Douglas Clarke oral history interview
Naval aviator and Vietnam War veteran Douglas Clarke is interviewed about his military service with the United States Navy from 1957 to 1987. He discusses his combat tours in Vietnam and Laos and shares other details from his Navy and post-military careers. Topics discussed include his service and training history; his experiences piloting various aircraft, including the Douglas AD Skyraider, Douglas A-4 Skyhawk, and Vought A-7 Corsair II; notable missions in Southeast Asia; and his work at NATO, the Department of Defense, and Radio Free Europe.
Table Of Contents
Douglas Lane Clark is a retired United States Navy serviceman who served as a naval aviator during the Vietnam War. He was born on February 14, 1936 in Salt Lake City, Utah to Archibald Douglas and Mona Clarke. In 1939, the Clarkes relocated to Seattle, Washington, where Doug attended Laurelhurst Grade School. From 1946 to 1949, he attended Glenlyon Preparatory School for Boys in Victoria, B.C. Clarke graduated from Roosevelt High School in 1952.
After graduation, Clarke took a summer job as a seaman on a Coast Geodetic Survey ship, then started his college studies at the University of Washington. He joined NROTC in his sophomore year and decided to pursue a career in naval aviation. In 1956, Clarke graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Far Eastern Studies. He then completed an additional year of Naval Science at Columbia University’s Russian Institute in New York. He received his Navy commission in 1957.
Clarke completed basic flight training at Pensacola, Florida and advanced flight training at Corpus Christi, Texas. He received his wings on September 17, 1958. In December 1958, Clarke was assigned to VA(AW)-35 (All-Weather Attack Squadron 35) and reported to Naval Air Station North Island (California) for operational training in the Douglas AD-6 and AD-7 Skyraider. In March 1959, he joined VA-25 (Attack Squadron 25) as a nuclear weapons delivery pilot and was deployed aboard the USS Midway (CVA-41). Clarke served a total of three WESTPAC cruises with VA-25.
In November 1962, Clarke embarked on his first shore duty tour with VA-122 (Attack Squadron 122), which was serving as a replacement air group (RAG) squadron at Naval Air Stations Moffett Field and Lemoore (California). During this time, he also served as a weapons instructor at NAS Fallon (Nevada).
In September 1965, he accepted a temporary duty assignment with VA-152 (Attack Squadron 152) aboard the USS Oriskany (CV-34). During this combat tour, he flew primarily interdiction missions against North Vietnam. He also participated in search-and-rescue missions, including one near the Chinese border on October 17, 1965. For his efforts on this mission, he received the Distinguished Flying Cross.
In 1966, Clarke reported to VA-125 (Attack Squadron 125) for operational training in the Douglas A-4 Skyhawk. He then joined VA-216 (Attack Squadron 216) and embarked on another WESTPAC cruise to Southeast Asia. In 1967, Clarke served a short Mediterranean cruise aboard the USS Saratoga (CV-60) after VA-216 was temporarily loaned to AIRLANT (Naval Air Force Atlantic). As such, he was present in the Mediterranean during the Six-Day War, the 1967 Arab-Israeli conflict. After completing their service with AIRLANT, Clarke and VA-216 returned to Southeast Asia for another combat tour, this one aboard the USS Coral Sea (CV-43).
Clarke returned to the United States in 1969 and completed a year-long program at the Army Command and Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. From 1970 to 1972, he worked at the Prisoner-of-War/Missing-in-Action Office at the Bureau of Naval Personnel. In July 1972, after receiving operational training on the Vought A-7 Corsair II, Clarke joined VA-93 (Attack Squadron 93) as the squadron’s executive officer and later as commanding officer. In August of that year, he took part in a low-altitude search mission in North Vietnam while enduring enemy fire. He later received the Silver Star for this mission.
In 1973, Clarke completed his seventh and final WESTPAC cruise. His final cumulative score was 302 combat and combat support missions in North Vietnam, South Vietnam, and Laos.
From 1974 to 1977, Clarke served as deputy operations officer and strike operations officer on the staff of Commander, Carrier Strike Group Three. He then attended the National War College in Washington, D.C. and earned a concurrent master’s of science in International Affair from George Washington University. His master’s thesis was titled The Missing Man: Poli