|NIGHTMARE OF EVENTS
SURROUNDING (DONALD EARNEST)
This is a story about Donald Earnest McClure, son of Thomas "Tinker Tom" and Ethel Plott McClure. Twin brother
to Mozella McClure. It was copied by Edna Burns June 28, 1964 from a California Paper.
Donald was born 20 JUL 1930, GA and died on 19 APR 1964 in Klamath River, Siskiyou County, CA, buried Golden
Gate National Cemetery, San Bruno, CA. He was married to Hisako Suzuki. This is the story of how he perished.
Re-copied from Edna Burns handwriting by Marie Pabst Adams, September 7, 1996. In an email from Doris
Anderson, Donald's daughter on 8-18-2013 I was told that it was transcribed from a newspaper article. That they
got his age wrong and the correct age when this happened was 33 1/2 years old.
Entered into Word 2003 format by Norma Stamp July 22, 2011.
Revised after seeing original article in February 2014.
The body of 36 year old Sgt. Donald McClure of Requa Air Force Base was recorded at 9:20 a.m. by fishermen
aboard the boat Sally out of Trinidad Harbor.
The body found about 5 ½ miles north of Patricks Point buoy was identified by a wallet bearing
McClure’s armed forces I.D. card and a California driver’s license.
The events leading up to McClure’s demise is told here as they actually happened by his companion on the ill fated
fishing trip, Sgt. Harrison. Here is the story in Harrison’s own words...
"On the 27th of March 1964 at approximately 2300 hours, Sgt. McClure and I were on the sand bar at the mouth of
the Klamath River eel fishing by lantern and moonlight. Suddenly and without warning, there was a loud crash that
resembled a cannon shot and we looked up to see a wall of water about 12 feet high coming over the top of the
All of the logs and drift wood that we were standing on rose about us and we stood watching tons of wood, being
carried by the wave, pass over our heads. Immediately we were picked up with the rest of the driftwood and carried
about a half mile up the river.
As I started to come to the surface, I bumped my head on a large log. I pushed my way to one side where I could
see moonlight through the small driftwood and fought my way to the surface. I could hear Sgt. McClure calling my
name even before my head was above the water. When I surfaced only 10 feet away from McClure, he yelled "Are
you all right? Get your hip boots off, grab a log and ride with the waves.” I got a small log under each arm and tried
to do exactly as he said, however I couldn’t get my boots off. When I let go of one log to reach for the boot straps
that were hooked to my belt the other log would roll out from under my arm and my heavy jacket would pull me under
the water. After two or three unsuccessful attempts the boots came off without touching them.
A short time later we were carried close to a large log about 6 feet wide and 40 feet long. I asked McClure if we
would be better off on the log. He stated yes. And we both started for it.
He reached the log first and climbed on. My heavy clothing was pulling me under again. But by some miracle, I
reached the log and desperately tried to pull myself on top of it, the harder I tried to climb up on the log the weaker I
became. Sgt. McClure ran the length of the log and literally pulled me on top of it. I straddled the log and found that
my hands and feet were completely numb. Just then another surge nearly up seated us from the log and it shot up
river to a position over 200 yards from where we were originally.
As soon as we were situated again, we began to call for help. Eventually someone did answer our cries and above
the bedlam in the river we bellowed our position. The voices from somewhere on the shore said to “hang on we are
A few moments later all the small wood that was thrashing around us was rushing back towards the mouth of the
river. Sgt. McClure stated that the "wave had crested and it’s going back to the sea. We have to swim for it".
He pulled off his jacket and shirt and I tried to get mine off but was unable to manipulate the zipper. Sgt. McClure
came to my aid again. I managed to tear the zipper apart, but my hands were so numb I couldn’t get the slick jacket
off, so he pulled it off my back. He then helped me tear the buttons off my shirt and pull it off also.
He then returned to the other end of the log. He cautioned me "don’t go till the log starts to go down stream
because we are getting closer to shore”. (the log was moving towaeds the north bank of the river). When the log
turned to start down stream he asked me if I could make it all right, and I said I would try. We slid into the water
together. He also told me not to dive in - save my strength.
We swam towards the shore together, about 20 feet apart. When I was about 10 feet from the cliff, below Requa
Boat Docks I noticed I was about 20 feet closer to shore than he was so I turned to ask was he alright, he said “I’m
coming”. About 10 seconds later I reached the rocks and looked back to see if he was there - he wasn’t. I called
and he did not answer.
In looking back it is apparent to me now that Sgt. McClure was much more concerned about my safety than he was
his own. I know that if he had not assisted me in the removal of my jacket and shirt, I never would have been able to
swim the distance I did to safety.
Sgt. McClure helped me in the removal of my jacket and shirt which if left on, would have caused my immediate
drowning. He helped me onto the log; he explained to me what had happened; he rendered a sound decision as to
when and how to leave the log. Without Sgt. McClure’s assistance, I would not be alive to tell the facts of this
unfortunate freak accident."
The body of Sgt. Donald McClure was buried Monday, May 4, in San Bruno, California National Cemetery with full
military honors. A recommendation that Sgt. McClure be awarded posthumously the Air Man’s Medal for his altruistic
behavior involving voluntary risk of life under conditions other than those of conflict with an armed enemy of the
United States while serving as a member of the U.S. Air Force has been submitted.
Note from Bill McClure who was instrumental in clarifications made to this page.
Bill says : I was there when he was buried and later visited the grave several times while on temporary
duty in the San Francisco area. I was so poor that in order to attend his funeral I had to borrow money
from my boss to fly from Washington DC to San Francisco and get a rental car which I used to transport
Chako (his widow) and daughters Doris, Shirley and Jackie while in the San Francisco area.
Mozella and Donald Earnest ca. 1930
|Golden Gate National Cemetery in San Bruno, CA
(photo from Findagrave.com)
I received this from Dori Anderson, Earnest's daughter, after the book had gone to print!
Attached is also the newspaper article about my dad that Edna Burns copied. It was printed on
Thursday, May 7, 1964, page 10 in the Del Norte Triplicate published in Crescent City, CA. The title of
the article, “Nightmare of Events Surrounding McClures Disappearance Told”, is most likely because it
took a month to find his body. The tsunami occurred on March 28, 1964 while he was fishing on the
beach at the mouth of the Klamath River in Del Norte County, CA and his body was found in the ocean
on April 26 about 25-30 miles south near Patrick’s Point, Humboldt County, CA. He was later awarded
the Airman’s Medal. He was a brave man who was also awarded a number of Bronze Star Medals during
the Korean war. There is also a monument in Crescent City that has my dad’s name on it with other
people who drowned in the tsunami.