Military Wiki
Mark W. Clark
American major general Mark Wayne Clark in 1943
Birth name Mark Wayne Clark
Nickname Contraband (while at West Point)[1]
Born (1896-05-01)May 1, 1896
Died April 17, 1984(1984-04-17) (aged 87)
Place of birth Madison Barracks, Sackets Harbor, New York
Place of death Charleston, South Carolina
Buried at The Citadel
Charleston, South Carolina
Allegiance  United States of America
Service/branch U.S. Army
Years of service 1917 – 1953
Rank US-O10 insignia.svg General
Commands held Fifth U.S. Army
15th Army Group
United Nations Command (Korea)
Battles/wars World War I
World War II
Korean War
Awards Distinguished Service Cross
Army Distinguished Service Medal
Navy Distinguished Service Medal
Other work The Citadel, President

Mark Wayne Clark (May 1, 1896 – April 17, 1984) was an American general during World War II and the Korean War and was the youngest lieutenant general (three-star general) in the U.S. Army.

During World War I, he commanded a company of soldiers in 1917 and was seriously wounded by shrapnel. After the war, Clark's abilities were noticed by General George Marshall.[2] During World War II, he was the USA's Commander in Italy. He is known for his triumphal entry into Rome in 1944, the first major Axis city to fall. Clark has been heavily criticised for ignoring the orders of his superior officer, General Alexander, and is to blame for the escape of the German 10th Army which he let slip away in his pursuit of being the first to enter Rome - a strategically unimportant city. The German 10th Army joined with their countrymen at the Trasimene Line.[3] In 1945 Clark became the youngest American to be promoted to general.

General Dwight D. Eisenhower considered him a brilliant staff officer and trainer.[4] Clark won many awards, including the Distinguished Service Cross for extreme bravery in war, subordinate only to the Medal of Honor.

Early life and career

Clark was born in Madison Barracks, Sackets Harbor, New York, but spent much of his youth in Highland Park, Illinois, while his father, a career Infantry officer, was stationed at Fort Sheridan.[5] His mother was the daughter of Romanian Jews but Clark was baptized Episcopalian while a cadet at West Point.[1]

Clark gained an early appointment to the military academy at age 17, but lost time from frequent illnesses. Known as "Contraband" by his classmates because of his ability to smuggle sweets into the barracks,[1] Clark graduated from West Point in April 1917, with a class ranking of 110th in a class of 139, and was commissioned a 2nd lieutenant of Infantry. In the rapid expansion of the United States Army during World War I he rose rapidly in rank, promoted to 1st lieutenant on May 15 and captain on August 5, 1917.[6] He served in France during World War I in the U.S. 11th Infantry, part of the 5th Infantry Division, and was wounded in action in the Vosges Mountains. As a result of his convalescence, Captain Clark was transferred to the General Staff Headquarters of the First United States Army until the end of hostilities, then served with the Third Army in its occupation duties in Germany.

Between the wars, Clark served in a variety of staff and training roles. From 1921 to 1924 he served as an aide in the office of the Assistant Secretary of War. In 1925 he completed the professional officer's course at the Infantry School, then served as a staff officer with the 30th Infantry at The Presidio in San Francisco, California. His next assignment was as a training instructor to the Indiana National Guard,[6] in which he was promoted to major on January 14, 1933, more than 15 years after his promotion to captain.

