On July 27, 1937 Major Mark Wayne Clark received an assignment to the Third Division, Fort Lewis, Washington, as Assistant Chief of Staff. This would be the start of an association with the state, including consideration of retirement to Camano Island. During World War II, he would become a famous general. After the war in 1949 Washington honored him by naming the new bridge from Stanwood to Camano Island, Washington, the General Mark Clark Bridge.
Mark Clark: Military Man
Mark Clark was born in Madison Barracks, New York, into a career army family. His father was a colonel. He and grew up in Highland Park, a Chicago suburb near Fort Sheridan, where his father was stationed. Mark Clark graduated from West Point in 1917 having trained with Dwight Eisenhower (1890-1969), who become a lifelong friend, a friendship that would benefit both men. During World War I, Clark was wounded in action in France.
On May 17, 1924, he married Maurine Doran (1892-1966) and they had two children, William Doran Clark (b. 1925) and Patricia Ann (1926-1962). In 1937 Captain Clark graduated from the Army War College, Washington, D.C., and then assigned to Fort Lewis.Fort Lewis Assignment
The Clark family loved Fort Lewis and the Pacific Northwest with its beauty and yet with urban amenities available in Seattle, Tacoma, and San Francisco. Maurine (called Renie) found the post to be a happy place with frequent informal crab dinners and parties. Although they enjoyed post life and the urban attractions, Mark Clark insisted on getting away to a quiet place to fish and reflect. A surprise event at Fort Lewis would provide them with the perfect retreat.
Maude Griffith, an almost-forgotten cousin and her husband, Tom, made contact and visited the Clarks at Fort Lewis. The Griffiths invited them to stay with them at their summer Camano Island home. In her autobiography, Captain’s Bride, General’s Lady, Renie relates that they adored the island and vacationed there as often as possible. They purchased waterfront property on its northwest corner for a future retirement home.
In October 1938 Clark’s friend Lieutenant Colonel Dwight Eisenhower visited Fort Lewis and Major Clark. Ike, anxious to leave his staff duties in the Philippines and lead troops, was impressed with the post and its 15th Infantry Regiment, one of the best in the army. Following the visit, Eisenhower and Clark corresponded regarding Eisenhower’s effort to obtain a Fort Lewis assignment. Major Clark did what he could to realize the assignment. In 1939 Eisenhower received word of his transfer to Fort Lewis and then they exchanged letters concerning schools and post conditions. Clark suggested that Mamie Eisenhower (1896-1979) purchase curtains in The Philippines where they would be less expensive. He went over to the future Eisenhower home and measured the windows and sent Ike the details.
The Clarks lived in Quarters 5 on flag circle, where five homes sit behind the impressive 91st Division Monument. Set somewhat out in the open, the homes lacked privacy, so Renie and post wives called it Snoopie Loop.
Training Soldiers for War
Major Clark had a heavy work load planning and implementing division maneuvers. The division commanding officer gave him considerable freedom to test tactics. Clark trained the Third Division for an amphibious assault at Monterey, California, a tactic in which the army lacked experience. Brigadier General George C. Marshall (1880-1959), a brilliant officer who commanded Vancouver Barracks and then army Chief of Staff, served as a mentor to Clark. They visited each other and discussed tactics.
Major Clark proved adept at planning and carrying out military exercises. Clark also corresponded with General Lesley J. McNair (1883-1944) sharing ideas on amphibious warfare and McNair would later tap Clark to work in Army Plans and Operations Section. Major Clark’s Fort Lewis accomplishments were noted by Marshall, McNair, Eisenhower and others who would lead the army and select the most talented officers for important roles.Becoming a War Hero
On July 1, 1940, Clark was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel and received orders to the War College in Washington, D.C., as an instructor. The Clarks shipped their furniture and headed for a week’s vacation at Camano Island. On the way they heard a radio broadcast that the War College had closed. The Clark’s reduced their Camano vacation to three days and returned to Fort Lewis. LTC Clark was told to proceed to Washington, D.C. There, he occupied a number of important staff positions. In August 1941 he received promotion to Brigadier General, skipping over the rank of Colonel.
In April 1942 came a second star and in August Clark went with Eisenhower to England as the Deputy Supreme Commander. His third-star came later in 1942. He led the U.S. Fifth Army through North Africa and Italy to the capture of Rome in June 1944. In March 1945 he received a fourth-star as General and had become one of the well-known heroes of the war. Following the war, General Clark commanded the U.S. Occupation Forces Austria until May 1947.
Returning to Camano Island and Fort Lewis
General Clark returned to the United States in June 1947 to command the Sixth Army, headquartered at the Presidio of San Francisco. This assignment provided opportunities to make official visits to Fort Lewis and then Camano Island vacation time. Twice in 1947, in June and September, Mark, Maurine, and Ann Clark relaxed there. In 1949 the General Mark Clark Bridge was completed. It was dedicated on July 23, 1950. It is now (2009) scheduled to be replaced by a new span in 2011.
General Clark became Chief of Army Field Forces in September 1949 with offices at Fort Monroe, Virginia. This duty required inspection trips to Fort Lewis, including June 1950 and July 1951 with short stays on the island. Every trip there included a discussion of retiring to the island, but neither the general or Renie considered it the right time.
From the Korean War to the Citadel
In May 1952, Clark became Commander in Chief, United Nations Command and Commanding General, U.S. Army Forces, Far East, in Japan. He oversaw the conclusion of the Korean War and on July 27, 1953, he signed the Armistice.
With the armistice concluded, General Clark returned to the United States and at that time, retired. Again he considered his options: retiring to Camano Island, a business career, or accepting the position of president, the Citadel Military College of South Carolina. General Clark visited the Citadel and felt a strong closeness to the cadets. He accepted the presidency in October 1953.
In 1962, the Clarks' daughter, artist Ann Clark Oosting, died and in addition, Renie’s health had declined. General Clark considered Camano Island weather as bad for her so dropped any plans to retire there. The general retired from Citadel in 1965 and they lived in Charleston. Renie died on her 74th birthday. General Mark Wayne Clark died at Charleston, South Carolina, on April 17, 1984. He was the last famous World War II commander.