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First Name: Joseph

Last Name: Clark

Birthplace: Pryor Indian Territory, OK, USA

Gender: Male

Branch: Navy (present)


Middle Name: James

Date of Birth: 12 November 1893

Date of Death: 13 July 1971

Rank or Rate: Admiral

Years Served: 1917-1953
Joseph James Clark

Graduate, U.S. Naval Academy, Class of 1917

•  World War I (1914 - 1918)
•  World War II (1941 - 1945)
•  Korean War (1950 - 1953)


Joseph James "Jocko" Clark

Admiral, U.S. Navy

Joseph James "Jocko" Clark was born on 12 November 1893 in a log cabin on a creek in Pryor Indian Territory in the northeast corner of Oklahoma. His father was William A. Clark, a Native American Cherokee, who was one of the first of fifty-four students in 1875 to live and be educated in the Cherokee Indian Orphan Asylum in Salina, OK. His mother was Mary Poly Ward Clark who later died in childbirth.

Naval Career

Clark's distinguished naval career began in May of 1913 when he entered the U.S. Naval Academy. While at the Academy, he was given the nickname "Jocko" when, on one of his first days there, Clark was standing in ranks and a classmate called out "The Right Reverend J. Jonathan Jockey Clark!" Scheduled to graduate in 1918, that class was accelerated and graduated in 1917. He was the first Native American to graduate from the Naval Academy.

Ensign Clark was assigned his first combat duty as a deck officer aboard the armored cruiser USS North Carolina (ACR-12) on convoy duty in the Atlantic. In 1921, he was assigned his first command, the destroyer USS Brooks (DD-232).

Clark graduated with Aviation Class No. 21 on 25 March 1925 at Pensacola, FL, and designated a Naval Aviator. He became a fervent believer in naval aviation.

As a Commander, in May 1941 Clark was Executive Officer on the aircraft carrier USS Yorktown (CV-5). He was promoted to Captain on 2 January 1942, while aboard the Yorktown.

The newly-promoted Captain Clark was in line to command one of the new escort carriers that was being converted from merchant ships. He was given a choice, and chose the USS Suwannee. On 24 September 1942, Suwannee was commissioned as auxiliary escort carrier ACV-27. Less than a month after her commissioning, Clark and Suwannee was underway in the invasion of North Africa.

Clark's next post was ordered by Admiral Ernest Joseph King who had two major roles: he was Chief of Naval Operations and Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Fleet. Clark was selected to command the new USS Yorktown (CV-10). (Yorktown CV-5 was sunk in the Battle of Midway on 7 June 1942.) Yorktown (CV-10) was commissioned on 15 April 1943 with Clark in command.

After joining the 5th Fleet in the Pacific, Clark took the Yorktown into combat on 31 August with fighter and bomber strikes against Marcus Island. Strikes against Wake Island followed on 5-6 October. Yorktown participated in assaults in the Gilbert Islands at Tarawa, Abemama, and Makin in November. During 1943, Yorktown was in Task Force 50; in January '44 she became part of Task Group 58.1 in Fast Carrier Task Force 58 for the assaults on Majuro and Kwajalein in the Marshall Islands. Clark was promoted to Rear Admiral on 31 January.

On 10 February, Clark was relieved as commander of Yorktown. Before departing for Pearl Harbor, he made it clear to his superiors that he wanted sea duty and combat; not shore duty. He also wanted to continue serving under Vice Admiral Marc A. Mitscher, Commander of Fast Carrier Task Force 58. Mitscher sent Clark a message; "I want you back here in Task Force 58 soon." Clark was headed for a shore billet, but Admiral King interceded, changed Clark's orders, and returned him to 5th Fleet and Fast Carrier Task Force 58.

At the direction of Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Pacific Fleet and Pacific Ocean Areas, Clark raised his flag in the newly-commissioned (29 November 1943) USS Hornet (CV-12) on 15 March 1944. Mitscher temporarily assigned the Hornet to Task Group 58.2. The Hornet ended up being Clark's flagship until he was detached from Sea Duty.