Major Clark served as a deputy commander of the Civilian Conservation Corps district in Omaha, Nebraska, in 1935–36, between tours at the Command and General Staff School in 1935 and the Army War College in 1937. Assigned to Fort Lewis, Washington, Clark was selected to instruct at the Army War College in March 1940, where he received a promotion to lieutenant colonel on July 1. Clark and General Leslie McNair selected the thousands of acres of unused land in Louisiana for military maneuvers at Louisiana Maneuvers.[7]

On August 4, 1941, Clark was promoted two grades to brigadier general as the United States Army geared up for entry in World War II, and made Assistant Chief of Staff (G-3) at General Headquarters, United States Army, in Washington, D.C.[6]

World War II

In January 1942, a month after the American entry into the war, General Clark was appointed Deputy Chief of Staff Army Ground Forces, and in May 1942, became its chief of staff as staff officers were rapidly moved to newly created commands by General Gage Michael Miller.[6]

In June 1942, he went to England as commanding general of II Corps, and the next month moved up to Commanding General, Army Forces European Theater of Operations, promoted to major general on August 17, 1942. In October 1942, Clark became deputy commander in chief of the Allied Forces in the North African Theater. Clark's duties in this succession of assignments was to plan and direct the training of units for the invasion of North Africa known as Operation Torch. Part of the preparation for the invasion involved spiriting him into North Africa by the British submarine Seraph weeks before the invasion (Operation Flagpole) to negotiate the surrender or cooperation of the Vichy French at Cherchell on October 21–22, 1942.

After the negotiations, Clark was promoted to lieutenant general on November 11, 1942. When the United States created its first field army overseas, the U.S. Fifth Army, Clark was made its commanding general and given the task of training units for the invasion of Italy (Operation Avalanche) in September 1943. According to Montgomery, Clark was subsequently criticized by British historians and critics, for the near-failure of the landings at Salerno, as a result of perceived poor planning.[8]

Clark on board USS Ancon during the landings at Salerno, Italy, 12 September 1943.

Clark gave orders for the bombing destruction of the Abbey of Monte Cassino based on direct orders from his superior during the Battle of Monte Cassino, February 15, 1944.[9] Clark and his chief of staff Major General Alfred Gruenther remained unconvinced of the “military necessity” of that bombing. When handing over the U.S. II Corps position to the New Zealand Corps, Brigadier-General Frederic Butler, deputy commander of U.S. 34th Division, had said "I don't know, but I don't believe the enemy is in the convent. All the fire has been from the slopes of the hill below the wall".[10] The commander of the 4th Indian division urged the bombing of the entire massif with the heaviest bombs available.[11] Clark pinned down the Commander-in-Chief Allied Armies in Italy, General Sir Harold Alexander: “I said, 'You give me a direct order and we’ll do it,' and he did."[12]

Clark's conduct of operations in Italy is controversial, particularly his actions during the Battle of the Winter Line. Pope Pius XII thanked Clark for liberating Rome.[13] The American military historian Carlo D'Este called Clark's decision to take Rome "as militarily stupid as it was insubordinate".[14] Although Clark described a "race to Rome" and released an edited version of his diary for the official historians, his complete papers became available after his death.[15]

Flying over Civitavecchia on June 10, 1944, Clark's pilot failed to see the cable of a barrage balloon. The cable entwined the wing, forcing the Piper Cub into a rapid downward spiral. The plane broke free of the cable after the third time around, leaving a large section of the wing behind. The fuel tank ruptured, spraying the fuselage with the flammable liquid. Miraculously, the pilot managed to land safely in a cornfield. "I never had a worse experience," wrote Clark to his wife.[16]

In December 1944 Clark took Alexander's position as overall command of Allied ground troops in Italy, renamed as 15th Army Group - Alexander, now a Field Marshal, had become Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces Headquarters in the Mediterranean - by that time an international coalition of numerous diverse cultures with often conflicting interests.[17]

Clark was promoted to general on March 10, 1945. After accepting the German surrender in Italy in May, he became Commander of Allied Forces in Italy as the war in Europe ended.

Between World War II and the Korean War

Later in 1945, as Commander in Chief of US Forces of Occupation in Austria, Clark gained experience negotiating with Communists, which he would put to good use a few years later.

