2011-08-20 / Front Page


After four decades, soldier’s remains found in Vietnam

Major Thomas Clark Major Thomas Clark One of Cameron County’s best and brightest will be laid to rest later this year, more than four decades after he was killed in a jet fighter crash in Laos during the Vietnam War.

Word has been received that the remains of U.S. Air Force Major Thomas Edward Clark have been recovered and will be returning to Cameron County in the coming weeks. Military offi cials confirmed that Clark’s remains were identified in early June after having been recovered by the Air Force on Nov. 16, 2005.

A distinguished graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy (Class of 1963), Clark set his sights on a military career.

On Feb. 8, 1969, he was flying a strike mission over the Ho Chi Minh Trail, just northwest of the Demilitarized Zone, when his aircraft was hit by enemy fire. Clark was attached to the 416th Tactical Fighter Squadron, Pacific Air Force.

His status remained “missing in action” for several years. Clark’s body remained unrecovered and the Air Force eventually changed his status to “killed in action.”

A childhood acquaintance, Don Olivett, recalled Tom Clark as the older boy everyone looked up to:

“We used to play up in a tree, yelling, ‘Bombs away over Tokyo!’ The last time I saw him, he said that in some ways he didn’t agree with what we were doing in Vietnam, but he believed in duty, honor and country. Tom was my idol as a little kid. I still remember seeing him in the high school football uniform, No. 22.”

Born April 15, 1939, he was the son of Otto and Josephine Clark. Clark graduated from high school in 1957. He was an outstanding athlete and enjoyed hunting and fishing. Clark was appointed to the Air Force Academy after beginning his studies at Penn State. He married the former Kathleen Mottern.

Clark was assigned to flight school at Vance Air Force Base in Oklahoma. He was later trained in piloting the B-52 and promoted to captain in early 1968. He became an aircraft commander, out of Ramey Air Force Base in Puerto Rico, and flew on training missions to many parts of the world.

“As the Vietnam War heated up, there was a shortage of pilots in fighter-bombers,” recalled his brother, Roger Clark, of Rich Valley. “Tom was ordered to train in the F-100 in 1968. He was home on leave in the fall of that year and enjoyed turkey hunting, but had to leave before buck season. He was sent to Vietnam about Dec. 1, 1968. His base in Vietnam was PhuCat.”

Details on the late-October funeral mass and military burial service at St. Mark’s Cemetery will be announced.

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