DRIVER, CLARENCE NESBIT

Name: Clarence Nesbit Driver
Rank/Branch: Civilian/Air America
Date of Birth: 07 March 1922 (Phoenix AZ)
Home City of Record: Riverside CA
Date of Loss: 07 March 1973
Country of Loss: Laos
Loss Coordinates: 195145N 1010900E (QB230980)
Status (in 1973): Missing In Action
Category: 2
Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: C123K
Refno: 1985
Other Personnel In Incident: James H. Ackley (missing)

Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project 15 October 1990 from one or more
of the following: raw data from U.S. Government agency sources,
correspondence with POW/MIA families, published sources, interviews.
Updated by the P.O.W. NETWORK 1998.

REMARKS:

SYNOPSIS: During the Vietnam war, Air America contracted with CIA to fly in
Laos transporting a variety of supplies. Because the United States "was not
at war" in Laos, some AA activities were secret. CIA considered its work
important enough to deceive the U.S. Congress, and obtained a large portion
of its funding through AID dollars that Congress believed were for civilian
help. Although Air America openly spoke of its humanitarian drops of rice,
blankets and medicine, they also conducted many "hard rice" drops -
ammunition, grenades, bombs and weapons to the secret CIA directed
indigenous army.

Many Air America pilots were crack pilots from World War II and Korea who
just were not ready to quit flying in the challenging arena of war. Some
took the job because they believed that in doing so, they could help fight
communism. Laos was a tough assignment. Not only were maps antiquated,
forcing the pilots to "eyeball" their way through the countryside, but the
weather and terrain could also be quite unpredictable.

Refugees created by the war depended on Air America, whose planes could
alter weeks of starvation, when the wounded suffered without medical
supplies, in a single drop. Enough food and supplies could be dropped in a
single morning to supply and feed five thousand people for a month. The
secret army depended on the AA materiel drops to such an extent that they
sometimes resorted to trickery to make sure they occurred. On one occasion,
a pilot observed the wind sock at a village strip hanging straight down, but
when he landed found the wind dangerously strong. An amiable native
explained, "We know plane not land when sock flies, so we put rocks in
sock."

At the foot of any runway, an AA pilot could encounter armed communist
troops intent on preventing him from ever flying again. Many planes returned
to base peppered with bullet holes, and some were destroyed. Others were
downed and their crews captured.

On March 7, 1973, a C123K flown by Clarence Driver on which James Ackley was
a crewmember was sent on a mission over Laos. The C123K differed from other
C123 models in that it had the addition of auxiliary turbojet engines
mounted in underwing pods. While this addition did little to increase the
speed of the "Provider," it added greater power for quicker climbing on
takeoff and power for maintaining altitude. Driver's aircraft crashed in
Louangphrabang Province, Laos, about 25 miles north of the Laos/Thailand
border near the city of Pak Beng. Ackley and Driver were classified Missing
In Action.

As late as 1984, reports were being received that at least Driver was alive,
in good health, and being held in a group of 8 American prisoners. Four of
the original 12 prisoners had died of dysentary, and two who were still
resisting had rings in their noses and were treated like beasts of burden. A
private, unauthorized rescue plan was formulated to attempt to free him in
1984. The attempt was unsuccessful.

Over 10,000 reports relating to Americans missing in Southeast Asia have
been received by the U.S. Government since 1975. A Pentagon panel concluded
in 1986 that there were at least 100 men still alive. Ackley and Driver are
two of nearly 600 Americans lost in Laos. Although the Pathet Lao publicly
stated that they held "tens of tens" of Americans, NOT ONE MAN returned that
had been held in Laos. The U.S. has yet to negotiate their release.

Clarence Driver's daughter Sharon describes the agony of their uncertainty,
"Imagine yourself on a telephone and ther person says 'hold on, I'll be
right back,' and they never come back...you just keep holding on."

How much longer must these men wait for their country to bring them home?


Clarence Driver retired in 1964 as a KC135 pilot at March Air Force Base in
Riverside, California.