Tinker family officially donates late General’s memorabilia to U.S. Air Force

  • Published
  • By Clayton Cummins, 72nd Air Base Wing Public Affairs

Memorabilia on display at Tinker Air Force Base belonging to late Maj. Gen. Clarence L. Tinker has officially become property of the U.S. Air Force.

The official donation was made by Maj. Gen. Tinker’s grandson, Phil Tinker, during a visit to the base June 2024. Memorabilia belonging to Tinker has been on display inside the Tinker Event Center after being donated over 40 years ago by Tinker’s late wife, Madeline.

The donation may be considered as one of the most notable donations to the U.S. Air Force in some time, according to Jack Waid, Director of Hertiate Programs for the Air Force Material Command (AFMC).

“Phil Tinker loves his family history and loves the U.S. Air Force so much that he was willing to give up extremely valuable items to the U.S. Air Force,” said Waid.

“I want grand dads’ legacy to stay alive,” said Phil Tinker. “I want people to see it and understand who he was and to enjoy what is out there so they can see his legacy.”

On October 14, 1942, the Oklahoma Air City Depot was named Tinker Field in honor of Major General Tinker. Born in Pawhuska, Oklahoma and one-eighth Osage, Clarence Tinker was the first American Indian in U.S. Army history to attain the rank of major general.

On June 7, 1942, Maj. Gen. Tinker was lost at sea after leaving Midway Island with a flight of LB-30 bombers to make a pre-daylight attack on the Japanese Fleet in the vicinity of Wake Island. His plane was seen to go out of control into the sea. General Tinker and his ten-man crew perished. He was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Medal.

Tinker’s grandson says he has been told numerous stories of his grandfather’s bravery.

“He was a leader that wouldn’t sit behind a desk and if he asked people to go into battle, he was there in the cockpit with them,” said Phil Tinker. “He would lead by example. I try to do that in my own life, thinking on how he lived his life and everything. It is something that I try to apply to my life, lead by example and treat others how I want to be treated. One day I will meet him in heaven and ask him all kinds of questions.”

Many of the general’s items are on display at the Event Center including a sword, metals and ribbons worn by Tinker, significant certificates and many photos of early aviation.

“We are so honored that you would allow us to come and continue granddad’s legacy and share that with my grandkids and family,” said Phil Tinker. “We would love for the public to be able to come and see this and understand Tinker Air Force Base and what they do for the nation, for freedom and how much work it takes to keep people free.”

“The Tinker family is essentially gifting the physical memory of the greatest hero in their family and of course one of the greatest heroes in the state of Oklahoma,” said Howard Halvorsen, the Director of History for the Air Force Sustainment Center.

The Tinker Event Center is open Monday through Friday from 7:30a.m. to 4:30 p.m. for viewing of the General Tinker display case.