NO. 17858 • 24 September 1927 – 8 April 1981
Died in Sacramento, CA
Interred in West Point Cemetery, West Point, NY
COMING FROM a military family, Clark Hickmott Allison’s desire to attend West Point was not surprising. A true son of the “golden west”, Clark was born in Oakland, CA. With Clark’s open and sunny disposition, it was not unusual that he made many friends at USMA. He was a member of the Water Polo Club and was on the swim team all four years, earning a Major “A” and Navy Star. As the ’50 Howitzer noted, “At present, he holds the record for hours spent in the varsity tank.” The steadfastness and drive that Clark displayed as a Cadet would be evidenced in his professional and personal life.
Upon graduation, Clark was commissioned in the Air Force and assigned to the Air Training Command, initially as a student pilot at a base in Waco, TX. His dream of becoming an Air Force pilot was not to be realized, though. He began a flying and command and staff operational career as a navigator, bombardier, and radar operator in conventional bombers, multi-engine jet bombers, and jet fighters.
In the autumn of 1950, Clark began training as an aerial navagator at Ellington AFB, Houston, TX. He completed radar and bombardier training at Mather AFB, Sacramento, CA, in March 1952, earning his wings as an aerial observer. This was a new rating that reflected what had been three separate aeronautical ratings of navigator, bombardier, and radar operator. Clark married Susan Grether, from Berkeley, CA. Their loving partnership grew to include four daughters – Patricia, Susann, Virginia, and Jacqueline.
Clark was assigned as a B-29 radar operator with the 44th Bombardment Wing, Strategic Air Command, based at Lake Charles, LA. In the summer of 1953, Clark’s unit transitioned to a new bomber, the six-jet engine B-47 Stratofortress, the mainstay for the SAC at that time. It had a crew of three: pilot, co-pilot, and aerial observer, the porition Clark occupied. He encompassed bombing and navigational duties, as well as the monitoring and control of the nuclear weapon the B-47 was designed to carry, at intercontinental ranges, with aerial refueling.
Clark’s tour with SAC was curtailed in April 1946, when he was assigned as a navigation instructor at USAFA. Clark, along with other USMA Classmates, contributed immeasurably to the successful initiation of the new Air Force Academy. Clark’s tour at USAFA ended in 1960 with a two-year assignment with his family to the 84th Bombardment Squadron (jet) as a B-66 crew member based at Sculthorpe Royal AF Station, England.
His achievements with the squadron earned him two Air Medals. In 1962, the Allison family’s European tour was extended by another two years with Clark’s assignment as a staff officer with the 7407th Support Squadron based at Rhein Main Air Base in West Germany. That assignment was followed in 1964 by selection to the Armed Forces Staff College at Norfolk, VA, where he graduated in January 1965, along with several other classmates. His new duty station was with the 8th Tactical Fighter Wing, based at George AFB, Victorville, CA, flying as the backseat observer of the two-man F-4 fighter-bomber crew. Clark’s growing skill and knowledge in the aerial observer field, particularly in all-weather bombing and navigation, were being put to use in more combat jets. Clark’s stay at George AFB lasted only a month with the wing’s deployment to the Royal Thai Air Base at Ubon, Thailand. Both as a crew member and operations staff officer, he flew 40 aerial combat missions over North Viet Nam, earning the Distinguished Flying Cross, Bronze Star, four more Air Medals, and the Air Force Commendation Medal.
Clark’s staff position was as the Director of Intelligence. The 8th TFW was then the largest wing in that sector of operations, and the staff assignment was an extraordinarily demanding one for Clark. The 8th TFW conducted around-the-clock fighter and support aircraft combat operations over North Vietnam and Laos, operating from two main bases. The Intelligence Sections provided critical support for mission planning, post-mission aircrew briefing and debriefing, and timely post-strike reporting to higher headquarters. That endless activity was under Clark’s direct supervision. His outstanding leadership qualities were legendary among the aircrews, whose very lives depended on the intelligence products produced by the people Clark supervised.
In September 1966, Clark rejoined his family stateside at Bergstrom AFB with assignment to an RF-4 wing. That assignment was curtailed in 1967, by a new assignment as a fighter operations officer with the Tactical Air Command Headquarters at Langley AFB, VA – another example where Clark’s unique talents and experience were recognized and put to use. A quotation from the Class of ’50 20-Year Book, in Clark’s own words, is appropriate: “As a navigator among 35 fighter pilots in the section, my position could be equated to Stokely Carmichael as a member of the Savannah (Georgia) Country Club.” He was awarded the Meritorious Service Medal by the Tactical Air Command.
After a highly successful tour with TAC, in 1971 Clark was ordered back to his beloved California to assume duties as the deputy commander of the 3535th Navigation Training Wing at Mather AFB, Sacramento, CA. It was a clear recognition by the Air Force of Clark’s continuously demonstrated professional competence and potential for higher command. In two years, he was promoted to Vice Commander of the organization, then renamed the 323d Flying Training Wing. Clark was able to ensure that the new aspirants to the aerial observer field would benefit from his extensive experience and background.
In May 1974, Clark retired from the Air Force as a colonel and was awarded the Legion of Merit for his superior service as deputy commander and vice commander. He settled in Sacramento and became a respected and valued member of the civilian community, both in a personal and professional sense. In civilian life, he served as Director of Marketing and Finance for the Pacific Legal Foundation, as well as General Manager of the Optical Laboratory of the California Visions Service. He also was active in many civic organizations, including the Sacramento United Way, Rotary International, and the Sacramento Comstock Club.
Unfortunately, Clark’s peaceful and productive retirement life was interrupted by illness. In December 1980, he underwent surgery for colon cancer and, sadly, death followed only four months later. Those of us who knew Clark can only guess what his attitude was during his battle with cancer – he was positively determined not to let the dreadful disease defeat him, and he never gave up.
Clark’s widow, Susann, passed away in July 1991. Those who survive Clark – his family, relatives, friends, classmates, and those with whom he served in the Air Force – will not forget him.