Fast Carrier Task Force 58 sailed from Majuro on 13 April to support General Douglas MacArthur's planned landing at Hollandia and Aitape on the north coast of New Guinea. TF-58, which Mitscher had organized into three task groups, was to launch air strikes against Japanese installations in the Caroline Islands. Clark was given command of Task Group 58.1, which initially consisted of carriers Hornet, Belleau Wood, Cowpens and Bataan plus heavy and light cruisers, and destroyers. As carriers and other ships became available, task groups changed and their numbers expanded. Clark's next combat assignment was an assault on Saipan, Tinian and Guam in the Marianas. 

Task Force 58 was on stand-by duty near the Marianas on the night of 14 June. Task Groups 58.1 and 58.4 were ordered to steam northwest under the tactical command of Clark. They were to launch air strikes against Chichi Jima in the Bonin Islands, and Iwo Jima in the Volcano Islands, on 15-16 June. Both island groups are in the Nanpo Shoto (Shoto is Japanese for Archipelago) that begins at the entrance to Tokyo Bay and extends slightly southeast for about 750 miles. The islands were known staging sites for Japanese warplanes between Japan and Micronesia, and the airfields on the islands posed a threat for the amphibious forces off Saipan.

Due to bad weather, aircraft had to launch from wet, pitching carrier decks. The air strikes had minimal success but did manage to destroy three small freighters, 21 seaplanes and 80 warplanes in two days. Weather conditions worsened on the 16th and the Japanese didn't send up air patrols. Clark surprised the enemy with a bold afternoon strike against the Iwo Jima airfield and found rows of planes lined up on the field. Of the total number of planes destroyed in the two days of strikes, 91 were on the ground.

The task groups steamed southward on the 16th to meet up with Task Force 58 in 5th Fleet on 18 June near Saipan. Admiral Raymond A. Spruance, Commander 5th Fleet, was preparing to engage the Japanese Mobile Fleet. This engagement became known as the "Battle of the Philippine Sea" and it effectively destroyed Japanese naval air power for the remainder of the war.

On 19 June, the Battle of the Philippine Sea began with what came to be known as the "Marianas Turkey Shoot." Admiral Ozawa's Japanese Mobile Fleet launched a massive air strike against Task Force 58 and lost 385 carrier aircraft in one day. Task Group 58.1 claimed 109 of Ozawa's warplanes. Task Force 58's loss was 40 Hellcats and many of the downed pilots were rescued.

Ozawa's Mobile Fleet made a run for it on the 19th. Fast Carrier Task Force 58 pursued and its planes caught up with Ozawa's retreating fleet at 0630 on the 20th. The planes launched by Clark's carriers sunk the aircraft carrier Hiyo. Bombs from task force planes damaged carriers Zuikaku and Junyo. A total of 17 ships were damaged, and 65 Japanese aircraft destroyed in the air, but darkness was approaching, and the returning planes reached Task Force 58 low on fuel and in total blackness.

Aircraft recovery could have been a disaster, but Clark ordered all of his ships to turn on their lights. The Hornet displayed a vertical searchlight beam. It was a calculated risk; an invitation to lurking Japanese submarines. Clark immediately notified Admiral Mitscher of his action, and Mitscher signaled his approval by ordering all ships in the task force to turn on their lights. It was one of the war's great moments. The black night sky emblazed by ship's lights that stretched for miles as returning planes with sufficient fuel made safer deck landings, and those flying on fumes made water landings near destroyers.

Task Force 58 continued to pursue the Mobile Fleet through the night of the 20th, and into the evening of the 21st without coming close enough to launch a second strike. On the evening of the 21st, Admiral Spruance ordered Task Force 58 to abandon pursuit. By then the Mobile Fleet was within 300 miles of Okinawa. Mitscher ordered his task force to change course and head toward a prearranged rendezvous with a task group of fleet tankers for refueling.

At noon on the 22nd, Task Force 58 made contact with the fleet tankers. Admiral Mitscher ordered three of his task groups, including Task Group 58.1, to Eniwetok for a brief rest. Clark sent Mitscher the following dispatch, "advised CTF 58 by dispatch that unless otherwise directed this Group would strike Iwo Jima ... morning of 24 June while en route to Eniwetok." Mitscher enthusiastically approved Clark's dispatch, and thereafter referred to this diversion as "Operation Jocko."

Admiral Clark later wrote, "Throughout the Saipan operation our Japanese language unit had been following Japanese radio traffic and deciphering the messages with our trusty code book captured off Hollandia. From this source and from American submarines we learned that the enemy was staging large numbers of planes back into Chichi and Iwo Jima. I regarded those islands as my special property, since my task group had initially pounded them on 15 and 16 June, so I considered the possibility of stopping this renewed air threat from the north."

