TOLBERT, CLARENCE ORFIELD
Remains Returned November 3, 1988
Name: Clarence Orfield Tolbert
Rank/Branch: O6/US Navy
Unit: Attack Squadron 56, USS MIDWAY (CVA-41)
Date of Birth: 04 June 1939
Home City of Record: Tishomingo OK
Date of Loss: 06 November 1972
Country of Loss: North Vietnam
Loss Coordinates: 191358N 1054459E (WG791262)
Status (in 1973): Missing In Action
Other Personnel in Incident: (none missing)
Source: Compiled 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 in 2020.
REMARKS: DEAD - NHAN DAN
SYNOPSIS: Commander Clarence O. Tolbert was a pilot assigned to Attack
Squadron 56 onboard the aircraft carrier USS MIDWAY. On November 6, 1972,
Tolbert launched in his A7B "Corsair" in a flight of two on a reconnaissance
mission into Nghe An Province, North Vietnam. The aircraft was hit by
anti-aircraft fire in the starboard wing during the mission.
Commander Tolbert immediately turned the aircraft towards the coast (the
favored evasion route), just as it caught fire. The fire went out within
seconds but the aircraft continued to stream fuel. Within 1 1/2 miles from
the coast the flight controls apparently froze and the aircraft impacted the
ground in a flat spin.
Tolbert's wingman observed the aircraft from the time it was hit until
impact with the ground and observed no ejection or parachute. No radio
communication was established during the whole episode. An active search and
rescue effort was discontinued due to lack of visual or voice contact.
An article appeared in the November 15, 1972 edition of Nhan Dan newspaper
in Hanoi which stated that the Vietnamese forces had shot down a U.S.
aircraft on that date and that the pilot ejected but the parachute did not
Almost 16 years to the day later, the Vietnamese "discovered" the remains of
Commander Tolbert and returned them to U.S. control. Even though Vietnamese
soldiers had observed Tolbert's ejection and knew the precise location of
the crash of his aircraft, for 16 years, the Vietnamese denied any knowledge
of his fate.
The U.S. Government believes progress is being made on the issue of the
missing, prisoner and unaccounted for in Southeast Asia. Perhaps it has
taken 16 years of delicate negotiations to motivate the Vietnamese to honor
the pledge they made in Paris in 1973 to return all POWs and account for as
many of the missing as possible.
The U.S. Government has received over the years nearly 10,000 reports
concerning missing Americans. Many authorities believe, based on these
reports and other information, that there are hundreds of Americans still
alive and captive in Southeast Asia, but their freedom seems beyond our
On 1/26/2003 8:09 PM, JAGMOM74@aol.com wrote:
Clarence Orfield Tolbert, better know as
Smokey to most was KIA and the remains have been returned. Inquiring if
anyone has a
pow/mia bracelet with his name? He is my great uncle. My grandmother was his sister. I received all his information that my grandmother
received when he went MIA. I have many pictures, his medals, his flag, his naval sweater, and his blue angel memorabilia. I am searching
for his POW/MIA bracelet to put with my display in my home. I have all the documents of his event when shot down and we received
his remains back in ’88. He is buried next to my grandmother in troy cemetery new Tishamingo, Oklahoma.