My father was a WWII Army Air Corp vet, and an aeronautical engineer. One of uncles was a aircraft mechanic and pilot. I built scores of model airplanes. And read volumes of military stories, especially about fighter pilot aces! My comic strip hero was Steve Canyon, jet pilot! Even had the lunch box to prove it.
So naturally I wanted to be an United States Air Force Pilot, in a big way. I had planned to attend the US Air Force Academy since I was in grade school. One of my personal heroes was Tom Clark, from tiny Emporium, PA. It was the hometown of both my parents, and many of my relatives lived there. Tom was well known to my relatives. My Uncle Jim attended Tom's graduation from the Air Force Academy in 1963, and I got a treasured USAFA sweatshirt as a souvenir.
By 1969, I was in high school, with my hopes of attending the Academy fading, as my eye-sight was now below the standard of "20-40 uncorrected", required for a USAF navigator, and a total No-Go for being a USAF pilot. Then I had a bigger reality check, when news came of Tom Clark's crash in Vietnam (Laos). By the time I graduated in 1971, the U.S. was starting to wind down the war in Vietnam, and I drew a very high draft lottery number. It meant that it was very unlikely that I would be drafted, and the Air Force seemed an unlikely career. I did follow part of my dream, to study engineering like my Dad. I started college at Penn State in the Fall of 1971. Tom Clark's first alma mater.
I occasionally think about the paths in life "not taken". And when I remember Tom Clark, I am thankful for his sacrifice, and how fortunate we are to have heroes like him, who have served our country.
Capt. Tom Clark
call sign: Sunvalley34
MAJ - O4 - Air Force - Regular
29 year old Married, Caucasian, Male
Birth date Apr 15, 1939
Home of Record EMPORIUM, PENNSYLVANIA
His tour of duty began on Feb 08, 1969
Casualty was on Feb 08, 1969 in LAOS
Hostile, died while missing
FIXED WING - PILOT
AIR LOSS, CRASH ON LAND
Body was not recovered
Religion ROMAN CATHOLIC
Vietnam War Memorial -- Panel 33W - - Line 84
F-100D - Super Sabre over North Vietnam
37th Tactical Fighter Wing, 7th Air Force
Branch / Rank:US Air Force / Major ( O4)
Unit:37th TFW / 37th CSG - Phu Cat AB -- 7th AF Tan Son Nhut AB
Date of Birth:April 15, 1939
Home of Record:Emporium, PA
Date of Loss:February 8, 1969
Country of Loss:Laos
Loss Coordinates:171300N 1060500E
Status (in 1973):Missing In Action
Other personnel in incident:(none missing)
Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project, 01 September 1990 from one or more of the following: raw data from U.S. Government agency sources, correspondence with POW/MIA families, published sources, interviews.
Tom Clark graduated from the Air Force Academy in 1963, after having already spent two years at Penn State University. He was sometimes referred to as an "old man" at the Academy. He was interested in politics and flying and looked forward to a military career. Nearly 6 years after his graduation, Tom Clark was flying a mission in Laos over the Ho Chi Minh Trail just northwest of the DMZ when his aircraft was shot down. Circumstances surrounding his crash indicate that the enemy probably knows his fate, but in 1973, Tom was not released with other POWs. Tom Clark is one of nearly 600 Americans who were lost in Laos and did not return.
The Pathet Lao stated on several occasions that they held "tens of tens" of American prisoners, but that those who had been captured in Laos would also be released from Laos. The Lao wanted acknowledgement that the U.S. and Vietnamese had been waging war in their country. Laos was not included in the peace agreements ending American involvement in Southeast Asia, and not one American held in Laos was released - or negotiated for. By 1989, the U.S. had so thoroughly forgotten the men they abandoned that they began building medical clinics for the communist Lao government. At the same time, reports and evidence mount that Americans are still held alive as captives in Vietnam and Laos.
Tom Clark served his country proudly. He does not deserve abandonment. Thomas E. Clark was promoted to the rank of Major during the period he was maintained Missing in Action.
In reviewing the message traffic/abstracts maintained by the Library of Congress, I've determined that the crash site of Major Clark is at one of the following places: Saravan, Savannakhet, or Kammouan province, Phou Houat Mountain -- Vientiane province, or the Nam Mi Tributary. Reports surrounding Ban Houay Kasan and Ban Along Noi areas also included his name; I'm sure that further research of the loss coordinates above (if possible) will put us in the exact province.
One of the documents referencing Major Clark regarded him as 'Sunvalley 34.' This leads me to believe that his Call sign may be 'Sunvalley34.'