoenix, Arizona; Maryland; Florida; Tennessee; Hawaii; Maryland; Missouri in the first 10 years of his life. Then his father and I were divorced and I moved to Peoria.

David graduated from Peoria Grade School and Peoria Union High School. He entered the Army on Feb. 14 1978. When he returned from Boot Camp, he had taken up running and would run every morning. He called me from Basic training every time he could. David wanted to be a pilot, but because of his eyes he could not. He was stationed in Germany and entered races, and I have the medals he won at different races he won. They are the kind that goes on a cane.

We would send tapes to each other when he was in Germany the first time where his oldest son was born. I have a letter he wrote to me not long before he was killed in action. David was the second child and my firstborn son and the bond between mothers and sons is very strong. He is greatly loved and respected by his family and friends. David loved his children and was a great father. David had a great impact on those he met and his friends as well as his family and is greatly missed. His two oldest sons live in Kingman, Arizona.

Corrections/Additions Irene Morford Made to Vikki's Story (Above)

#1. David did not own an automobile in high school let alone a white convertible. He rode a 10 speed bike everywhere.

#2. His first wife, Linda Amy Shaw, and William David Cleveland, Jr., were married the 28 May 1978. His first two boys were born to this marriage: William David Cleveland II and Edwards Raymond Cleveland.

#3. He and Christine were married later. They had two children, and he adopted her son Martin.

#5. David was not a RANGER; he was in SPECIAL FORCES, and he did receive a purple heart.

#6. One of the bodies that were dragged through the streets was my son. I refused to identify his body when I was sent 8x10 black and white photos of his body as it was dragged through the streets. If you were a mother of a beloved son who had been so killed and your world had stopped for you, maybe then you could understand why I wanted no press coverage. I only wanted to be left to grieve for a precious son that I could never hold again. There was too much press coverage of the wrong things. I will never forget the sight of seeing my son dragged down those dusty, dirty streets.

#7. Medals that SSG William David Cleveland, Jr., received:
Somalia Medal
Silver Star
Bronze Star (2)
Purple Heart
Air Medal (2)
Army Commendation Medal (2)
Army Achievement Medal (2)
Army Good Conduct Medal (5)
National Defense
Army Forces Expeditionary (4)
Army Non-Commissioned Officer (3)
Marksmanship Medal
Army Service Ribbon
Army Overseas Ribbon (4)

Genealogical Line of SSG William David Cleveland, Jr.

Moses Cleveland > Edward Cleveland > Deliverance Cleveland > Enoch Cleveland > Amaziah Cleveland > Adden Cleveland > William Cleveland > James William Cleveland > Walter Eugene Cleveland > Harry Walter Cleveland > William David Cleveland, Sr. > William David Cleveland, Jr.

Links to Other Clevelands
Cleveland Family Chronicles
Cleveland Family Forum
Edmund Janes Cleveland and Horace Gillette Cleveland
Original Immigrant of Northern Clevelands
Original Immigrant of Southern Clevelands
In Memory of L. Jeanne Cleveland
The Cleveland Coat-of-Arms
Colonel Benjamin Cleveland
"Sweet Lips: The Battle of King's Mountain"
President Grover Cleveland
Early History of the Cleveland Family
The Cleveland/Cromwell Connection
The Prevost Novel on "The Natural Son of Cromwell"
More Genealogical Links
Rooting Out Your AnceStory: A Primer for Beginning Genealogy

Email: vikki4cfc(at)

Flag graphic courtesy of Anne's Place