Clark served as deputy to the U.S. Secretary of State in 1947, and attended the negotiations for an Austrian treaty with the Council of Foreign Ministers in London and Moscow. In June 1947, Clark returned home and assumed command of the Sixth Army, headquartered at the Presidio in San Francisco, and two years later was named chief of Army Field Forces.[6]

On October 20, 1951, he was nominated by President Harry Truman to be the United States emissary to the Holy See. Clark later withdrew his nomination on January 13, 1952, following protests from Texas Senator Tom Connally and Protestant groups.

Congressional Inquiry

It was announced on 20 January 1946, that the US 36th Division Veteran's Association had unanimously called for a Congressional Inquiry into Clark's actions during the Division's disastrous crossing of the Rapido River on the night of January 20, 1944. The petition read:

"Be it resolved, that the men of the 36th Division Association petition the Congress of the United States to investigate the river Rapido fiasco and take the necessary steps to correct a military system that will permit an inefficient and inexperienced officer, such a General Mark W. Clark, in a high command to destroy the young manhood of this country and to prevent future soldiers being sacrificed wastefully and uselessly." [18]

2 Resolutions were heard in the House of Representatives, one of which claimed:

"One of the most colossal blunders of the Second World War...a "murderous blunder that every man connected with this undertaking knew...was doomed to failure."

Clark was absolved of blame by the House of Representatives but never made comment on the River Rapido episode following WWII.

During and after the Korean War

During the Korean War, he took over as commander of the United Nations Command on May 12, 1952, succeeding General Matthew Ridgway. From 1954 until 1965, after retiring from the Army, General Clark served as president of The Citadel, the military college located in Charleston, South Carolina,.[19] From 1954 to 1955 Clark was head of the so-called "Clark Task Force" to study and make recommendations on all intelligence activities of the Federal government.[20] The task force had been created 1953 by the second Commission on Organization of the Executive Branch of the Government, a.k.a. the Hoover Commission because it was chaired by Herbert Hoover. Members of the Clark Task Force were Adm. Richard L. Conolly, USN (Ret), a former Deputy Chief of Naval Operations; Ernest F. Hollings, the speaker pro tempore of South Carolina's House of Representatives; California businessman Henry Kearns; Edward V. Rickenbacker, World War I flying ace and president of Eastern Air Lines;and Donald S. Russell, a former Assistant Secretary of State. The staff director was Maj. Gen. James G. Christiansen, USA (Ret). The task force first met early November 1954 and in May 1955 submitted one Top Secret report for the President, and another unclassified for the Hoover Commission and Congress.[21] The Clark task force coined the term Intelligence Community to describe “...the machinery for accomplishing our intelligence objectives.” [22]

Clark wrote two memoirs: Calculated Risk (1950) and From the Danube to the Yalu (1954).

In 1962 Clark was elected an honorary member of the South Carolina Society of the Cincinnati in recognition of his outstanding service to his country.

Awards and decorations

Distinguished Service Cross
Army Distinguished Service Medal with oak leaf cluster
Navy Distinguished Service Medal
Legion of Merit
Bronze Star Medal
Purple Heart
World War I Victory Medal
Army of Occupation of Germany Medal
American Defense Service Medal
European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal
World War II Victory Medal
Army of Occupation Medal
National Defense Service Medal
Korean Service Medal
United Nations Service Medal
Order of the Crown, Grand Officer (Belgium)
Order of the Southern Cross, Grand Officer (Brazil)
Order of the White Lion, First Class (Czechoslovak Socialist Republic)
Légion d'honneur, Grand Cross (France)
Military Order of Savoy, Grand Cross (Italy)
Order of Saints Maurice and Lazarus, Grand Cross (Italy)
Medaglia d'Argento (Italy)
Order Wojenny Virtuti Militari, Krzyż Srebrny/Silver Cross (Poland)
Order of Ouissam Alaouite, Grand Cross - First Class (Morocco)
Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire (United Kingdom)
Order of Suvorov, First Class (USSR)

Personal life

Clark married Maurine Doran, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. M. A. Doran of Muncie, Ind., May 17, 1924. Mrs. Clark died October 5, 1966. Their son is Maj. William Doran Clark, U.S.A. (Ret.), and their daughter Patricia Ann (Mrs. Gordon H. Costing) [23]


An interstate spur (I-526) in the suburbs of Charleston, South Carolina, was named I-526 in his honor.
Prior to August 17, 2010, the Mark Clark Bridge in Washington State, connected Camano Island with the mainland. It was then superseded by the Camano Gateway Bridge, the Mark Clark Bridge being demolished the following month.