Task Group 58.1 arrived at the launch site, 235 miles southwest of Iwo Jima, on 24 June. At 0600, in rough weather, Clark's carriers launched a fighter sweep of 51 Hellcats. A Japanese patrol plane spotted the task group, and alerted Admiral Sadaichi Matsunaga, Commander of the 27th Air Flotilla, on Iwo. Admiral Sadaichi unleashed all of his fighters and a few bombers in two strikes against Clark's carriers. But when recovery began at 1830, 66 of Sadaichi's warplanes had been destroyed in the air against the loss of six Hellcats. Clark then set course for Eniwetok and some badly needed crew rest.

The Chichi and Iwo Jima airfields were still being used by the Japanese as staging areas against the invasion of the Marianas; and on 24 June, 122 planes were on the islands. The Task Force carrier planes didn't get a chance to strafe and bomb the airfields, but slightly over one-half of the buildup from the mainland was destroyed.

With the assistance of Task Group 58.2, Clark decided to celebrate the 4th of July by making his third raid on Chichi and Iwo Jima. Task Groups 58.1 and 58.2 reached their launch sites at noon on the 3rd and that afternoon they began launching long-range fighter sweeps.

Before dawn on the 4th of July, four night fighters were launched from a flight deck and disappeared into the still-dark sky. This was the wake-up call for the Japanese on Chichi Jima. At dawn, Hellcats from the task groups were over the islands as Japanese planes warmed up for takeoff on the airfields below. The Hellcats dove in for the kill and destroyed 24 enemy planes on the ground, and shot 59 out of the air. The task groups lost 11 planes that were bombing and strafing installations and shipping at Chichi and Haha Jima. 

To conclude his 4th of July celebrations, Clark detached Rear Admiral Laurance T. DuBose's light cruisers to join Rear Admiral L. Hewlett Thebaud's heavy cruisers from Task Group 58.2. Their mission was to bombard Iwo Jima in the afternoon. After giving the little island a tremendous pounding, the task groups withdrew to the south. The full extent of the success of the third strike against Iwo and Chichi Jima wasn't known until post-war studies revealed that Japan had recalled the fifty-four surviving planes from Chichi and Iwo Jima.

Jocko's interest/obsession with the "Jimas" had become so pronounced that naval pilots had printed certificates of membership in the "Jocko Jima Development Corporation." A certificate was given to every participant.

Clark's task group made its fourth and final raid on the "Jimas" on 4-5 August. Raids were conducted against Iwo Jima and islands in the southern Bonins, and it proved to be the most profitable of the four raids. Planes from Task Group 58.1 sighted a convoy off Muko Jima, and sank, with help from task group destroyers:, the Japanese destroyer Matsu; two destroyer escorts; two ramped beaching craft; and five freighters totaling over 20,000 tons. They also destroyed 23 enemy planes on the ground and 3 in the air. The task group lost six aircraft. The task group's cruisers bombarded Iwo and Chichi Jima.

The Pacific Fleet rotated commanders and numerical designations in August 1944, an event that was nearly a quarterly occurrence. The 5th Fleet commanded by Admiral Spruance was turned over to Admiral William F. "Bull" Halsey, Jr. and became the 3rd Fleet. Vice Admiral Mitscher's Task Force 58 was turned over to Vice Admiral John S. McCain and became Task Force 38. On 26 January 1945 at Ulithi, it would revert back to the 5th Fleet and Task Force 58. The changing of commanders and numerical designations was unique to the Pacific Fleet, and gave rotating commanders the time to plan for their next combat quarter. The apparent confusion created by the rotation had an unexpected impact on the Japanese. Some believed they were alternately fighting two Fleets.

Mitscher's Fast Carrier Task Force 58 moved toward Japan on 10 February 1945. The task force arrived at the launch site, approximately 125 miles southeast of Tokyo and 60 miles off the coast of Honshu, at dawn on 16 February. The raids against the Japanese mainland would be the first since the Halsey-Doolittle raid on 18 April 1942. On that day, Captain Marc Mitscher commanded the USS Hornet, and Lt. Colonel Jimmy Doolittle commanded a squadron of 16 Army B-25 bombers that were launched from the flight deck of the Hornet in a surprise raid on Tokyo and four other Japanese cities.

