"That’s what she used to call me - pa, and I called her ma," he said softly. He started to smoke a cigarette, carefully cupping his hand around the glowing end. And he started to talk about his wife, Carole Lombard. He said that for the past hour, as we silently tramped the beach, he had been reliving wonderful times with her. He told me about their first duck shoot, early in the morning, the fog too thick to see the ducks, although you could hear them. Carole asked what they could do about it-just sit here in the blind until it clears, Clark told her. She said she had just thought of something they could do while they were waiting-we made love, Clark said, which ain’t easy in a duck blind.
He made a funny little sound-I thought he was chortling over the incident-but in the moonlight I could see his tears. He continued to weep as he told me about the evening that Carole, dressed in a smashing white evening gown, had jumped fully clothed into a fishpond, and he told me about the dogs they had given each other, the silly picnics Carole arranged, the Sundays business, all the while making little observations about films and Hollywood life that I didn’t really understand, but what I did understand was the enormous love Gable had had for this woman. In a sense, it was unreal that Clark Gable was sitting there on the wet sand weeping over the loss of his movie star wife, but the pressures of [the army] had pushed him close to the edge.
"They think I don’t know," he said," but I do - what they have found of her - I know….decapitated, and the rest of her burned to nothing." He fished inside his shirt and brought out two chains, one that held his dog tag, the other a small locket that he opened. It contained a fragment of jeweled metal. He said that that was the only thing of hers that hadn’t burned-the fragment was from a diamond and ruby clip he had given to her.
For the rest of our tour he talked about various hunting and fishing trips, but didn’t mention Carole Lombard again. That was the last time I saw him. - A.E. Hotchner