Passing of a Veteran: He Saved His Ship But Was Only Honored 60 Years Later

USS Aaron Ward (DM-34) damaged by kamikazes, May 1945.
USS Aaron Ward (DM-34) damaged by kamikazes, May 1945.

Carl Clark has passed away at the age of 100. Clark received the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal in 2012, 60 years after his actions in World War II.

Clark died on March 16th at a Veteran’s Administration Hospital in Menlo Park, according to his daughter, Karen Clark Collins.

Clark Collins said that Clark never considered himself a hero and didn’t discuss his actions in the war. After leaving the Navy, Clark helped found a Boys and Girls Club in Menlo Park and did a lot of work in the community. She called her father a “compassionate and sharing man.”

In May 1945, Japanese kamikazes attacked the USS Aaron Ward while Clark was serving as a Steward First Class.

Clark described the kamikazes as “flying bombs” in an interview in 2011 with the Associated Press.

Six of the kamikaze pilots hit the ship. The blast from one of the planes was strong enough to blow him across the destroyer.

Clark was given credit for saving the lives of several men, dragging them to safety in spite of suffering a broken collarbone himself. He also put out a fire in an ammunition locker. Had the fire burned and detonated, the ship would have split in half.

The destroyer’s captain gave credit to Clark for saving the ship. Still, it took over 60 years for the Navy to honor him for his heroics; in the 2011 interview, Clark said that it would not have looked good at the time to say that a black man had saved the ship.

The captain did what he could to make up for it by giving Clark extra leave and making certain he wasn’t sent back to sea, Omaha World-Herald reported.

Clark finally received his medal on January 17, 2012, at a ceremony at Moffett Field in Mountain View, California.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE