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Go Back   Armchair General and HistoryNet >> The Best Forums in History > Historical Events & Eras > World War II > Personalities

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Personalities From the leaders to the followers; this is about the people who made history.

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  #1  
Old 03 Nov 09, 02:42
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Gen.Mark Clark: a man promoted beyond his ability?

General Mark Clark is a rather controversial figure during WWII. He famously did not "play well" with his allies, always suspicious of British motives and intent and it has been said that he was more interested in his own personal glory than actually being a decent leader of men under his command.

A few examples spring to mind:

1- his "advice" to Maj. Gen. John P. Lucas, commander of the US VI corps and overall commander of the ANZIo operation was to be cautious, reflecting on his own bitter experience at Salerno. By imparting this bad advice, he made Lucas act far too cautiously on those intial two days when there was literally no German opposition to the allies. I would suggest that there is the possibility that he gave this advice so that Lucas would fail, a deliberate act of sabotage to the aliied war effort, because if Lucas had succeeded then it would be his name in the newspapers, not Clarks.


2 - his insane order to the 36th Division [Texas] to assault and stablish a bridgehead across the Rapido river in early 1944. It was a total failure and 1700 men paid the ultimate price for this ghastly order. I understand that Clark was a hated man in Texas after that bloodbath.

3 - Finally his refusal to obey the direct order from his superior officer, General Alexander, to use VI corps to help with the envelopment of the geramns retreating from the Gustav line but instead Clark sent the U.S. VI Corps towards Rome and captured it on June 4, 1944. As a result, he failed to exploit the gap in the German positions that had opened up following the capture of Monte Cassino, allowing a substantial number of German units to escape and reinforce what became the Gothic Line. He wanted to ride into Rome as a conquering hero and got his wish but at the cost of letting a sizable number of german units to withdraw.

For this calumity I suggest that Clark is not worthy of any of the accolades and awards he was given.

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  #2  
Old 03 Nov 09, 04:07
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Mark Clark is not always held in high esteem. There is an old saying in the US Army, that you always promote the tallest! Mark Clark was certainly tall! As for your statements:

1. The problem might have been more with Lucas than any instructions given to him. Churchill thought they were throwing a wildcat onto the shore and instead it turned into a beached whale. Judging by the German response and counterattack, Lucas might not have been in the wrong.

2. Congress investigated this action after the war and concluded it was within Clark's scope as commander to make this order. The problem actually might have been more with the 36th. For all the casualties caused by the attack, the German diary of the area did not even record a serious attack was made. The 36th was one of several divisions that had a rep for "bad luck". Some divisions are better than the rest, which means some are worse. The efforts of the 36th at the Rapido were perhaps underwhelming.

3. Keep in mind that Clark was the ranking American General in Italy. As such he had to consider his orders as an American first and Ally second (I don't necessarily agree, I am just stating his mindset). Alexander was not known for forcing his generals to follow orders closely. Look at all the times Montgomery did what he pleased. Clark got it in his mind that Clark's "plan" was more of a "suggestion". Clark was very sensitive to getting his share of credit. His wife back in the US used to tell the Press what was in his letters. This got him him chewed out by Marshall. While Ike, Monty and Patton got their names in the news, Clark was determined he would get his.

To sum up, I like something I read that Audie Murphy did to him. Clark approached Murphy after Murphy was wearing his Medal of Honor. He waited for Murphy to salute and then got embarrassed when he realized that everyone had to salute the medal itself. Clark saluted and Murphy returned it. Murphy later said: "It was the least I could do after all he did to us in Italy...".

Clark was an excellent planner, but perhaps the flaws in his personality came out when he became commander. He might have been found out if he had gone through regimental and division command before he made 3 star.

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  #3  
Old 03 Nov 09, 05:12
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I like the Audie Murphy story

I've never come across that one before but it does indeed sum up what I have read about the general feeling towards him as a commander while in WWII.

