Hank Clay was born on November 27, 1895, in Plattsburg, Missouri. He was commissioned a 2d Lt in the U.S. Army through the Army ROTC program at the University of Missouri in June 1917, and then enlisted in the Aviation Section of the U.S. Army Signal Corps for flight training. Clay received his flight training from the Royal Flying Corps in Oxford, England, and then joined No. 43 Squadron of the Royal Air Force in France in March 1918 before transferring to the 148th Aero Squadron of the U.S. Army Air Service in July 1918. Lt Clay was credited with the destruction of 8 enemy aircraft in aerial combat while flying with the 148th, and then took command of the newly formed 41st Aero Squadron just before the war ended in November 1918. After the war, he remained in Germany for Occupation Duty, and died from influenza in Coblenz, Germany, on February 17, 1919.
His Distinguished Service Cross Citation reads:
The Distinguished Service Cross is presented to Henry Robinson Clay, Jr., First Lieutenant (Air Service), U.S. Army, for extraordinary heroism in action near Sains-les-Marquion, France, September 4, 1918. In an action wherein Lieutenant Clay's patrol was outnumbered two-to-one, he attacked the group and shot down the enemy aircraft in flames. He continued in the combat and later attacked two enemy aircraft which were pursuing a plane of his patrol and succeeded in shooting one enemy aircraft down. Again, on September 27, 1918, near Cambrai, France, with one other pilot, Lieutenant Clay observed five enemy planes approaching our lines and, although hopelessly outnumbered, immediately attacked and singled out a plane which was seen to crash to the ground. He was immediately attacked by the other enemy planes and compelled to fight his way back to our lines.