Clark, Mark

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Clark, Mark (1896–1984), general, and one of five top U.S. Army commanders in World War II.A third‐generation soldier, Clark was born in Madison Barracks, New York, the son of an army colonel. Graduating from West Point in 1917, Clark became an infantry captain and was wounded in France. During the interwar period he served at various military posts, and graduated from the Command and General Staff School and the Army War College.

In World War II, General Clark played a major role in preparing the invasion of North Africa, including leading a successful secret mission by submarine to gain the cooperation of Vichy French officials. Such collaboration drew criticism, but it was defended as military expediency, and resistance to the invasion in November 1942 proved minimal.

Clark then trained and led the U.S. Fifth Army in the invasion and conquest of Italy in 1943–45. The Allied campaign up the mountainous Italian Peninsula was arduous, and its tactics drew some serious criticism. As U.S. commander and, after December 1944, Allied commander in Italy, Clark bore much of the controversy, including that over the Battle of Anzio, the bombing of the abbey on Monte Cassino, and the bloody defeat of the 36th (Texas) Division, which lost 2,100 men in 24 hours attempting to cross the Rapido River.

In June 1944, Clark led his forces into Rome. Some postwar critics, including Dan Kurzman in The Race for Rome (1975), argued that Clark's desire to be the first to seize an Axis capital took precedence over the more important objective of cutting off and entrapping retreating German forces. The Germans built a new line that held until April 1945.

After the war, Clark as a four‐star general, commanded U.S. occupation forces in Austria (1945–47). During the Korean War, he succeeded Matthew B. Ridgway in April 1952 in command of United Nations forces. In July 1953, he signed the armistice and initiated the difficult prisoner exchange.

Retiring from the army, Clark served as president of The Citadel Military College of South Carolina (1953–65). Thereafter, he championed continued Conscription and expanded U.S. military effort during the Vietnam War.

Mark Clark's military career was frequently embroiled in dispute, in part due to his readiness to take controversial positions in difficult circumstances. Additionally, although an individual of undeniable courage and commitment, Clark lacked the personal aura of the other top U.S. Army commanders of World War II.


Mark W. Clark , Calculated Risk, 1950.
Mark W. Clark , From the Danube to the Yalu, 1954.
Martin Blumenson , Mark Clark, 1984.

John Whiteclay Chambers II