Major Clarence L. Tinker,
US Army, Camp Gerle Commanding Officer
TINKER, CLARENCE L. (1887-1942). Clarence Leonard Tinker was the
first American Indian in
U.S. Army history to attain the rank
of major general. One-eighth Osage Indian, Tinker was born on
November 21, 1887, in Osage County, Oklahoma, the former Osage Nation, Indian Territory. Tinker, the eldest son of George E.
Tinker and Sarah A. Schwagerte, received his elementary education in
Catholic institutions at Hominy and Pawhuska, Oklahoma, and the Elgin, Kansas,
public school. Beginning in 1900 Tinker attended the Haskell
Lawrence, Kansas, but withdrew before graduating. In the
fall of 1906 Tinker enrolled in Wentworth Military Academy at Lexington, Missouri. Upon graduating in 1908 Tinker was
commissioned a third lieutenant in the Philippine Constabulary.
Tinker's service with the constabulary
lasted until 1912 when he was commissioned into the U.S. Army as a second lieutenant.
After infantry training Tinker joined the Twenty-fifth Infantry
Fort George Wright in Spokane, Washington. In January of 1913 the
Twenty-fifth transferred to Hawaii. While stationed near Honolulu, Tinker met and married Madeline Doyle of
Halifax, Nova Scotia.
During World War I Tinker served in
the southwestern United States and California, rising in rank to major. In 1919
Tinker began flying lessons and soon transferred to the Air Corps.
Tinker's aviation career began when he was assigned to flight duty
on July 1, 1922. For the next twenty years Tinker was stationed
primarily at air installations in the southeastern
United States. He continued
climbing in rank, becoming a brigadier general on October 1, 1940.
At that time Tinker was in charge of MacDill Field,
Florida. As German armies rolled
across Europe, Tinker cautioned
against Japanese aggression in the Pacific. The plans he devised to
protect the Panama Canal and Caribbean
region became important wartime strategy.
Tinker took command of the Hawaiian
Department following the Japanese attack on
Pearl Harbor in December 1941. Promoted to
major general in early 1942, he was placed in charge of the newly
created Seventh Air Force at
Hickam Field, Hawaii.
A proponent of aggressive bombing tactics, Tinker led four Liberator
bombers on a raid to Wake Island on
June 5, 1942. Leaving
Island on June 6, Tinker's
plane crashed at sea, killing all on board.
Clarence L. Tinker was the first
American general to die in World War II; his body was never
recovered. He received the Soldier's Medal in 1931, and the
Distinguished Service Medal posthumously. Tinker Air Force Base in
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma is named in his honor.
Sevigny, Arthur, Historian,
20th fighter Wing
Association source for background on Camp Gerle, Eldorado
National Forest, 1932, Major Tinker US Army and 20th Pursuit Group
provided this brief biography from "Osage General: Major General
Clarence L. Tinker," by Dr. James L. Crowder