Your point on him skipping ahead in the chain of command is very pertinent and in Clarks case, is very telling indeed. I would strongly suggest he would have never have made the 3 star rank if he'd first had to command a regiment then a division. His abrasive personality and vainglorious nature would have made him more enemies amongst the general staff and thus he'd have destroyed his own career.

In regards to Alexander, yes he was more of a man that made "suggestions" rather than give direct orders but I believe in the case of the envelopment, it was a direct order and Clark disobeyed. However, because SHAEF didn't want to be be seen as having a loose canon in charge of an army, also the great propaganda coup that capturing Rome was and finally, everything being overshadowed by D-Day, was enough to let Clark get away with this appalling piece of generalship.
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Old 03 Nov 09, 14:17
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Clark had few redeeming qualities but at least he wasn't Courtney Hodges.
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Old 04 Nov 09, 21:06
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Mark Clark owed his position as deputy commander and head planner for Torch to Ike. It turns out that Ike and Clark were good friends from their West Point days. After PH Marshall asked Clark for ten names of Brigadier generals to select as war plans chief. Clark responded by naming Ike as the only candidate he would consider. Ike felt he owed Clark a debt and repaid that debt by naming Clark his chief planner for Torch and also deputy commander. Both Ike and Clark had risen quickly in rank passing over hundreds of more senior officers like Patton who noted about Clark that he was a relentless self promoter who seemed more interested in 'bettering his own future than in winning the war'.

Clark's penchant for self -promotion was not lost on Ike and he was sometimes admonished for his blatant attempts at gaining recognition, straining their relationship.

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Old 04 Nov 09, 21:14
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Clark had few redeeming qualities but at least he wasn't Courtney Hodges.
Nor Ned Almond.
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Old 04 Nov 09, 22:44
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Clark had few redeeming qualities but at least he wasn't Courtney Hodges.
Or Lt. Gen. Herbert Lumsden

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Old 04 Nov 09, 23:29
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General Mark Clark was a man, but not a combat general. He should have stayed behind a desk.
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Old 05 Nov 09, 01:18
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Quote:
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Or Lt. Gen. Herbert Lumsden

Harvey
I made the comparison with Hodges because both commanders were US generals in command of a US Army when they made appalling decisions that caused unnecessarily high casualties. Lumsden may have been a first class twit but I don't believe we can compare him and Clark unless you're making the point that both got to high rank because of who they knew.
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Old 11 Nov 09, 04:16
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I made the comparison with Hodges because both commanders were US generals in command of a US Army when they made appalling decisions that caused unnecessarily high casualties. Lumsden may have been a first class twit but I don't believe we can compare him and Clark unless you're making the point that both got to high rank because of who they knew.
No. There are other reasons Lumsden was brought up. I surprised you let it go.
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Old 11 Nov 09, 12:14
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No. There are other reasons Lumsden was brought up. I surprised you let it go.
I guess I'm a bit thick, pray enlighten me.
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Old 12 Nov 09, 11:03
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Quote:
Originally Posted by FM Harvey View Post
Mark Clark owed his position as deputy commander and head planner for Torch to Ike. It turns out that Ike and Clark were good friends from their West Point days. After PH Marshall asked Clark for ten names of Brigadier generals to select as war plans chief. Clark responded by naming Ike as the only candidate he would consider. Ike felt he owed Clark a debt and repaid that debt by naming Clark his chief planner for Torch and also deputy commander. Both Ike and Clark had risen quickly in rank passing over hundreds of more senior officers like Patton who noted about Clark that he was a relentless self promoter who seemed more interested in 'bettering his own future than in winning the war'.

Clark's penchant for self -promotion was not lost on Ike and he was sometimes admonished for his blatant attempts at gaining recognition, straining their relationship.

Harvey
The biggest reason Ike owed Clark was because Clark, while at AGF in 1939, got Ike transferred to Camp Lewis, Washington - away from MacArthur and the Philippines.

