J. J. Clark
|Born||12 Nov 1893|
|Died||13 Jul 1971|
Contributor: David Stubblebine
ww2dbaseJoseph James "Jocko" Clark was born in a log cabin on 12 Nov 1893 in the United States near the town of Pryor in The Indian Territories, Cherokee Nation, in what would later be the state of Oklahoma. Clark, the oldest of ten children, attended the Willie Halsell school and Oklahoma A&M College at Stillwater (later to become Oklahoma State University) before earning an appointment to the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis, Maryland. It was at the academy that he was given the nickname "Jocko" that stuck with him for the rest of his life, though he preferred to be called "J. J." He was a member of the Academy class of 1918 but with World War I looming, the entire class graduated a year early in Jun 1917. Clark graduated 47th in a class of 199 and was the first Native American to graduate from the Naval Academy. Fellow members of this class were other future World War II notables Miles Browning, Clifton Sprague, and Thomas Sprague (no relation).
ww2dbaseUpon graduation, Clark was assigned to the armored cruiser North Carolina escorting troop convoys across the Atlantic where he remained throughout World War I. Following the war, he served in destroyers before he took his first command, the destroyer Brooks (relieving Commander Jack Fletcher), and then he served as Executive Officer of the destroyer Bulmer. Upon his return to the United States in 1923, he became an instructor at the Naval Academy.
ww2dbaseDesignated a Naval Aviator on 25 Mar 1925 at Pensacola, Florida, Clark served in several aviation assignments including Flight Officer of Utility Squadron One, Aviation Officer on the battleship Mississippi, and Aviation Technical Advisor to Commander of Battleship Division Three. In 1929 when Clark was assigned to the Long Beach, California area, he piloted a catapult plane launched off the battleship USS Pennsylvania in a demonstration flight with humorist, aviation enthusiast, and fellow Oklahoma Cherokee Will Rogers as a passenger. In 1931 and 1932, Clark commanded Fighting Squadron 2-B, the "Flying Chiefs," off the carrier USS Lexington (Lexington-class) when Ernest King was Captain and then Clark was Air Officer of that carrier in 1936 and 1937.
ww2dbaseShore duty on regular rotations included Executive Officer of the Naval Air Station, Anacostia, DC; Aeronautical Member of the Board of Inspection and Survey; Executive Officer of the Naval Air Station at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii with a concurrent duty as commander of Patrol Wing Two at Kaneohe; Inspector of Naval Aircraft, Curtiss-Wright Corporation, Buffalo, New York; and as Executive Officer of the Naval Air Station, Jacksonville, Florida.
ww2dbaseDuring this inter-war period, both at sea and ashore, Clark developed a well-earned reputation for being a no-nonsense, plain talking, get-things-done kind of officer. When the Pearl Harbor Attack brought the United States into World War II, Clark was executive officer of the aircraft carrier USS Yorktown (Yorktown-class) under Elliott Buckmaster. Yorktown was in Norfolk, Virginia at the time before being quickly dispatched to the Pacific where she participated in strikes on the Marcus and Gilbert Islands. For these strikes, Yorktown was part of Task Force 17 commanded by Rear Admiral Jack Fletcher, also aboard Yorktown. Fletcher and Buckmaster got along well with one another but Clark's nature was to wage war far more aggressively than either of them, particularly in the use of Naval Aviation, and so he clashed with both of his immediate superiors during this time.
ww2dbaseJust before Yorktown sailed for what would become the Battle of the Coral sea, Clark rotated off the ship. He had been selected for promotion to captain in Jan 1942 but delayed accepting the promotion until he was detached from Yorktown in mid-Feb 1942. He took command of the final fitting out of the Escort Carrier Suwannee at the Newport News Naval Shipyard in Virginia. Clark was aware of plans to land troops in North Africa later that year and he wanted to get his ship into the fight. When Suwannee's construction schedule showed that she would likely not be completed in time, Clark cajoled the yard superintendent into getting the ship ready to sail two weeks ahead of schedule. This included loading the ship with munitions while still in the yard, which was completely against Navy regulations. But Clark got his way and Suwannee was commissioned in time to join the fleet bound for the assault and occupation of French Morocco in Nov 1942. During those operations, Suwannee's antisubmarine patrols sank what was thought to be a German U-boat but was later determined to be a Vichy-French submarine. This was the first time aircraft from an escort carrier successfully attacked an enemy submarine, something that helped prove the effectiveness of carrier-borne antisubmarine warfare. For outstanding service during the North Africa operations, Clark received a Letter of Commendation with Ribbon (later converted to the Navy Commendation Medal).
