Photo of the Week
November 19, 2006 

Harold Melville Clark
Major, United States Army Air Service

Another CZ Images Photo of the Week mystery solved thanks to CZ Images visitor Lt Col, Alex Gutierrez.  Alex wrote in and informed me that he had put two and two together that the airplane crash photo at Miraflores Locks on May 2, 1919 (Photo of the Week, April 10, 2005) killed Harold M. Clark, shown above.

Here is a excerpt from a Arlington Cemetery web site:

Clark arrived at France Field, Panama, in the fall of 1918. France Field was located near present-day Colon. Clark was assigned to the Panama Canal as executive officer for 7th Observation Group.

On the morning of May 2, 1919, Clark and two other aviators, Lieutenant J.R.L. Hitt and Lieutenant Thomas Cecil Tonkin, left France Field for Balboa in an Army seaplane. While enroute, the plane developed engine problems, but the trio made it to Balboa safely. That same afternoon, the three aviators began the return flight to France Field with Hitt at the controls. Due to the plane’s earlier troubles, the flight followed the Panama Canal at an altitude of 250 feet.

Shortly into the flight, the plane’s engine stopped. Hitt hoped to make Miraflores Lake to set the heavy seaplane down, but the plane crashed into the front of Miraflores Locks at about 5 p.m. The best account of the crash is taken from the May 3, 1919, Panama Star & Herald: “The machine crumpled up like a house of cards, and the three men were thrown into the water of the lock. Lieutenant Tonkin was undoubtedly killed instantly by the twisting timbers of the machine. …Major Clark sank to the bottom of the lock, and it’s not known whether he was killed in the crash or whether he drowned.”

Hitt was severely injured in the crash, but bystanders rescued him. The Panama Star & Herald reported that a diver was sent to retrieve Clark’s body. The Army ruled his death as an accident due to internal injuries caused by “aeroplane traumatism,” according to a Defense Department report on Clark’s death dated May 8, 1919, and awarded his mother $10,000. Clark was buried May 29, 1919, with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery.

Following the end of World War II and creation of the U.S. Air Force in 1947, Fort Stotensberg in the Philippines was renamed Clark Air Base in honor of Major Harold M. Clark. In its prime, Clark Air Base was the U.S. military’s largest overseas installation at an impressive 156,204 acres. Shortly after its establishment, Clark Air Base would serve as home to 13th Air Force for a number of years. Clark Air Base served the military well during the Korean and Vietnam wars, and it was the first stop of freedom for many returning prisoners of war from Vietnam.

The United States turned over possession of Clark Air Base to the Republic of the Philippines November 26, 1991. Clark Air Base is now an international airport serving the Philippines. Most of the former base’s buildings were turned over to private businesses supporting the international airport.

For the complete story of Major Clark at the Arlington Cemetery web site, (Click Here).

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