SECNAV Recognizes Heroism of World War II Vet
Secretary of the Navy (SECNAV) Ray Mabus, presented the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal with Combat Distinguishing Device to a former Sailor during a ceremony on Moffett Field in Mountain View, Calif., Jan. 17.
Mabus presented the long-awaited medal to Carl E. Clark, a 95-year-old African-American for his actions during World War II.
"Mr. Clark's service was honorable, but his DD-214 was missing one entry," Mabus said.
"Today, we will add that final official entry that has been missing from his record for almost exactly two-thirds of a century. That entry will record that Carl E. Clark has been awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal with the Combat V".
Clark, then a ship's steward first class, was working in the officer's mess aboard the destroyer minelayer USS Aaron Ward (DM 34) when Japanese kamikazes attacked his ship May 3, 1945.
The Ward's gunners shot down some of the kamikazes, but six planes and three of their bombs hit the ship on the port side of the main deck, igniting an instant firestorm upon impact.
According to Clark's Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal citation, he was slammed against the overhead from the impact of the first kamikaze attack.
He then headed out of the passageway and watched the second plane as it slammed into the port side. Unaware that the men on his damage control team were killed, he manned a fire hose fighting raging fires while kamikaze planes continued to crash into the deck and infrastructure.
"Imagine being in a battle like that. Imagine being a member of that crew, engulfed in fire and water, while relying on training and experience to conquer your fear with determination," said Mabus "Carl Clark not only can imagine it, he lived it."
Mabus also said Clark now officially joins other pioneers like the Golden 13, the Tuskegee Airmen and the Montford Point Marines; African-Americans who proudly represented the Navy and their nation, even during a time when their nation did not always live up to the ideals they served to protect.
"Carl Clark will tell you that he doesn't consider himself a hero. He says, 'I only did the best I could in a very ugly and demanding situation,'" said Mabus.
"Well, Carl, we here consider you a hero. America considers you a hero and I am proud to offer this symbol of thanks from a grateful Navy and nation," said Mabus, just prior to presenting Clark with his medal.
Article by Chief Mass Communication Specialist (AW) Sam Shavers, Secretary of the Navy Public Affairs