ww2dbaseClark sailed with Suwannee to the Pacific but was relieved shortly after arriving at Efate, New Hebrides (now Vanuatu). Again, Clark was tasked with the final fitting out and commissioning of a new aircraft carrier at Newport News, but this time it was the third of the new Essex-class Fleet Carriers, USS Yorktown, named for his old ship that had been shot out from under Buckmaster and Fletcher at Midway. Yorktown was commissioned 15 Apr 1943 and sailed straight away for operations against Marcus, Wake, Mille, Jaluit, Makin, Kwajalein, and Wotje. Once again, Clark clashed with his immediate superior over what Clark thought was too timid of a command style. During the Marcus raid of 31 Aug 1943, five Yorktown aviators did not return and Clark wanted to launch a search. Task Force Commander Rear Admiral Charles Pownall instead called for withdrawing without a search. Clark strongly objected and told Pownall, "You've got the widest yellow streak up your back of any admiral I've ever seen in my life. ... I don't care if when I return to Pearl I don't have a ship and I don't have a command. You can make me a seaman-second tomorrow, but this is my ship and I'm going to send out a search for them!" The search was made, the aviators were not found, but the incident forever endeared Clark to his aviators; and instead of costing him his command, Clark was awarded the Silver Star and the Presidential Unit Citation for the overall operation.
ww2dbaseAboard Yorktown during the Marcus Island strikes was a documentary film crew from Paramount Pictures. Overseen by the Navy's head of photography, Edward Steichen, they shot miles of film showing routine carrier operations and their combat operations against Marcus Island. A year later, additional footage was shot aboard sister-ship USS Ticonderoga on her shakedown cruise to Trinidad. The two batches of film, along with other combat footage, were stitched together into a one-hour documentary film called The Fighting Lady that featured very prominently the supposedly fictional "Captain Jocko." That film went on to win the 1944 Academy Award for Best Documentary Film.
ww2dbaseDuring his year as captain of Suwannee and his year as captain of Yorktown, Clark's aggressive style and excellent ship handling abilities came to the attention of his superiors, especially Marc Mitscher and Raymond Spruance. Clark was elevated to Rear Admiral on 31 Jan 1944 and given command of Task Group 58.1 centered around USS Hornet (Essex-class) as the fleet prepared to sail for the Palau-Woleai Raid and the Hollandia operations.
ww2dbaseClark's flagship, Hornet, was commanded by the erratic Miles Browning, an academy classmate. Browning was only offered command of Hornet to draw his often brilliant but also often reckless influences away from Halsey's staff, where Browning had been chief-of-staff. Owing to Clark's excellent seamanship skills, Clark twice saved Browning from trouble by intervening first before the ship ran aground and then again before the ship rammed another vessel. When Browning ignored Clark's recommendation to lower a boat to search for a crewman who had fallen overboard and was later found to have drowned, it was Clark who brought the matter to Mitscher and Spruance who swiftly removed Browning from Hornet.
ww2dbaseClark remained aboard Hornet in command of Hornet's carrier Task Group under Mitscher and Spruance for the Marianas Campaign. Some authors write that the day after "The Great Marianas Turkey Shoot," Mitscher's famous order to "Turn on the lights" was actually in response to a message from Clark that Clark had already turned on the lights aboard Hornet. Clark also sought special permission more than once for his Task Group to launch strikes against Japanese airfields on Iwo Jima, Chichi Jima, Haha Jima, and Muko Jima. Such was Clark's interest in the "Jimas" that Hornet aviators created parody stock certificates for the "Jocko Jima Development Company" to be awarded to every pilot who flew one of the strikes. Clark continued in his role as carrier Task Group commander through the Battle of Iwo Jima, the strikes against Tokyo and Yokohama, and the Okinawa Campaign. Praised for his actions during this entire period, Clark was awarded the Navy Cross, two awards of the Navy Distinguished Service Medal, the Legion of Merit with Combat "V", and another Presidential Unit Citation.
ww2dbaseIn Jun 1945, Clark hauled down his flag and relinquished command of his Task Group to academy classmate and now a Rear Admiral, Tommy Sprague. Clark returned to the United States and was appointed Chief of the Naval Air Training Command in Corpus Christi, Texas, which is where he was when the war ended. In Sep 1946 he became Assistant Chief of Naval Operations for Air before taking other post-war commands at sea. When the Korean War broke out, Clark lobbied hard for a combat assignment and was put in command of Carrier Task Force 77 operating in support of the Korean operations. In 1952, Clark was promoted to Vice Admiral and commanded the Seventh Fleet in Asia during the later stages of the conflict.
ww2dbaseAfter serving nearly his entire Navy career in Naval Aviation, Clark retired on 1 Dec 1953 with a tombstone promotion to Admiral. In retirement, Clark became a business executive, including Chairman of the Board of a New York investment firm. Clark is an honorary chief of both the Sioux and Cherokee nations. He died 13 Jul 1971 at the Naval Hospital, St. Albans, New York and is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.
