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Cold War Files: All Units: People: Mark W. Clark

Mark W. Clark
Mark W. Clark
b. May 1, 1896 - d. April 17, 1984
Captain, US Army, 1917-1935; Deputy Chief of Staff for the Civilian Conservation Corps, 1935-1937; Lieutenant Colonel, US Army, 1940-1941; Assistant Chief of Staff for Operations of the General Headquarters,1941-1942; Deputy Chief of Staff of Army Ground Forces, 1941; Chief of Staff, 1942; Deputy Commander in Chief of Allied Forces in North Africa, 1942-1943; Commander, UN and US Forces in Korea, 1952-1953; President, the Citadel, 1953-1955

General Mark Wayne Clark served as commander of United Nations (U.N). Forces in Korea from May 12, 1952, to October 7, 1953, and signed the Military Armistice Agreement on behalf of the U.N. Command with the North Korean Army and the Chinese People’s Volunteers at Munsan-ni, Korea, July 27, 1953.

The son of a career infantry officer, Clark was born in Madison Barracks, New York, and spent much of his youth in the Chicago suburb of Highland Park, near Fort Sheridan. With the assistance of his aunt, Zettie Marshall (the mother of General George C. Marshall), Clark secured, at age 17, an early appointment to the U.S. Military Academy. A tall, lean, and often sickly youth, Clark failed to distinguish himself at West Point as either an athlete or scholar, graduating 110th in a class of 139 in 1917.

Following graduation, he was commissioned a second lieutenant and assigned to the infantry. Severe health problems, which troubled him throughout his youth, caused him to be hospitalized and set him behind his classmates. Nevertheless, he was promoted to captain in August 1917, and saw action with the 11th Infantry in France, where he was wounded in action and later decorated for bravery.

In August 1941, Clark was named assistant chief of staff for operations of the general headquarters, U.S. Army. A month after the American entry into the war, Clark was appointed deputy chief of staff of Army Ground Forces, and less than six months later, chief of staff. In October 1942, Clark became deputy commander in chief of the Allied Forces in the North African Theater and subsequently planned the invasion of North Africa.

In 1943, Clark commanded the 5th Army in the Italian Campaign, the first to be activated in the European Theater, leading the force in the capture of Naples October 1, 1943, and Rome on June 4, 1944. As commander of the 15th Army Group, comprised of American and British forces, he accepted the surrender of German forces in Italy and Austria in May 1945. In June of that year he was appointed commander in chief of the U.S. occupation forces in Austria, and U.S. high commissioner for Austria. He 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 to the US and assumed command of the 6th Army, headquartered at the Presidio in San Francisco. Two years later he was named chief of Army Field Forces.

Following the removal of General Douglas MacArthur in 1951, Clark was named commander in chief, U.N. Command, and commanding general, U.S. Army Forces Far East, April 30, 1952, succeeding Lieutenant General Matthew B. Ridgway. Clark had visited Korea in February 1951, as chief of Army Field Forces to observe combat conditions and meet with then Eighth Army Commander Ridgway, a West Point classmate.

On his arrival in Tokyo to take command in May 1952, Clark was confronted with the military deadlock on the front lines, roughly along the 38th Parallel, stalled Armistice negotiations with the North Koreans and their Chinese allies, and a complicated and explosive prisoner of war (POW) situation. Clark advocated an offensive that would have included attacks on bases across the Yalu River, but his plan, which would have widened the war, was not approved.

The prisoner exchange issue, which had caused a suspension in the Armistice talks, was complicated by Communist agents within the U.N. POW camps. The month Clark took command, Chinese and North Korean prisoners at Koje Island rioted and took Brigadier General Francis T. Dodd captive. Clark noted “I hadn’t bothered to ask anyone in Washington about POWs, because my experience had been with old fashioned wars . . . . Never had I experienced a situation in which prisoners remained combatants and carried out orders smuggled out to them from the enemy High Command.” Clark approved use of overwhelming force to clear out the POW compounds, and “broke” two general officers responsible for bad judgment during the riots.

Following his election to the presidency, Eisenhower, as promised during his campaign, went to Korea, December 2-5, 1952, accompanied by Bradley and Secretary of Defense-designate Charles Wilson. Clark had prepared a “broad plan” for victory, but the president-elect never gave him the opportunity to present it. To a disappointed Clark it appeared that Eisenhower would seek an “honorable truce” once in office.

Early in 1953, Clark was authorized to bomb the North Korean capital, Pyongyang, hydroelectric plants along the Yalu River and other targets previously prohibited. Pyongyang was for all intents and purposes leveled. The air attacks on the North Korean hydroelectric system deprived that nation of electric power for two weeks. Clark persevered in the air raids in the face of muted protests from the British and French. His main purpose was to keep pressure on the Communists to sign an Armistice on U.N. terms.

On February 22, Clark, with approval from Washington, wrote to Kim Il Sung and Peng Dehuai proposing the exchange of sick and wounded prisoners. His adversaries, perhaps disheartened by the death of Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin on March 5, and the prospect of a frustrated United States turning to atomic weapons, agreed to the exchange. They suggested that this first move could “lead to the smooth settlement of the entire question of prisoners of war.” On April 2, the Communists agreed to Clark’s offer of a meeting of liaison groups and, in a reversal of their earlier stand, acceded to the use of a “neutral state” to ensure a just solution to the question of repatriation. The liaison groups met April 6 and Operation Little Switch began April 20. Six days later the first plenary session at Panmunjom since the previous October was held.

Clark now faced the task of persuading a reluctant President Syngman Rhee of South Korea to accept a compromise settlement. On April 27, Clark flew from headquarters in Tokyo to Seoul for a series of meetings with the strong-willed South Korean leader. Two days earlier, Rhee’s ambassador in Washington had told Eisenhower that Rhee would withdraw Republic of Korea forces from Clark’s U.N. Command if an Armistice allowed the Chinese forces to remain south of the Yalu. Rhee was unresponsive to Clark’s analysis that neither side had won the war. On May 12, Clark found Rhee still strongly opposed to a truce. Nevertheless, on May 25, the final offer of the U.N. Command was presented at Panmunjom.

Clark offered Rhee security assurances, U.S. financial aid, and military assistance to build the ROK Army to 20 divisions. As the date for concluding the Armistice approached, Rhee made a last desperate move to disrupt the agreement. On June 18, he ordered 27,000 Communist prisoners who were awaiting a neutral party to determine their status to be released into the South Korean countryside. Yet, despite Communist protestations, diplomacy prevailed, Rhee was issued a stern reprimand by his American allies, and the agreement held. On July 27, 1953, at the 159th plenary session, an Armistice agreement was formalized. Believing himself to be the first U.S. commander to agree to an Armistice without victory, Clark signed the peace documents at U.N. Command advance headquarters at Munsan-ni, stating afterwards, "I cannot find it in me to exalt at this hour."

Clark relinquished his Far East command on October 7, 1953, and retired from the service at the end of that month. He accepted the presidency of The Citadel in Charleston, South Carolina, a post he held until his retirement in 1955, when he was named president emeritus.
In 1954, he had been appointed by former President Herbert Hoover to chair a task force to investigate the Central Intelligence Agency and other intelligence organizations of the U.S. government.

He wrote his memoirs, From the Danube to the Yalu (1954), and spoke frequently on the threat of Communism and the need for greater U.S. military preparedness. In the 1960s, he renewed his friendship with Eisenhower, which had been strained during the Korean War.

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