In film

Clark was portrayed by Michael Rennie in the film The Devil's Brigade.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Atkinson (2002), p.44.
  2. "General Mark Clark". 
  3. "Once Upon a Time in Liberated Rome". Robert Katz’s History of Modern Italy. 
  4. "From Salerno to Rome: General Mark W. Clark and the Challenges of Coalition Warfare".  Master's thesis abstract
  5. "Clark, General Mark Wayne (1896-1984)". Seattle, Washington. Retrieved 2012-02-10. "..grew up in Highland Park, a Chicago suburb near Fort Sheridan..." 
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4 "Biography (Mark W. Clark)". The Citadel Archives & Museum. Retrieved 24 June 2013. 
  7. Robertson, Rickey. "Remembering the Louisiana Maneuvers of 1941". SFA Center for Regional Heritage Research. Retrieved 25 June 2013. 
  8. Baxter (1999), p.58-9.
  9. Clark may be seen introducing the John Huston 1945 film, "The Battle of San Pietro" on various sites, including [1]
  10. Majdalany, Fred (1957). The Battle of Cassino. Houghton Mifflin. p. 140. 
  11. Holmes (2001) p113
  12. Hapgood & Richardson, p. 173
  13. Pope Pius - thanks Clark for the liberation of Rome.
  14. Holmes, Richard Battlefields of the Second World War "Cassino" 2001 BBC Worldwide p 126
  15. Holmes (2001) p 127.
  16. Holland, James (2008). Italy’s Sorrow: A Year of War, 1944-1945. Macmillan. pp. 213–4. ISBN 1429945435. 
  17. Katz (2003), p.27.
  18. The Tuscaloosa News, January 20th 1946,,751652
  20. Michael Warner; Kenneth McDonald. "US Intelligence Community Reform Studies Since 1947". CIA. p. 15. Retrieved 28 June 2013.
  21. ibid
  22. The Clark report, "Intelligence service. A Report to the Congress". Volume 2, 76 pages, 13, 17–18.


  • Atkinson, Rick (2002). Army at Dawn: The War in North Africa, 1942-1943. Holt Paperbacks. ISBN 0-8050-8724-9. 
  • Atkinson, Rick (2008). The Day of Battle: The War in Sicily and Italy, 1943-1944. Holt Paperbacks. ISBN 978-0-8050-8861-8. 
  • Baxter, Colin F. (1999). Field Marshal Bernard Law Montgomery, 1887-1976: A Selected Bibliography. Greenwood Press. ISBN 978-0-313-29119-7. 
  • Clark, Mark W. (2007). CALCULATED RISK, The War Memoirs of a Great American General. Enigma Books. ISBN 978-1-929631-59-9. 
  • Katz, Robert (2003). The Battle for Rome. Simon & Schuster. ISBN 978-0-7432-1642-5. 
  • Hapgood, David; Richardson, David (2002) [1984]. Monte Cassino: The Story of the Most Controversial Battle of World War II (reprint ed.). Cambridge Mass.: Da Capo. ISBN 0-306-81121-9. 

External links

Military offices
Preceded by
Newly activated organization
Commanding General of the Fifth United States Army
Succeeded by
Lucian Truscott
Preceded by
George Price Hays
Commanding General of the Sixth United States Army
Succeeded by
Albert Coady Wedemeyer
Preceded by
George S. Patton
Commanding General of the Seventh United States Army
1 January 1944 to 2 March 1944
Succeeded by
Alexander Patch

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