ww2dbaseUpon Admiral Clark's retirement from the Navy, Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Mick Carney sent a message saying, "Your fearless and aggressive leadership in battle, and your unswerving adherence to the objective of victory, have engendered the confidence of your comrades in arms and will serve as an inspiration to future generations of Navy men. Well done, Repeat, well done."
ww2dbaseJ. J. Clark's decorations include:
The Navy Cross,
the Navy Distinguished Service Medal (two awards),
the Army Distinguished Service Medal for service in Korea,
the Silver Star,
the Legion of Merit with Combat "V",
the Navy Commendation Ribbon with Combat "V",
the Army Commendation Ribbon,
the World War I Victory Medal with Escort clasp,
the Presidential Unit Citation (four awards),
the China Service Medal,
the American Defense Medal with Fleet clasp,
the American Campaign Medal,
the European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with one Battle Star (North Africa),
the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with twelve Battle stars (Marcus Raid, Wake Raid, Gilbert Islands, Kwajalein, 1944 Pacific Raids, Hollandia, New Guinea Campaign, Truk Raid, Marianas Operations, Western Carolines, Iwo Jima, Okinawa),
the World War II Victory Medal,
the Navy Occupation Medal,
the National Defense Service Medal,
the Korean Service Medal (one star),
the United Nations Service Medal,
the Philippine Liberation Medal (one star),
the Republic of Korea Order of Military Merit, and
the Korean Presidential Unit Citation.
United States Navy
United States Naval Academy
Military Hall of Honor
Arlington National Cemetery
The Pacific War Online Encyclopedia
Commander in Chief: Franklin Delano Roosevelt, His Lieutenants, and Their War; Eric Larrabee, 1987
American's Fighting Admirals: Winning the War at Sea in World War II; William Tuohy, 2007
United States Naval Institute
NavSource Naval History
"The Patton of the Pacific: Admiral Jocko Clark" YouTube Video by OsyioTV
Intrepid Insider – Newsletter of the USS Intrepid Museum Ship
Oklahoma Historical Society
The Claremore Daily Progress
F4F Wildcat and F6F Hellcat Aces of VF-2; Thomas McKelvey Cleaver, 2015
J. J. Clark Timeline
|12 Nov 1893||Joseph James Clark was born in a log cabin near the town of Pryor in The Indian Territories, Cherokee Nation, in what would later become the state of Oklahoma, United States.|
|28 Jun 1917||J. J. Clark, United States Naval Academy class of 1918, graduated one year early due to the looming WWI. Clark was a member of the Cherokee Nation and was the first Native American to graduate from the Naval Academy.|
|29 Dec 1927||Lieutenant J. J. Clark piloted a catapult plane launched off the USS Pennsylvania in Long Beach Harbor, California, United States in a demonstration flight with humorist and fellow Oklahoma Cherokee Will Rogers as passenger.|
|11 Nov 1942||TBF Avengers from escort carrier USS Suwannee, using aerial depth charges, attacked and sank a Vichy-French submarine southwest of Casablanca in what would be the first successful attack of an enemy submarine by aircraft from an escort carrier.|
|31 Jan 1944||J. J. Clark was selected for promotion to Rear Admiral.|
|10 Feb 1944||Captain Ralph Jennings relieved Captain J. J. Clark as captain of the USS Yorktown (Essex-class) at Majuro; J. J. Clark was promoted to Rear Admiral.|
|15 Mar 1944||Rear Admiral J. J. Clark assumed command of carrier Task Group 58.1 built around USS Hornet (Essex-class) at Pearl Harbor, US Territory of Hawaii.|
|3 May 1944||While USS Hornet was anchored at Kwajalein, Marshall Islands, a carbon dioxide fire extinguisher was discharged on the hangar deck for unknown reasons as a film was being shown. This triggered a stampede that threw two sailors overboard. One was rescued and the other's body was recovered two days later. At the time of the incident, Rear Admiral J. J. Clark recommended to Hornet Captain Miles Browning that a boat should be lowered to search for crewmen in the water and that a muster should be called to see if any sailors were missing. Browning declined both suggestions, something Clark saw as reckless and led directly to Browning losing command of Hornet.|
|15 Jun 1945||Rear Admiral J. J. Clark relinquished of command of carrier Task Group 38.1 built around USS Hornet (Essex-class) at Leyte, Philippines.|
|7 Oct 1951||Rear Admiral J. J Clark assumed command of carrier Task Force 77 taking part in the Korean War.|
|7 Mar 1952||J. J. Clark was promoted to vice admiral.|
|1 Dec 1953||J. J. Clark was promoted to admiral and placed on the retired list.|
|13 Jul 1971||J. J. Clark died at the Naval Hospital in the St. Albans neighborhood of Queens, New York, United States.|
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Joachim von Ribbentrop, German Foreign Minister, Aug 1939