Air Force Cross Medal Recipient
by Melissa LaScaleia
There is no street in the Market Common named after Air Force veteran Lieutenant Colonel Colin Arnold “Arnie” Clarke, but there is a plaque which commemorates his service to our country and his many military accomplishments.
Colin Arnold Clarke was born in Seattle, Washington on August 31, 1935. He had a long and illustrious military career.
As a young man, he enlisted in the U.S. Naval Reserve and received training as an electronics technician. Thereafter, he attended the University of Washington and graduated in 1958 with a bachelor’s degree in marketing.
He left the Navy to join the U.S. Air Force. On August 9, 1960, he was commissioned a second lieutenant. The following year, he completed pilot training and was awarded his pilot wings at Williams Air Force Base in Arizona; he also completed F-100 Super Sabre Combat Crew Training.
Arnie served two terms in the Vietnam War with this squadron, where he flew a total of 27 combat missions: the first from December 1962-February 1963, the second from August 1964-February 1965. On August 18, 1964, he was shot down and subsequently rescued.
Arnie was promoted to captain and then transferred to Wethersfield, England to the Royal Air Force. He was sent again to Vietnam, and between July 1968 and July 1969, he flew a total of 285 combat missions using the F-100, O-1 Bird Dog, OV-10 Bronco, OH-6 Cayuse, and F-4J Phantom II fighter aircraft. He was shot down on January 22, 1969, and again rescued.
Arnie was promoted to the rank of major, and served as an Air Liaison Officer at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. After completing A-7 Corsair II Combat Crew Training, he was stationed at Myrtle Beach Air Force Base with the 356th Tactical Fighter Squadron of the 354th Tactical Fighter Wing. He was stationed here from May 1971 to March 1974.
From 1972-1973, he deployed for the fourth time to Southeast Asia and flew 73 combat missions from Thailand as an A-7 Sandy pilot.
He acted as On-Scene Commander for search and rescue operations over North Vietnam, and received the Air Force Cross from the President of the United States for his valor on one particular mission.
He is commemorated such:
“Clarke directed an extremely complex mission that resulted in the successful recovery of two downed airmen despite adverse weather, mountainous terrain, and intense hostile ground fire. Disregarding these hazards, his own safety, and battle damage to his aircraft, he personally guided the rescue helicopter to the survivors’ location, suppressed hostile defenses, and continued to direct rescue efforts even though he sustained additional damage to his aircraft. Through his extraordinary heroism, superb airmanship, and aggressiveness in the face of the enemy, Major Clarke reflected the highest credit upon himself and the United States Air Force.”
Arnie moved his way up the ranks of the military to become a lieutenant colonel, and retired on August 1, 1981. He managed Pangborn Memorial Airport in East Wenatchee, Washington, for many years after retirement. He died on December 13, 2010, and is buried at Tahoma National Cemetery in Kent, Washington.