NewsOK: Oklahoma City News, Sports, Weather & Entertainment

'Off we go into the wild blue yonder'

Maj. Gen. Clarence L. Tinker, a native Oklahoman and member of the Osage Nation, was the first general to die in World War II. Tinker Air Force Base is named in his honor. [Oklahoman Archives Photo/Oklahoma Historical Society]

Maj. Gen. Clarence L. Tinker, a native Oklahoman and member of the Osage Nation, was the first general to die in World War II. Tinker Air Force Base is named in his honor. [Oklahoman Archives Photo/Oklahoma Historical Society]

After Maj. Gen. Clarence Tinker's plane was lost at sea during the Battle of Midway in 1942, his friends were comforted by the fact he died fighting.

"Don't worry, he went just the way he wanted to go. Peace bored the hell out of him," one friend was said to remark at a memorial service at Hamilton Field, California, after his death, according to an Associated Press article that ran in The Oklahoman on June 13, 1942.

Four months after Tinker's death, Gen. H.H. "Hap" Arnold ordered Oklahoma City Air Depot be renamed Tinker Field. The name changed to Tinker Air Force Base in 1948.

"Tink," as his fellow pilots knew him, craved danger and the thrill of battle.

Serving as assistant military attache for aviation in London in 1926, Tinker earned the Soldier's Medal for pulling a Navy pilot from the burning wreckage of his aircraft after a crash. The incident left Tinker with many scars.

As the Japanese fleet retreated during the battle of Midway on June 7, 1942, Tinker led a flight of Army bombers to attack the enemy east of Wake Island.

"When last seen by men in other planes of the formation, the general's bomber was descending rapidly," The Associated Press reported of Tinker's death.

Tinker's LB-30 Liberator and its crew of eight were never found.

A major general, Tinker, a native Oklahoman and member of the Osage tribe, was the first general killed in World War II.

Tinker was chosen to command the U.S. Army Air Forces in Hawaii in the days after Pearl Harbor.

"In my opinion, the Air Force will be the controlling factor in all wars, including this one," Tinker told reporters in December 1941.

Growing up on tribal land in Pawhuska, Tinker was in awe of famous military figures from Osage tribal history. The stories inspired Tinker to later become a revered military aviator and the U.S. Army's highest ranking Native American officer at the time of his death.

Tinker attended Osage Boarding School in Pawhuska in his youth and later graduated from Wentworth Military Academy in Lexington, Missouri.

In 1908, Tinker was commissioned as a third lieutenant in the Philippine Constabulary.

Tinker earned his pilot's license and entered the Army Air Service in 1922.

In 1938, Tinker's wife, Madeline Tinker McCormick, and the wife of another general helped choose the song "The U.S. Air Force," as the official anthem of the Air Force as part of a contest sponsored by a magazine.

The song is now widely known by its lyrics, "Off we go into the wild blue yonder."

Related Photos
<p>Tinker Air Force Base is named in honor of Maj. Gen. Clarence L. Tinker, who died in World War II. [Photo provided by the U.S. Air Force]</p>

Tinker Air Force Base is named in honor of Maj. Gen. Clarence L. Tinker, who died in World War II. [Photo provided by the U.S. Air Force]

<figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-ef79e34250cec35d59c57a744dce7219.jpg" alt="Photo - Tinker Air Force Base is named in honor of Maj. Gen. Clarence L. Tinker, who died in World War II. [Photo provided by the U.S. Air Force] " title=" Tinker Air Force Base is named in honor of Maj. Gen. Clarence L. Tinker, who died in World War II. [Photo provided by the U.S. Air Force] "><figcaption> Tinker Air Force Base is named in honor of Maj. Gen. Clarence L. Tinker, who died in World War II. [Photo provided by the U.S. Air Force] </figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-d07b636eaa2fb0fdce3c4b2440163287.jpg" alt="Photo - Maj. Gen. Clarence L. Tinker, a native Oklahoman and member of the Osage Nation, was the first general to die in World War II. Tinker Air Force Base is named in his honor. [Oklahoman Archives Photo/Oklahoma Historical Society] " title=" Maj. Gen. Clarence L. Tinker, a native Oklahoman and member of the Osage Nation, was the first general to die in World War II. Tinker Air Force Base is named in his honor. [Oklahoman Archives Photo/Oklahoma Historical Society] "><figcaption> Maj. Gen. Clarence L. Tinker, a native Oklahoman and member of the Osage Nation, was the first general to die in World War II. Tinker Air Force Base is named in his honor. [Oklahoman Archives Photo/Oklahoma Historical Society] </figcaption></figure>
Brianna Bailey

Brianna Bailey joined The Oklahoman in January 2013 as a business writer. During her time at The Oklahoman, she has walked across Oklahoma City twice, once north-to-south down Western Avenue, and once east-to-west, tracing the old U.S. Route 66.... Read more ›

Comments