Major Herbert Vanallen Clark
March 16, 1919 – January 25, 2003
Graduation Date: 7/3/1942
Unit: 332nd Fighter Group, 99th Fighter Squadron
Service # 0790455
Herbert Vanallen Clark was born on March 16, 1919, in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, Jefferson County, Arkansas. His mother was a high school mathematics teacher and his father, Jeremiah Clark, was the pastor of the St. Paul’s Baptist Church. In 1942, he signed up for the U.S. government’s Civilian Pilot Training Program (CPTP). After completing the CPTP, he entered basic training. Clark attended the Tuskegee Cadet Pilot program, graduating from its Single Engine Section Class SE-42-F on 3 July 1942 and receiving his wings and commission as a 2nd Lieutenant. He was then assigned to the 332rd Fighter Group’s 99th Pursuit Squadron. He participated in several missions around Sicily, including Pantelleria and Sciacca. By 5 November 1943, he completed his first combat tour and returned to the United States. Along with other veterans of the 99th Squadron, he declined to return with the 332nd when it left for Italy on December 24, 1943; fellow veteran Charles W. Dryden attributed this to low morale in his memoir. Clark was stationed at Selfridge, Michigan where he became a flight instructor for the 553d Fighter-Bomber Squadron at Selfridge Field, a segregated military facility located about twenty-five miles north of Detroit, Michigan. Clark was the first Arkansan of color in the Army Air Corps to be assigned to the 553rd.
Clark began a second combat tour in Europe, during which he completed ten missions. On 16 August 1944, Clark’s aircraft was shot down by flak 1.5 miles (2.4 km) north of Miane, Italy. He was seen parachuting from his burning aircraft, and was listed as missing in action. He suffered a head wound when he struck a tree parachuting to the ground, and was immediately picked up by the Italian resistance who sheltered him for eight months. During his time with the resistance, Clark led a group of partisans attacking German positions in northern Italy. On 4 May 1945 he returned to Allied lines. According to the Fifteenth Army Air Force, “nothing short of pandemonium would describe the reactions … when everyone realized that the group’s own ‘Bud Clark’ had actually returned”.
When he realized that none of the Tuskegee Airmen could find work with the U.S. airlines due to their practice of hiring only white pilots, Clark abandoned his goal of studying aeronautical engineering and decided to focus on medicine, later serving as a doctor at the Tuskegee Institute for eight years. Clark retired with the rank of major.
Clark died on January 25, 2003, at the age of 83. He was interred at the Westview Cemetery in Blacksburg, Virginia, Montgomery County, Virginia. The Fifteenth Army Air Force reported that Clark had innovated as a pilot by landing his P-40 Warhawk on one wheel while returning from a dive-bombing mission over the Anzio Beachhead.