Mark Clark played a leading role in the Italian Campaign (1943-1945). First he was Commander of the U.S. 5th Army, then Commander of the XV Army Group. At the age of 48 he was promoted to general, which made him the youngest four-star-General in the history of the U.S. Army.
In 1915 Mark Wayne Clark graduated from West Point Military Academy, together with his classmate Dwight D. Eisenhower. During the First World War Clark was a 22-year old captain in France. The Second World War accelerated his career. He was put in command of the U.S. 5th Army, which landed in Salerno on 9 September 1943, as part of the Allied invasion of the Italian peninsula. The invasion, after a good start, was nearly defeated in the following days by the German counterattacks. In spite of this, Clark was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross.
During the Italian campaign Clark eluded death twice. On 28 January 1944 a torpedo boat carrying him to the Anzio beachhead was mistakenly fired on by American naval vessels, causing several deaths and injuries. Six months later he escaped death again while flying over Civitavecchia when his pilot overlooked the cable of a barrage balloon.
Clark’s behaviour during the Italian campaign aroused much controversy. His attempt to break through the German Gustav Line by crossing the Gari river in January 1944 resulted in heavy casualties and no gains. The operation was called ‘’one of the most colossal and murderous blunders of the Second World War.” Six months later his decision to capture Rome instead of pursuing the retreating German 10th Army was heavily criticized by his superiors.
Despite these setbacks in March 1945, 48 years old, he became a General, which made him the youngest four-star General in the U.S. Army. Mark Clark died in 1984 at the age of 87.