General Mark Wayne Clark was born on May 1, 1896 in Madison Barracks, Sackets Harbor, NY. However, He spent most of his time in Illinois, where his father was stationed at Fort Sheridian as a career infantry officer. Clark was baptized Episcopalian though his mother was the daughter of Romanian Jews.
Clark smuggled sweets into the barracks and because of this his classmates called him “Contraband”. He graduated from West Point with a ranking of 110 out of 139. He was then commissioned a 2nd lieutenant of Infantry. He was seventeen when he gained entrance into the military academy, but he lost time due to frequent illness.
In World War I there was a rapid expansion of the army, therefore Clark quickly moved up in rank and was promoted to 1st lieutenant on May 15 and then to Captain on August 15, 1917. He served in France as part of the U.S. 11th Infantry and was wounded in action in the Vosges Mountains.
Captain Clark was transferred to General Staff Headquarters of the First United States Army until the end of the hostilities. This was due to his convalescence. Later he served with the Third Army in its duties in Germany.
Clark served in a variety of staff and training roles between wars. In the 1920’s he served in the office of the Secretary of War. In 1925, he completed the officer’s course at the Infantry School. He then served as a staff officer with the 30th Infantry in San Francisco.
His next assignment was as a training instructor to the Indian National Guard. On January 14, 1933, he was promoted to Major.
In 1935-1936, Major Clark served as a deputy commander of the C.C.C., or Civilian Conservation Corps, district in Omaha, Nebraska. He was working as commander for the C.C.C. between tours at the Command and General Staff school in 1935 and the Army War College in 1937.
Clark was then assigned to Fort Lewis, Washington. He received a promotion to Lieutenant Colonel on July 1, when he was instructing at the Army War College in March 1940. Clark, in conjunction with General Leslie McNair, they selected thousands of acres of vacant land in Louisiana for military maneuvers.
August 4, 1941, was when Clark was promoted two grades to Brigadier General as the U.S. Army geared up for entry into World War II. He made Assistant Chief of Staff at General Headquarters, U.S. Army in Washington, D.C.
World War II began and a month after entry into the war, General Clark was appointed Deputy Chief of Staff of Army Ground Forces.
By May 1942, Clark became Chief of Staff due to staff members quickly being moved to newly created commands by General Gage Michael Miller. Clark changed several ranks throughout the year. His duties were to plan and direct the training of units for the invasion of North Africa. This was known as Operation Torch. Part of the preparation for this invasion involved spiriting Clark into North Africa before the invasion took place to negotiate the surrender, or cooperation, of the Vichy French at Cherchell on October 21-22, 1942. When the negotiations were over, Clark was promoted to lieutenant general on November 11, 1942. Clark was made the commanding general of the U.S. Fifth Army and was responsible for training units for the invasion of Italy in September 1943. This was known as Operation Avalanche.
Throughout the rest of World War II and even the Korean War, Mark Clark held several different titles and positions. He received awards and decorations such as the Distinguished Service Cross, the Distinguished Service Medal, and the Grand Croix Légion d’honneur.
Clark died on April 17, 1984 at the age of eighty-seven. He is buried at The Citadel.