Colonel John Clark was born and raised in Columbia, Missouri. Some of his earliest memories include drawing pictures of airplanes in class and racing around the playground with his arms outspread, swooping and diving and making the sounds of an aircraft. It seemed he knew from an early age that aviation would play a key role in his future.
John’s mother worked for Stephens College, a women’s school with a flying program. Since he was always hanging around the airport, his mother suggested he approach the program and ask if he could take lessons. They gladly welcomed him, and he eventually gained his pilot license which became his ticket to the skies.
John excelled as an ROTC student at the University of Missouri, allowing him to receive Air Force pilot training both in the US and in Europe. He also attended survival school outside Reno, Nevada, where he obtained skills to prepare for being a prisoner of war, if that ever were to occur. Little did he know how much those skills would be needed, and for so terribly long.
During the Vietnam War, Colonel Clark flew over sixty successful missions in his Phantom II jet. In 1967, he was shot down while on a tactical reconnaissance flight over North Vietnam. John was captured immediately, spending six arduous years as a Prisoner of War (POW) in North Vietnam at the prison known notoriously as the “Hanoi Hilton.”
Colonel Clark captures the harrowing details of his capture and 2,176 days of detainment in a riveting book entitled The Eagle Hunts. He endured starvation, a deadly sickness and extreme mental and physical torture at the hands of his enemy.
To his family, he was reported Missing in Action, presumed dead. Miraculously, he survived his imprisonment and a serious bout of malaria, gaining his release in 1973. As he recounts in his story, during his time in North Vietnam he fell back on three faiths: Faith in God, country and family.
John’s fascinating book is printed by the College of the Ozarks, a unique school where students earn tuition through hard work and graduate with their degree debt-free. John has been so impressed by the students, their work ethic, and their own love of God & country that he is donating 100% of the proceeds from all book sales directly to the school.
In 2014, Colonel Clark returned to Vietnam with fellow soldiers and a group of College of the Ozarks students through the school’s Patriotic Travel Tours Program.
It was tough for many of these veterans to return to a place of deep suffering and where fellow soldiers lost their lives.
While the remains of the prison are now a museum, Hanoi ironically became home to an actual Hilton hotel in 1999.
John is happily retired and lives with his wife, Anne, in Columbia, MO, where they recently celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary.
Colonel Clark’s decorations and awards include among others the Silver Star, two Legions of Merit, the Distinguished Flying Cross, two Purple Hearts, the Meritorious Service Medal, six Air Medals, the Air Force Commendation Medal and two Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Crosses.
To order a copy of The Eagle Hunts, visit: The College of the Ozarks Store
Thru Nov 15th, College of the Ozarks will present the patriotic play “A Flight to Faith: The Story of a Vietnam P.O.W.” This true story chronicles the journey of American hero Colonel John Clark. Tickets are free, and the play is produced and performed by students at College of the Ozarks. For tickets, call: (417) 690-2929