Clark was an energetic, capable deputy commander, planner, trainer and negotiator who deserves much credit for TORCH and the French surrender. His ego was his undoing - for instance, when he refused to take over II Corps after Kasserine Pass on grounds that, as Fifth Army's commander, moving to a corps command would be perceived as a demotion. Of course, Patton jumped at the assignment, and became famous. Eisenhower was terribly unhappy over Clark's sin of putting ambition ahead of duty.

Had Clark been the chief AFHQ planner for AVALANCHE, or had Morgan's role in OVERLORD, he would have done well. But those positions weren't glamorous enough for Clark, and he knew well that Marshall had decreed the highest promotions would go to field officers, not staff officers.

So to answer this thread's question, he wasn't "promoted" beyond his ability, but he was moved (laterally?) into a job for which he was ill-suited.
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Old 12 Nov 09, 20:07
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Your point on him skipping ahead in the chain of command is very pertinent and in Clarks case, is very telling indeed. I would strongly suggest he would have never have made the 3 star rank if he'd first had to command a regiment then a division. His abrasive personality and vainglorious nature would have made him more enemies amongst the general staff and thus he'd have destroyed his own career.
Clark solidified his reputation and attracted a lot of attention in January 1940 while Assistant Chief of staff of the 3rd Div. He had been the principle for planning a large scale amphibious exercise, the largest exercise of any sort in over a decade. More than a few heavies showed up including Marshall who had been selected army Chief of Staff pending Malins retirement. Just before the exercise started the 3rd Div commander Maj Gen Sweeny was hospitalized. The assitant div commander and chief of staff, failed to step up to the bat, some claim they were too busy sucking up to CoS Marshall and 4th Army Commander DeWitt. Whatever the case Marshall was impressed by the LtCol who was actually running the exericse in the div commanders role. This of course is not quite the same thing as commanding a division, or regiment. However that Clark was able to take the reins and handled them well, rather than choking at a critical moment said a great deal to Marshall.

In the 3rd bn 11th Reigment during 1918 Clark was rated the best company commander, & when the battalion commander became ill 22 year old Clark was made the battalion commander. Then was wounded three days later by artillery fire. In his evaluation the regimental commander described Captain Clark as "..quiet and unassuming.."
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Old 12 Nov 09, 20:22
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The biggest reason Ike owed Clark was because Clark, while at AGF in 1939, got Ike transferred to Camp Lewis, Washington - away from MacArthur and the Philippines.
AGF? If you mean 'Army Ground Forces' that organization did not exist in 1939. It was not created until 1942.

Clark was Assistant Chief of Staff ,G2/G3, for Training of the 3rd Div in 1939 when Eisenhower returned from the Phillpines. What he might have had to do with Ike's return from the Phillpinese from there I cant recall. Eisenhower had visited Clark at Ft lewis in 1938 and had been attracted by the place and by the forward looking training Clark showed him. He seemed to think it a positive contrast to the activity in the Phillpines. however after leaving Manila in 1939 ike went first to Washington DC for over a month and seems to have gotten the orders to Ft Lewis while there, so maybe he did his own politicking?
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Old 12 Nov 09, 20:37
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ArmchairDigger View Post
1- his "advice" to Maj. Gen. John P. Lucas, commander of the US VI corps and overall commander of the ANZIo operation was to be cautious, reflecting on his own bitter experience at Salerno. By imparting this bad advice, he made Lucas act far too cautiously on those intial two days when there was literally no German opposition to the allies. I would suggest that there is the possibility that he gave this advice so that Lucas would fail, a deliberate act of sabotage to the aliied war effort, because if Lucas had succeeded then it would be his name in the newspapers, not Clarks.
:
Patton stopped off to vist Lucas a few weeks before the Avalanche operation. He opined to Lucas that the entire operation was a "suicide mission" & was certain the Germans would be able to counter attack with far more strength than was thought possible.

Key members of the corps staff had been at Salerno as well and were skeptical the higher level asessments of a weak German counter attack.
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