Although the 16-17 February raids on mainland Japan were significant, they weren't devastating. Three factories were hit by carrier aircraft: the Tachikawa and Musashi aircraft engine plants on the outskirts of Tokyo; and the Nakajima airframe assembly plant forty-miles from Tokyo. A number of ships and small craft were sunk in Tokyo Bay; 341 Japanese planes in the air, and 190 on the ground, were destroyed. However, bad weather limited the raids' effectiveness and caused the cancellation of additional strikes. A total of 88 carrier planes were lost, in great part, because of bad weather. 

Returning aircraft were recovered, and Mitscher ordered Task Force 58 to withdraw southward toward Iwo Jima. They were scheduled to provide close-in support for the assault, and act as a shield against Japanese air attacks.  

Support for the assault on Iwo Jima would mark the fifth trip to the "Jimas" by Clark and Task Group 58.1. Admiral Clark later wrote, "Now at last American forces were going to take possession of my 'Jocko Jima Development Corporation' islands. I was pleased to be on hand for the occasion."

On 19 February 1945, Task Group 58.1 launched a deck-load strike against Chichi Jima. On 20-23 February, Task Group 58.1 launched six deck-load strikes in close support of the Marines on Iwo Jima, and alternately striking Chichi and Haha Jima to prevent staging of aircraft from the mainland.

On 23 February, Task Force 58 moved northward from Iwo Jima to a location south of Honshu. Mitscher's plan was to strike the Tokyo area on the 25th and the Nagoya area on the 26th. Again, weather conditions failed to cooperate; rough seas, pitching decks and poor visibility made it more risky to launch and recover aircraft. The Tokyo raid was below expectations so Mitscher cancelled the Nagoyo raid and took his task force south to Ulithi for rest and to take on stores. 

Task Force 58 steamed northward from Ulithi toward Kyushu on 14 March to start the Okinawa campaign. The first target was Kyushu's 45 airfields in order to deny Japan the ability to launch air strikes when the planned assault on Okinawa began on 1 April. Other targets were the big naval bases at Kobe and Kure on the island of Honshu. 

The two days of strikes by Task Force 58 on 18-19 March damaged 17 Japanese warships including four carriers and the battleship Yamato; 387 Japanese planes were also destroyed, most of them on the ground.

The most terrifying weapon that Japan used against the U.S. Navy was the "Kamikaze" which meant 'Divine Wind." These were bomb-laden planes flown by Japanese pilots whose suicide mission was to dive them directly onto the ships.

The Okinawa campaign ended for Clark and Task Group 58.1 on 10 June 1945 when Clark turned his group toward the new fleet base at Leyte Gulf. The Pacific Fleet was in command of the sea because the Japanese Navy had been essentially destroyed and an effective air-sea blockade was in place. An invasion of Kyushu was scheduled for the fall months but Clark and other naval and military leaders believed the war with Japan would end before then. 

Task Group 58.1 reached Leyte on 16 June and anchored in San Pedro Bay. Clark then relinquished command of Task Group 38.1 to Rear Admiral Tommy L. Sprague. On 28 May, the date Admirals Spruance and Mitscher turned over their commands to Admirals Halsey and McCain, the 5th Fleet had again reverted to the 3rd Fleet; Task Force 58 reverted to Task Force 38; and Task Group 58.1 reverted to Task Group 38.1.

On 16 June, Clark was assigned to a shore billet at Corpus Christi, TX, where he was to relieve Rear Admiral Charlie Mason as Chief of Naval Air Intermediate Training. Clark landed at Corpus Christi Naval Air Station on 3 July 1945 to take command. The Primary Training Command was later combined with the Intermediate Training Command and Clark became Chief of Naval Air Basic Training.

The Beginning of the End

At 0245 on 6 August 1945, the Enola Gay, a B-29 Superfortress under the command of Colonel Paul W. Tibbets, Jr., took off from North Field on Tinian Island in the Marianas. At 0915, Japanese time, bombardier Major Thomas W. Ferebee toggled one bomb out over the target, Hiroshima. The unique bomb, nicknamed Little Boy, was in free-fall and would airburst at 1,900 feet. The flash from the explosion was seen 170-miles away by a reconnaissance plane. The ominous mushroom cloud reached into the stratosphere to a height of 40,000 feet. Not a single Japanese aircraft rose to challenge the Enola Gay, and she arrived safely back where the flight had at 1458.

