Major General Clarence L. Tinker

 Born November 21, 1887, near Pawhuska, Osage Reservation, Died June 7, 1942, Battle of the Midway WWII, Pacific Ocean

Clarence L. Tinker

Clarence Leonard Tinker was the eldest son of George Edward Tinker and Sarah (Schwagerte) Tinker. He was raised Osage and spoke the Osage language and grew to be the highest ranking Native American officer during WWII. He was the Commander of the Seventh Air Force in Hawaii. He personally lead the Battle of Midway, and when his plane went down, the bodies of Tinker and his 8 crew members were never recovered.

Elementary education for Clarence was at Hominy and Pawhuska Catholic Schools as well as the public school at Elgin, Kansas. Tinker idolized the Osage Indian Scouts he studied about who served the US Cavalry, and he served the US forces in the Chinese Boxer Rebellion.

As a youth, Clarence worked in the print shop of his father, who published the Wah-sha-she News, which was one of the first newspapers on the Osage Reservation. He attended Haskell Institute at Lawrence, Kansas, but he withdrew from school to attend the Wentworth Military Institute in Lexington, Missouri. From there Tinker was commissioned a third lieutenant during the Philippine Constabulary serving until 1912.
In 1913, Tinker was transferred to Hawaii where he met and married Madeline Doyle. Clarence served in the southwestern United States, and during World War I, he was promoted to Major.

Tinker began flying lessons with the ROTC at Riverside, California, and when his father came to visit, they spoke Osage to each other. Tinker established his identity as Osage, and he was transferred to the Army Air Service on July 1, 1922, in the same class with Dwight D. Eisenhower. In 1927, he became Commander of the Advanced Flying School at Kelly Field, Texas, and he continued his career as a soldier and was steadily promoted until he was a Brigadier General in 1940. After the attack of Pearl Harbor, Tinker became the Commander of the Seventh Air Force in Hawaii. Tinker flew an early model of B-24’s at Midway, and while chasing the Japanese his plane with a crew of eight, plunged into the sea. General Tinker’s son was also lost at sea in 1944 while in a dogfight with the Germans in 1944.

Tinker became the first General to die in WWII. He received the Soldier’s Medal in 1931, and posthumously was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal. In October, 1942, Oklahoma City Air Depot became Tinker Field and was later named Tinker Air Force Base. Personal papers and property were donated by his widow, Madeline Tinker McCormick, to Tinker Air Force Base, and a bust of Tinker resides there.

The Osage honor Tinker every year at their In-Lon-Schka dances, and there is a special song dedicated to honor Clarence Tinker and other veterans, and men dance and sing to it. It is the only song when all Osage stand in honor.

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