Clarence L. Tinker, one-eighth Osage Indian, was born at Elgin, Kansas, on November 21, 1887. He was graduated from the Wentworth Military Academy, Lexington, Missouri, in 1908, and entered the Philippine Constabulary as a second lieutenant. He was appointed a second lieutenant of Infantry in the Regular Army on April 24, 1912.
He first served in the Philippine Islands, and in November 1912, served with the 25th Infantry at Fort Lawton, Washington. His next tour of duty was in Hawaii with his regiment from the early part of 1913 until March 1917, when he returned to the United States for duty with the 18th Infantry at Douglas, Arizona. In July 1917 he was assigned to the 62nd Infantry at the Presidio of San Francisco, and at Camp Fremont, California, until June 1918. He next went to Camp Travis, Texas, and in April 1919, became Professor of Military Science and Tactics at Riverside Polytechnic High School, Riverside, California.
In August 1920, he enrolled in the Flying School at March Field, Riverside, California, and after serving as Commanding Officer of an air detachment there, served with units at Post Field, Fort Sill, Oklahoma, and also completed the course at the Air Service Observation School at that field in the early part of 1922.
He served at the Cavalry School, Fort Riley, Kansas, in command of 16th Air Squadron, and later the 7th Division Air Service at that station. In July 1924 he went to Richards Field, Missouri, and in the Fall of the same year attended the Air Service Tactical School at Langley Field, Virginia, Following completion of this course, he entered the Command and General Staff School, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. He was graduated in June 1926, and was ordered to London, England, as Assistant Military Attaché. While he was stationed in England he received the Soldier’s Medal for gallantry – an award conferred upon him, as a major, for effecting the rescue of a naval officer, Commander Robert A. Burg, from a crashed and burning airplane which he himself had been piloting. Despite his own injuries, he succeeded in saving the life of his passenger, although he was severely burned in the process.
He returned to the United States in June 1927, for service in the Office of the Chief of Air Corps, Washington, D.C., and in November 1927 was transferred to Kelly Field, Texas, where he served as Assistant Commandant at the Advanced Flying School. In October 1930, he became Commanding Officer of the 20th Pursuit Group at Mather Field, California, serving there until December 1932, when he was assigned to March Field, California, serving as Post Operations and Executive Officer of the 1st Pursuit Wing. In February 1934, when the Army took over the Air Mail, he commanded Route No. 18 from Oakland, California. In May he resumed his station at March Field, California, commanding pursuit and bombardment units. He was transferred in December 1934, to Hamilton Field, California, where he commanded the 7th Bombardment Group until November 1936, when he became Chief of the Aviation Division of the National Guard Bureau at Washington, D.C., until May 24, 1939. He then became Chief of the Supply Division, Office of the Chief of the Air Corps, Washington, D.C.
He served from November 1939 to May 1940, at Barksdale Field, Louisiana, as Commanding Officer of the 27th Bombardment Group, and then was transferred to MacDill Field, Florida, as Base Commander. In October 1940, he was designated an Air Corps Wing Commander, and was assigned in January 1941 to the 3rd Bombardment Wing, MacDill Field, Tampa, Florida. In November 1941, he was assigned to command the III Interceptor Command, Third Air Force, Drew Field, Florida. In January 1942, he was assigned to command the Seventh Air Force with headquarters at Hickam Field, Hawaii.
On June 7, 1942, he was lost at sea after leaving Midway Island with a flight of LB-30 bombers to make a pre-daylight attack on the Japanese Fleet in the vicinity of Wake Island. His plane was seen to go out of control into the sea. General Tinker and his ten-man crew perished. He was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Medal.
On October 14, 1942, the Oklahoma Air City Depot was named Tinker Field in his honor.
He was promoted to first lieutenant on July 1, 1916; to captain on May 15, 1917; and to major (temporary) on June 7, 1918. He reverted to his permanent rank of captain on January 20, 1920, and was promoted to major on July 1 1920; to lieutenant colonel (temporary) on March 2, 1935; to lieutenant colonel (permanent) on August 1, 1935; to colonel (temporary) on August 26, 1936; to brigadier general (temporary) on October 1, 1940; to colonel (permanent) 1 November 1941; to major general (temporary) on January 14, 1942.
General Tinker was rated a Command Pilot, Combat Observer, and Aerial Observer.