At 1201 Japanese time on 9 August, a second tactical atomic bomb, this one nicknamed Fat Man, was toggled out over Nagasaki and airburst at 1,650 feet.

On 14 August Japan surrendered unconditionally. On Sunday, 2 September, Japan officially signed a surrender agreement aboard the battleship USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay.

The 5th Marine Division arrived in transports off the northwestern coast of Kyushu on 22 September. Once scheduled to assault Kyushu in November; they would now occupy this southernmost island of Japan.

After World War II

Clark remained on shore duty until November of 1948 when he again went to sea. He hoisted his flag in the USS Philippine Sea, and took command of Carrier Division Four, designated Task Force 87. His command included the carriers USS Philippine Sea and USS Midway and he was one of three rotating commanders. Clark's command was part of the 6th Fleet operating as the Atlantic Fleet in the Mediterranean. He would spend four-months with 6th Fleet, and eight-months with 2nd Fleet operating out of Norfolk, VA.


The North Koreans attacked southward across the 38th parallel into the Republic of Korea on 25 June 1950.

Without asking Congress to declare war, on 27 June President Harry S. Truman ordered American forces to go to the aid of South Korea as part of the U.N. "Police Action." Clark flew to Washington to see Admiral Forrest Sherman, Chief of Naval Operations, to request combat duty. He was assigned to a shore billet and told to wait for a combat assignment.

In 1951, Clark flew to Pearl Harbor to report to Admiral Arthur Radford, Commander-in-Chief Pacific Fleet. Radford assigned Clark as one of the rotating commanders of Fast Carrier Task Force 77. On 3 October Clark hoisted his flag in the USS Bonhomme Richard and on the 7th he relieved Rear Admiral Jack Perry as Commander Task Force 77. 

Clark was promoted to Vice Admiral on 7 March 1952 and assigned as Commander, First Fleet. He relieved Vice Admiral A. D. Struble on 25 March flying his flag in Bonhomme Richard. First Fleet was the training fleet for crews and ships preparing for combat duty with the 7th Fleet. On 20 May, Clark became Commander, 7th Fleet, consisting of 225 warships and 70,000 men from twenty-one navies of the United Nations.

On 27 July 1953 an armistice was concluded. The front line had been stabilized along the 38th parallel and was accepted as the de facto boundary between North and South Korea. After the U.S. elections in November 1952, President Dwight David Eisenhower secretly informed the North Koreans and Chinese that the U.S. was prepared to use nuclear weapons, and would carry the war into China if a peace agreement was not reached.

On 1 December 1953, Vice Admiral Clark read his last orders and turned over Command of the 7th Fleet to Vice Admiral A. M. Pride. The change of command occurred on the deck of the battleship USS Wisconsin in Tokyo Bay. Clark struck his flag and ended a long and exciting journey.

Upon his retirement on 1 December 1953, he was advanced in rank to four-star Admiral. *

* The Act of Congress of 4 March 1925, allowed Navy officers to be promoted one grade upon retirement if they had been specially commended for performance of duty in actual combat. These promotions were colloquially known as "tombstone promotions" because they conferred the prestige of the higher rank but not the additional retirement pay, so their only practical benefit was to allow recipients to engrave a loftier title on their business cards and tombstones. An Act of Congress on 23 February 1942, enabled tombstone promotions to three- and four-star grades.

Medals and Awards

Navy Cross
Navy Distinguished Service Medal
Silver Star Medal
Legion of Merit
Navy Commendation Medal
Korean Order of Military Merit


In 1979, the guided-missile frigate USS Clark (FFG-11) was named in his honor. The ship's motto is "Determined Warrior." 

Death and Burial

Admiral Joseph James "Jocko" Clark died on 13 July 1971 at Naval Hospital in St. Albans, NY, after a long illness. He is buried in Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, VA.

He was survived by his widow, the former Olga Choubaroff; two daughters, Mrs. Mary Louise Wampole and Mrs. Carol Patton, from the marriage to the former Mary Catherine Wilson; two brothers, four sisters and three grandchildren.

Honoree ID: 481   Created by: MHOH




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